A few months ago my mom gave me a box and said it was my old letters. I immediately decided this must be the box I had been looking for that was filled with letters to old boyfriends and memorabilia from my high school and early adult years. I immediately felt a pang of fear. I didn't want to look in there at my old self. There was a lot of shame, pain and embarrassment in there that I didn't want to feel again. I put it on a shelf and forgot about it.
The other night I saw the box sitting there on the shelf and without thinking too long I opened the box and I pulled out one of the letters.
I was astonished to find that the letter was not a letter to an old boyfriend or anything like that. It was a letter from me to my parents written shortly after I had married, had a baby and moved to the Philippines with my 2 month old daughter. I was 18 years old.
I still was apprehensive about reading it but pushed that feeling aside and read the letter. I was surprised to find that I didn't feel the way I thought I would. Instead of embarrassment, shame and pain I was smiling and felt warm and fuzzy. Then I grabbed another and another and read them. I was now inside the mind of my 18 year old self and I didn't even know her.
I discovered that instead of finding out I was a silly, immature and jealous drama queen, I was a young, simple, sweet and openly loving person who loved her daughter very much but was very homesick and trying to do the best I could. I didn't realize at the time that I had a lot to be grateful for. When I read the letters I saw a pure, innocent version of myself - a version of myself that had very little of the heaviness of life that I now sometimes feel. I saw myself before I learned how to build walls against pain and before I felt like saying f... it when things got too hard. A version of myself that was not as guarded and careful about life.
Now I am curious. I have always journaled but never consistently. I have a drawer full of old journals that contain a lot of my life. I haven't looked at in years but can't bring myself to throw away. I didn't really know or think about it before, but I have been constantly been trying to create a new version of myself because I in my mind, the old me wasn't good enough and I should feel ashamed of that person. That person had to be buried and no one could know about her. They could only see a new and improved version.
After reading the letters I am now feeling brave and plan to pull out those old journals and explore myself from a new angle. I am curious and want to understand how I created my current story. Maybe my story is not what I thought It was or can be rewritten from this perspective.
I still haven't found the box of letters to old boyfriends or high school memorabilia. I may never find it but if I do I am not going to be afraid of it now.