Rewriting the Past


With the beating of a butterfly’s wings…

In my previous post, I talked about being prompted to write a note to my 13 year old self. I was asked what I would say to 13 year old me, and I responded with as much honesty as I could. But it got me thinking; if I did have the opportunity to speak to my younger self, what would I actually say?

Would younger me even listen to older me?

How would I have changed the trajectory of my own life, my own experiences by having that conversation?

It was a great exercise, an opportunity for catharsis and forgiveness, a chance to treat myself with greater kindness than I did then, or do even now. It’s easier to speak with gentleness to a 13 year old, just starting her journey into womanhood, waking to her nascent sexuality, tentatively exploring the edges of her personality. It’s harder extending that gentleness to myself in each moment now.

46 year old me sees through a magnifying lens the minutiae of my own current faults. I’m familiar with the bitter taste of my own weaknesses, and I tend to a comparison between where I am and where I believe I should be; emotionally, physically, intellectually.

46 year old me is deeply compassionate and empathetic towards any 13 year old child. 13 year old me was nervous of her own shadow, uncertain of who she was, and programmed to please her parents. 46 year old me just wants to hug her and tell her everything will work out, one way or another.

But would I really go back and say those things to my 13 year old self? No. I probably wouldn’t. Aside from the fact that 13 year old me would have smiled and nodded without listening to a single word, there’s also the terrible chance that I would have changed the path of my life.

With the beating of a butterfly’s wings, the whisper of encouragement, I would alter my life, and who I now am. Each of the events in my life, and how I dealt with challenges, has shaped my personality, my resilience, my capacity for forgiveness and empathy, and my thinking. Do I really want to change that with a whispered word of understanding?

No, of course not.  Just as I wouldn’t send the letter I wrote to the girl who was cruel to me in high school, I also wouldn’t whisper in the ear of my younger self.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the process. I’m a big believer in therapeutic writing (writing to express your feelings even though the intended recipient may never receive the letter). I would happily write to myself at other ages too. It’s a useful tool in moving past shame, or regret, and I’d encourage everyone to do it.

So, what would you (in a perfect world) say to your 13 year old self?

14 Comments on “Rewriting the Past”

  1. What a truly thought provoking piece!
    I’m with you. I couldn’t even contemplate telling my 13yr old self anything for fear of undoing what I have now. All that pain and uncertainty led me here, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

    • Thanks, Melony! It’s so difficult isn’t it? On the one hand, you want to spare that poor sweet child all the pain and heartache, and on the other hand, you are who you are because of all of those experiences!

      • same here. changing the past would mean that we might become a totally different person. i simply can’t imagine how i would turn out. thank you for sharing this(:

        • Right? For all the faults and weaknesses, I’m comfortable with who I am, and who I’ve surrounded myself with. I’m not sure what a different me might look like. Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I love hearing other people’s stories!

    • Hahaha. A whispered “have patience” may indeed be the solution. Would your 13 year old self listen to you? Would they be able to find patience? I’m pretty certain 13 year old me would have rolled her eyes and done exactly whatever she was going to do. And I have little enough patience now, I know I was worse at 13 when there were almost no shades of grey.

      • He, he, I thought you said “a perfect world” :P, that triggered an almost perfect solution. Anyway, this was a very thought-provoking read. **

        • Haha! Good point. In a perfect world, our 13 year old selves would listen to us with great interest and respect. And no eye rolling. Definitely no eye rolling.

          Thank you!

  2. I don’t think I would want to give any specific advice. I agree that it can be therapeutic to write to the past, to forgive and empathize with the person you used to be, but I’m glad for what I learned and went through.

    Thanks for sharing! This was interesting to think about.

    • Thanks for reading with such thoughtfulness, Katie! You’re so right, we are who we are in part because of all we’ve experienced.

  3. I would tell my 13-year-old self to give up on the “we must increase our bust” chant from Judy Blume’s book “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.”

    • Oh, hahaha! I remember that one. Oh dear. I can hear it said in my friend’s voice as she pumped her arms back and forth. That’s actually a piece of advice, that I’m pretty sure wouldn’t change the course of history. Good call!

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