THIS IS US

A Few Things I Want To Tell Six-Year-Old Me

The stories we tell ourselves can make all the difference

Photo by Tinuke Bernard on Unsplash

I’ve been happy since November. Yes, I understand that happiness is a subjective concept. I know that it’s not the end-all, be-all in life. I absolutely get that it’s only been six months which shouldn’t even be that big of a deal. But it is to me, dammit.

Tonight, I listened to Sam Cooke and Solomon Burke while I danced around the grocery store at 10:00 at night. An older man with a kind face stopped me to ask how long it had taken to do my hair.

“Six hours.”

“That seems long. Mine doesn’t take long at all.”

He rubbed his bald head, smiled, and continued walking down the store aisle. I stood there laughing in front of the sausage section because I found it genuinely hilarious.

On days like today, after a streak of a good mood, I catch a glimpse of six-year old me who was just effervescently happy to be alive. I do a little shimmy for her while I live out her dream of pretending she’s in a music video in a grocery store. (Childhood me had some weird daydreams, let me tell you.) I remember going to the theater when I lived on my own. It was my own, secret little treat to choose a foreign film at the theater and slink into the small, nearly empty room and live in another person’s daydream brought to life.

I’m a fan of stories. From the good to the cringe-worthy, I love entering another universe someone has taken the time to create, whether that be the world of nursing in 1960’s Europe via Call The Midwife or the world of vibranium and Afro-centric utopia of Wakanda via Black Panther. Stories take us into another person’s mind, another person’s idea of what the ideal is, what the practical goals should be, which people should take priority. When we write stories, we may want to be recognized by the world, but mostly, we want to be recognizable to ourselves. That’s why so many groups clamor for more representation. Our stories are often our mirrors.

When I was a young child, I heard many stories from my grandparents about growing up in Alabama in the South. Now that I’m older, I’ve forgotten most of them, and they are no longer willing to speak of them. I need their stories now more than ever, but sometimes, a story can only be spoken once before it is buried to the recesses, led out to pasture in someone’s brain.

My mother’s grandfather exists only in the distorted memories of those who knew him. Distorted due to time. Due to distance. Due to personality and age of the one who remembers. How many different versions of us must live in people who have long since passed out of our lives? Is there a person who remembers me only as that six-year-old, ridiculously joyful girl? If I met them, could they re-introduce me to her? Or would I view her as a stranger with my face?

I want to tell her mental illness is going to be rough on her, but because the battle takes place in her mind, some will not believe she has any scars.

Alcohol will present itself as a coy friend and the solution to all of her problems. It’s not.

Not having regrets is not the badge of honor she thinks. Regret simply means you tried something, and it didn’t work out. I wish she wouldn’t let that stop her from trying things or leaving when it doesn’t work.

Suicide will present itself as a coy friend and the solution to all of her problems. It’s not.

You’re not going to die. You’re going to have good days and bad days and stay-all-day-in-bed days. Neither of those are wrong, and all of them are necessary.

Don’t hide your family from others because it isn’t as “healthy,” but also it’s not inherently a bad thing to like your parents and siblings when you grow up. To see their flaws and good traits and recognize them as human.

Some in your family do not believe depression is an actual thing. This will create tension. You’ll learn to live within it. You’ll also learn necessary boundaries.

When you are given the opportunity to become friends with Muslims, refugees, immigrants, pastors, atheists, lesbians, non-binary people, alcoholics, prostitutes, people with disabilities, and others, always say yes.

I want to tell her that I will seek out water and food that nourishes her, whether that be salad for her body or chocolate for her soul. I will read her beautiful bedtime stories and show her the most amazing sights. I will know the veins of her heart like the sea knows the boats, and my wanderlust will explore the restless streets of her soul.

I want to tell her: I will find old novels that make her stomach ache as tears fall down her cheeks. I will find her all the stories of Black women she craves. I will find the tiny things that make her happy, like a pen shaped like a paintbrush, and fill her home with them because minimalism minimalizes her appreciation of beauty, and she has no time to be trying to follow a trend that wasn’t made for her.

I want to tell her. I will dance in a grocery store at 10:00 at night with good music in my ears and a spring in my step for her.

I want to tell her.

Hipster. Hooligan. Writer. Wanderer. Sad AF, but you'll learn some things.

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