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If I Could Meet Myself Then. I Mean Now. I Mean…

June 8, 2010

At a dear friend’s picnic birthday party, I met a new person. Except not. After being in the same place for a while, I noticed that he’s someone I used to see five days a week at the train station. I’ll call him… Zanzibar. We didn’t go to the same school and didn’t live in the same town, but still ended up on the same platform in rain, snow, wind, and heat, early in the mornings and later in the afternoons to come home, surrounded by suited, serious businessfolks. There was the weird guy who always wore murderer gloves of black leather. The blonde man who looked like he belonged in the 1940s. The lady who needlepointed. The man with the eye-patch. Then there was me and Zanzibar and his brother. We never spoke. That’s good, else I would have crumbled into a pile of embarassed girl-chips and caught fire by the heat of my blushing. But I noticed them. I was once introduced by a schoolmate to the older brother, said something that didn’t come out right, and went back to my huddled, poetry-writing isolation.

Now I’m thirty. Hooray! A solid decade with no teenth involved in it! And at a picnic I met this person that is still so vivid in my mind. I told him that I remember him and he agreed that I look so familiar, and thanked me for saying what the history is. I asked things like “Did you break your leg once?” to verify that he is who I think he is. He broke his foot, close enough. I remember him having to climb the three steep steps on to the train in that cast.

I got home later and realized why he was so clear in my memory: I had a wicked crush on him. For years. Thankfully, things do change. All this has made me wonder how insane I’d have thought mynowself to be if I’d gone back in time to tell myself this stuff. My life now and who I am now is such a far, far distance from who I was then. I don’t think I could have properly imagined being so relaxed around Zanzibar at a picnic in my 30th year, chasing my kids around, watching a rat swim across a stream, eating brownies and strawberries (in public!), and climbing “Da Biggest Tree in Da Whole WORLD!” as my friend’s daughter quite correctly stated. Life is such a river. It used to feel like a deep, ditry puddle.

On the days I still feel as confused as I was as a teenager, I want to come back to these thoughts and admit that yes, I am still struggling, growing, learning, and often muddled about how exactly to reconcile ideals with actions, decisions with setbacks, and hopes with reality, BUT I am still different. Life is so much more beautiful now, and so much of the darkness that surrounded me during some of my more difficult growing up years, have passed—or transformed—into a life that flows. Often it flows in circles—but at least there’s movement. I’m grateful.

I remember vividly, kinda, a conversation with a friend about ten years ago. One of us (here’s the unvivid part: which one of us said it?) wished to simply know if a certain flaky guy was The Guy so she could stick with it or move on. But for the purposes of this blog, I’ll say we wanted to know if everything (in general) was going to turn out okay, beacause that was the ultimate point. So my question now is: what would you like to go back and tell yourself? This is not to say your life now is perfect or that you have everything settled or are completely on track, but we all grow over the course of a decade or two. And this is also not to say that we don’t believe in making mistakes and learning from them, that screwing up can have value, that regrets are powerful, or that we shouldn’t regret anything because it’s all a part of growing. This is just a… side thought.

You wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise, would you? Maybe you would. I’d have been happy for a simple “It’ll be okay, just shutup and enjoy yourself.” I wouldn’t have wanted to know all the details—though I did once pay a woman named Madonna ten bucks to read my palm and tell me I’d end up with a guy with light brown hair, which is totally inaccurate I’ll have you know and she didn’t even look at my palm. Pfft.

I thought of a few more because I like to make things up. Note: These are not (all) directed at myself:

“Get away from that girl, you’ll thank me later.”

“Quit your job and go backpacking.”

“Listen to your parents.”

“Say yes!”

“Don’t go to that party, trust me.”

“Trust your instincts.”

“You’re allergic to gluten. Step away from the bagels.”

“Get a dog.”

“He’s not your friend.”

“You need to swim in a lake.”

“Forget about being skinny.”

“Don’t smoke that.”

“Speak up for yourself.”

“Sleep on it.”

“Learn to meditate.”

“Follow your art.”

I could go on for ages, this is so fun. Can you tell I used to watch a lot of Quantum Leap?

8 Comments leave one →
  1. June 8, 2010 2:42 am

    man, loooong post with no pictures. at least i got all mY capITaliZationS rigHT. i think.

  2. June 8, 2010 10:15 am

    Brilliant as ever, and so much to think about.

    ‘Listen to your parents’

    That one has always been madly insanely unexpectedly true for me. Even when I think they’re wrong, they’ve been right.

    Your train-station-boy-story reminded me of the people I shared a platform with for seven years. Isn’t it strange that in all that time I never spoke to any of them? There was a girl a few years older than me who went to a neighbouring school to mine. I found out around five years later that she used to work at the library I had begun to work at: I discovered her name, her Muslim ancestry, her mother and her brother and we became friends, although we’ve fallen out of touch since.

    Then there was this little blond boy who turned up a few years after I did, and I used to think he was really cute and nerdish: I felt rather big-sisterly towards him, although I never spoke to him and for the most part, pretended no one else existed on the platform. I may have imagined a whole lifestory for him, and decided he looked rather lonely and rejected. And he had a broken leg for a while, too, which made it hard for him to mount the train because the low platform made a huge step. And then one year, he was suddenly a tall, tanned being who looked like he owned the world, with a girl or two on his arm, and an air of self-assurance and you couldn’t have paid me to talk to him then. He was too…tall and blond.

    I also used to walk up a hill to school, at about the same time every day (assuming I didn’t miss my train XD) for seven years. While I walked up, people going off to work walked down. I remember this particular couple: the gentleman was a blue-eyed baby-faced chap, and the lady looked Korean or Vietnamese with Jennifer Aniston hair and was also constantly harassed- or worried-looking. Apparently then, I was fascinated by cross-culture couples, and I was given to detectivism, so I would infer details about them and about their lives. After some time, the gentleman used to appear alone. I knew where he lived, and I wondered if she was well, if they were still together. I was often tempted to ask him if the lady was okay. I had begun to think of her as a friend of sorts and I missed seeing her. Yes, it’s strange.

    “You’re allergic to gluten. Step away from the bagels.”

    Ah, that’s something I would tell myself: ‘Don’t eat scampi like you will never see food again. Not only will it cause you pain but you will also never be able to enjoy seafood again.’

    Let’s say the warnings also have to be suitably cryptic:

    ‘Take opportunities’

    ‘Don’t do that. Seriously, don’t. You have no idea what you’re about to begin, and if you knew, you would weep tears of blood but you know what? You will nod and smile and ignore me and think you know better and do it anyway and then weep tears of blood’

    ‘Stop talking thirty seconds ago’

    ‘Wear a hat’ (OVER your hijab, not UNDER it)

    ‘Walk, don’t run’

    ‘Run, don’t walk’

    ‘Don’t promise your little brother £20 for every juz of Qur’an he memorises when he still has 15 to go’

    ‘Don’t read Twilight’

  3. June 8, 2010 12:47 pm

    LOL i’m so glad i’m not the only one who’s ignored train station companions AND imagined worlds about them. i like your advices very much. “take opportunities” especially. “don’t read twilight,” too. there are books i’d rather not have gone near. i guess my idea was that we’d actually TAKE our advice instead of nod and smile and think “what a nutter i turned out to be.”

  4. June 8, 2010 12:58 pm

    I’ve just noticed that most of my cryptic warnings involve ‘don’t’. And that by itself is a reason any younger self would switch off immediately: I would have become exactly the adult the younger self would hate. All negatives and no positives.

    So I would also say:

    ‘Wear makeup, it’s okay to look pretty’

    ‘Love fruit and drink water’

    ‘Learn from other people’s experiences and try to avoid their mistakes’

    ‘Listen to yourself when you speak’

    ‘Listen to other people when they speak’

    ‘It’s okay not to know what’s going on, you don’t have to be on top of everything all the time you obsessive anal-retentive maniac

  5. June 8, 2010 1:46 pm

    i found i was doing the same thing when i was writing those quotes — too many “don’ts!” i want to add “think for yourself” and “grow a backbone” and “nobody ever died of blushing” and “pray” and… so much more. LOL

  6. June 9, 2010 9:49 am

    I had something else to add to this last night but I don’t remember what it was XD

  7. July 12, 2010 12:09 pm

    Beautiful post. I’m from a small rural community, so didn’t experience a train station or public transportation until I was about 26. But this post reminded me of how I was struck then by the comraderie between the passengers, and how kind they were to accept me into the little group and point me in the right direction.

    How about, “It really doesn’t matter.” I wish I could go back to adolescent-me and whisper that in her ear once a day.

  8. aspiringtobesomeone permalink
    July 30, 2010 12:48 am

    This reminds me so much of the people who used to work at the grocery store early in the morning. I used to stop by for bagels every single morning that were baked fresh and the kindest little lady used let me take them off of the hot baking sheet, if she was running late. Then, I couldn’t go before school for a while and they just disappeared… I wonder if they moved or got fired or quit…

    Although I have no regrets about how I’ve lived… mostly because my future is well enough and there’s nothing that I’d like different.

    Cool Post.

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