Where does one start to correct "wrong thinking" about themselves, at what age? I am aware of feeling like a square peg in a "round hole world" since I was five or six. But back then I wasn't truly conscious of the choices I was making. So I've decided to fast-forward to age eighteen where one very critical decision changed the entire course of my life. Admittedly, some damage to my psyche had already been done by then, but still... things could have gone different, and life would have been much easier. Here is a letter I wrote to myself from a perspective of 35 years later.
Look at you girl... graduating! Finally your longing to escape the little town where you grew up will soon be realized! You've already been accepted to nursing school and will start in the fall. It's a hard school, but you know you can handle it. School has always come easy for you. But first there's the summer ahead...
It's going to be a long summer, and you will continue to struggle in your relationships at home, especially with your mother. Cut her some slack and realize she's got many problems of her own. Don't be so defiant, just 'cuz you can. Help out a little bit more to lighten her load.
I know your are restless and bored, and looking for an adventure... a big one is headed your way! Your sense of world-vision will draw you to attend a meeting you see advertised in a flyer - an obscure religious group talking about "One World". You will be amazed by what you hear that night, they are saying the words that you've long since heard in your heart! But please, be careful, think about it slowly... what else are they saying? Look closely at their lives.
Your curiosity and desire for friendship will soon draw you to their encampment on the lake. That's ok, enjoy yourself. You finally discover that you can have a good time meeting new people. It's even ok to listen to the faith they are preaching, you have a good mind and you can think for yourself. You can sort what rings true from what doesn't. Or can you??
I'll warn you in advance that your Mom and Dad aren't going to like your new friends at the lake. In fact it will cause a major scene at the house, even when you bring them to dinner so mom and dad can see they are "regular folks". Are they? With all the conflict that's been going on between your parents and you, this new fascination will add fuel to the fire and things will heat up to an unbearable point. You will crave peace in your heart, in your life, in your world. I know you will cling to the words these people are teaching... belonging and love and joy and peace. Very 60's I see, thinking back on it now. :-) It all sounds so perfect... in an ideal world.
I'd like to tell you to slow down a little bit with this... listen, read, watch, learn, but see where it goes. But then, we both know you never do anything half-way. So before long you are likely to be fully involved. Maybe that's ok too. I've always believed that it's ok to believe whatever brand of religion, or not, works for you. We have to figure faith out for ourselves, it can't be inherited.
But here's where the problem comes in. It's not just the faith you're adopting, it's a whole new family of very unusual people. If you take a good look you will see there are problems, big problems, in many of their lives. And you, with the caring heart, and the longing for friendship, and the desire to belong... you'll want to become a caretaker, just as you always do.
By the end of summer things will reach a critical juncture, your parents will become very emotional, and will forbid you to see your new friends. You will feel desperate without them, after finally finding a place where you feel accepted. What are you going to do? Will you take up their offer and run away to go live with and help with the family of one of these friends, when she is injured in an automobile accident? What about school? Will you throw it away? Are you thinking it thru, what your future will be if you do this?
This is your chance to use that powerful brain God gave you... realize that if this new faith is real in your life it will wait, you can take it along if you like, but please don't turn your back on school! If you could look down the road, like I can look back, you'd know how hard life becomes when you don't have that degree, how often you will be forced to do things which are necessary, but you hate them, just in order to survive. You don't have to sacrifice your education for friendship. Deep down I know you are scared about being in a new social situation, but it won't be so bad there in school, a little further away from mom and dad. Please don't see this opportunity to escape as a way to alleviate your anxiety. If you run, you're going to create far more anxiety than you'll ever avoid.
As the clock nears 7 PM that night, and you're walking the road toward that bridge where you are supposed to meet them, please think about where this will lead, how things might work out in the long run. Then, before it's too late, turn back, and go home, and bide your time. Your future is waiting... embrace it!
And while you're considering the pros and cons of the run away option, please realize that you have far more to offer others than you realize. You don't have to choose your friends, and your future lovers, on the basis of if they will have you. You can be choosy, find people who will be real blessings in your life! I know you've heard a lot of what you are not, and you're not feeling like you have very much worth at all, but if you go to school and get that nursing degree - or even if you change your mind in a year or two and decide to become a teacher (which is probably what you should have done in the first place, had you not listened to you know who) - that degree is your ticket to truly helping others - the life direction engraved in your soul. You'll never look back and you'll never regret it. There will be plenty of time in the years ahead to sort out the faith thing. Remember that God is love and Love is God, and anything that contradicts that isn't real.
Oh and one more thing before I sign off... please stop going without your bra! While it might look great now, and feel very freeing, years down the road you'll regret those stretched out underlying muscles, when gravity starts to take it's toll!
Most of all, remember to love yourself no matter what anyone else is telling you. Avoid the people who put you down and try to take control. And please learn to forgive yourself when you do something stupid. We all make mistakes in our lives, but sooner or later we figure it out. The choices you make now will affect the options you'll have in rest of your life, but those detours you'll take along the way will help you to understand and encourage others... and long about 50 you will discover that this is the meaning of life, it's what we are here for.
Love, Josie at Age 53