To My Past Self

I learned not to apologize for my feelings.

watercolor a young girl with two braids standing in a field looking off into the distance
Image created via Midjourney

I’m trying to envision that it is 2027 — five years from now.

There is no longer a global pandemic dominating our lives. I’m sure Covid is still around, but it has become endemic. Maybe we still wear masks in crowded places. Maybe we’re still getting vaccine boosters every six months. But our world has resumed some semblance of “Before” though we can never really go back to pre-pandemic life.

I’m in a different place. Born from exhaustion, necessity, and a firm grasp of boundaries, I took control where I could. Everything else was spiraling — school safety, discourse on science and medicine, the pillars of democracy. I can’t do anything about those things. But I realized that I could control what I was willing to tolerate. And now, five years later, I’m better for it.

Five years before the pandemic, I got my first real lessons in boundaries. When Nelle and Iris died, I faced all kinds of Opinions about how I should grieve. “You should move on.” “You can have another baby.” “Your grief is irrelevant to work.”

Through a support group, I learned to push back. To not apologize for my feelings.

I became less tolerant of bullshit, because I just didn’t have the energy. I also didn’t have any fight left. I realized the freeing power of putting up barriers between myself and people who didn’t get it.

I also learned that I could not control grief or healing. I could do the work in therapy and find ways to honor my babies… and still find myself crying in my car when I hear a certain song, even years later. I accepted that grief had to run its own course.

As the pandemic progressed, much of my pre-Covid life slipped away. Anxiety mounted. We thought we would be isolated for a few weeks. Weeks turned into months, months turned into a year.

As time passed, I found myself channeling what grief had taught me: I can’t control everything. But I can control some things. I put up more barriers between work and life. I carved out (and guarded) time to focus on my own projects. I realized that if I don’t take care of myself, I can’t take care of the people that I love — and they depend on me.

So I’m envisioning my 2027 self looking back on my 2022 self and saying, “I’m proud of you.”

I’m proud of you for doing work that fulfills you.

I’m proud of you for creating.

I’m proud of the effort you put in and the goals you set for yourself.

Back in 2016, just a few months after Iris died, I wrote a letter to my 8-year-old self. I opened with, “Never stop writing, little one.” My 2027 self would say the same thing to the person I am today. Writing supported me through grief, though a pandemic, and now has become the fuel for the person I hope to become.