“All that you need to love is in front of your eyes” -Josh Groban.
This is my first attempt at writing you a letter. Ever. No, wait, I wrote you a letter when I was thirteen during a school camp as part of a ‘self-growth’ activity. The task was to write a letter addressed to ourselves listing areas of our life or character that we wanted to change or work on. Then we were instructed to put it in an envelope and open it again at the end of the year, ‘marking our progress’. Novel idea.
I still have the letter. I keep it inside the back cover of my Bible and occasionally it slips out and reminds me of its existence, and then I read it, and ‘track my progress.’
You know me, so you know how great I am at making lists. You know then too how terrible I am at sticking to them. So you’re obviously not the slightest bit surprised when I tell you that it’s taken me almost ten years to still not fulfill my thirteen-year-old self-development goals. “Thirteen? Seriously!” I can hear you ridiculing me in your head: “If you can’t even overcome your tweeny teenage issues, HOW are you going to ‘adult’??”
And I hear you, Self, because I’ve reached the age where I’m starting to be called by that dreaded name ‘adult‘ and sometimes I find myself responding the same way I used to respond to the little newbie grade eights calling me “ma’am” when I reached matric. I accidentally snubbed them and ironically, must’ve come across as ‘too big for my boots’ simply because it didn’t dawn on me that I could possibly be a “ma’am”? Urrgh, I still cringe.
Anyway, you get the point. It is safe to say the only self-growth I seem capable of is stretching my body vertically and unfortunately of late, due to my inability to stick to those goals, horizontally.
Writing this letter to you reminded me of this former letter, which is probably the earliest piece of physical evidence of our relatively short, but tumultuous relationship. So I decided to take it out and this time, not track my progress as much as to reflect.
Holding on to the hope that I live a long and meaningful life, you and I are going to be stuck with each other for a long time, so it makes sense to smooth out our differences now rather than later, especially seeing I’m trying to treat you like a friend.
The letter reads something like this:
Dear Jade-Eden le Roux
From now on I would like to do the following:
(And then I embark on a list longer than my age of things I want(ed)to change about myself. It’s an honest reflection; heartbreakingly-honest at times, of my relationship with you, but the most heartbreaking part is that nearly a decade later, nearly half of the list is still relevant and evidently unaccomplished. These few particularly stood out:
- Look at myself in a new light and realise that I am unique and special and that I am beautiful in my own way, the way God made me.
- Stop comparing myself and the things I can/ can’t do to others
- Stop being so self-conscious and work on my self-confidence
- Stop bringing myself down.
- Stop calling myself fat!!! and learn to appreciate myself for who I am.
- Speak up and talk more
- Not worry so much what other people think of me, but rather what I think of myself
- Cry when I’m sad and not pretend everything is fine
What I like about this list, is that I’m not demanding any radical physical changes. I am not saying “You need to lose weight; be better, do better; work at being beautiful, etc. I am focusing on working with and appreciating who I already am.
So what stops me? What has kept these wishes concealed in an envelope all these years while I continue to ignore my inner voice that’s begging me to embrace who I am?
Okay, I have to admit, of late I have become a little more reacquainted with the sensation of salty tears slipping down my cheeks (maybe it’s an age thing?). I’m beginning to practice not batting them away and smiling away my pain but instead, treating my emotions with the validity they deserve. So let me not be too hard on you. Perhaps that counts as progress?
And speaking of my not speaking up, I suppose I’ve shown a bit of growth in that area too. I guess you could say I’m starting to find my voice, both vocally and narratively. I haven’t changed my status to extrovert overnight, but I have come to terms with the fact that I’m rather reserved and introverted until you hand me a pen and paper and then you’ll never get me to stop writing, and I’m okay with that.
But the rest of the items on that list? No such luck. New year’s resolution after New year’s resolution they surfaced again and again and the vicious cycle of unfulfillment continued. Until the beginning of this year, I felt sick at the thought of looking failure in the face AGAIN so I scrapped the entire list altogether and replaced it with one goal: To be happy.
Happiness is by nature extremely ambiguous. How exactly I was planning to achieve the concept, I didn’t really specify.
But perhaps this is a start. Four months away from the next New year’s resolution due date and I’m starting to work on the one area in my life wherein I haven’t exactly mastered being “happy”— my image. You.
Scrolling down my contact list on Whatsapp the other day, my friend’s status message caught my attention: “I’ve learnt to be my own hype team” it read.
I let the thought sink in for a minute and then started turning the phrase round and round in my head.
It follows on the similar lines of treating myself as a friend. It’s about placing my own happiness in my own pocket. Focusing on what I am and not what I’m not; what I can do instead of what I can’t.
While I’m writing this I catch another epiphany as Josh Groban sings through my speakers: “All you that you need to love is in front of your eyes.”
How did I never hear that before? It may just be that I haven’t been listening and my eyes have refused to see.
But they’re open now, my ears too. And on that note, I have a letter to reply to.
So here you are Self, here’s my revised and updated letter to you. Sorry for the decade-long delay, it must’ve got lost amongst the mail of societal propaganda telling me what and who to be. But from now on, I’m channelling my own voice.
You are beautiful just the way God made you
You are uniquely gifted, there’s no one like you. Embrace your you-ness!
You’re not fat, you’re healthy. But even if you were ‘fat’, it doesn’t matter. What matters is what lies beneath your skin.
And there are some real gems hiding underneath the skin you so severely scrutinize!!
So stop hanging in the shadows. Go forth boldly. Be brave and live out who you are.
Forget about others’ opinions of you, stay true to you!
You have a right to feel what you feel. Don’t be afraid of vulnerability, out of it springs growth.
Lastly, I’m happy to be on this journey with you and I’m excited to see where it leads us to.
Featured image: Jade le Roux