Meet Your Childhood Self, Then Beat Her To A Pulp - Stephanie DelTorchio google4228e52aa5dfebc8.html

Meet Your Childhood Self, Then Beat Her To A Pulp

letter childhood self encouragement quote.jpg

Of course you were clueless. You were a child.

 

Inexperienced. Green. Wet behind the ears.

Whatever it’s called, that period of life before you woke up and made good choices or drifted into adulthood by default, could be called “survivalhood”.

The road from being a know-nothing child to a disgruntled taxpayer is neither straight nor always pleasant. But there should be a point in life where one breaks free from being completely dependent upon adults and starts living as one. In between is where the lines blur.

How many idiotic decisions could have sent you to Heaven long before your twelfth birthday?

If my mother ever had learned…

I climbed three stories up the side of our elementary school on the drain pipes (across the street from home) — to get to the roof.

Swam out into the harbor, way farther than my abilities, to keep up with the boys just to stay included in their circle.

Experimented in high school and college — sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll, y’all — the thoughts of which sicken my adult stomach.

Even though I could read the sign, I skated on thin ice anyway. (Funny, that reference takes on new meaning the older you get.)

Having a neighbor rat me out would have caused my mother to hand deliver my ass to the Pearly Gates.

It’s a miracle we’ve gotten this far. You with me?

Why childhood. Why?

It’s the means to the end. Nothing but an adolescent game of Survivor, where the “island” is your school, neighborhood and family.

Childhood is a molding period of trial and error, spin the bottle and double dog dares.

We form alliances. Break alliances. Go beyond our comfort and test limits. To keep up. Stay in the group. Hide our fears.

Sometimes childhood memories — no matter how deeply buried — come back to haunt us later in life. They trigger latent issues and sticky points that bug us long past expiration dates.

Can it be the reason we’re skeptical about work situations? Cautious in group settings? Uncomfortable with confrontation? Or (still) afraid…of heights, rodents, locker rooms?

Childhood can be rife of humiliating moments too.

Picked last for gym. Not invited to a birthday party. Teased for mismatched socks.

Growing up can feel like a long slog — a lifelong process — but when I see big people using childhood angst for their adult struggles all I can say is:

Beat the crap out of that child

You’re bigger and better now. You’ve earned the BADASS label because you’ve survived this far, skinned knees and all.

For the sake of this rant, let me be perfectly clear…

Abuse, in any form, isn’t something you’re needing to “get over”. If that’s your childhood story, you have our collective love and blessings for a complete healing. This is for the rest of us. Those whose parents couldn’t afford the latest Keds and now have a friggin’ shoe obsession — vowing never to wear last year’s Prada again. Clear? Good.

And this too shall pass

Nobody said childhood is an easy ride. We hope it’s loving and fun and adventurous.

Having lived through it, you know it comes with bumps, scrapes and bruises.

Luckily, childhood is a phase.

(Most of us) grow up and get to learn to play adult. This ever-changing game comes with its own set of strict and/or arbitrary rules and opponents we’d rather not face — Jail (Monopoly), breaking the Cookie Jar (Chutes & Ladders), You’re Fired or Mid-Life Crisis (Game of LIFE) and many other fun landing spots along the way.

But you’re not a quitter.

You win one round. You lose another. You roll the dice and keep playing.

Why?

Because you’re in the big game for the long haul.

Reset the game clock

We don’t get it right the first time. Or the fifth. Or apparently the eighty-fifth.

I realized that my childhood game had morphed into the adult game. I was rolling dice playing with old rules; against long-gone opponents.

This needed to change.

I’d heard about people writing letters to their old self. As in: what would you tell your twenty-year-old self? The thinking being that as a grown-up you know better. With a loving and tender stroke of the pen your mission is to warn your younger self that all of “this childhood stuff” is either:

• For your own good (and sound like your mother)

• Will serve you well down the road (still sounding like your mother)

• Every little thing is gonna be all right (mother channeling Bob Marley)

I went deeper and decided to excavate every little thing that still lived rent-free in my head. And should have been evicted long ago.

Taking names

It was a private letter that started out slow, and very respectful, and organized. Then my pen struggled to keep up with the words leaving my brain. And get this: I had a good childhood. I didn’t vacation to the Alps or drive around town in a Rolls Royce, but I was fed and there was a roof.

My venting wasn’t about my parents. Okay, there was one exception. Something about size 9 ice-skates stuffed with newspaper on my then, size 6 feet. But that was a gratuitous inclusion. Parents deserve mention.

I had issue with my third grade teacher, a track coach and a few fellow students. The letter continued to name a Grant’s store clerk and YMCA swim instructor. Some kid in the college financial aid line. A woman who judged my heritage because my name ended in a vowel. The more names I listed the sadder I became.

Every one of those people had an influence on my childhood and into adulthood. They hid quietly curled up in the corners of my mind making cameo appearances in no particular order. A brief humiliation. Public ridicule. Condescension.

Honestly, I don’t remember thinking of them in my day to day life. But there they were.

As I wrote a name or recalled an incident, the proverbial dam burst.

I gave it to them. Right there on paper.

Playing the end game

The letter was neither a warning nor arm hug to my old self. It was a fuck you to everyone I HAD ALLOWED TO PLAY ON MY ISLAND way past the end of the game.

My today adult self wouldn’t let ANY one of them take that kind of advantage.

But as kid — most of us — shut up and stand up straight. We do our suffering in silence. Especially in the face of “adults”.

Hindsight is the advantage of experience. And growing skin. And a healthier sense of self.

If you’re hanging on to old memories that hold you back from today’s glory, try writing it out. Or record yourself. I did this too because I can talk faster than I can write.

If you do this, be prepared.

When I listened to the recording (days later) I didn’t recognize the voice or the person talking as myself. I felt a little sorry for her. She seemed to have suffered so much in silence for so long.

And then I wanted to beat the crap out of her. Tell her to look around at all that was good in her life. And then let that shit fly away once and for all.

Leaving childhood. Have a nice day.

After getting that ALL OUT, I wrote myself a love note.

For all the challenges and hard times she faced growing up — real and imagined —  but had survived, and left her standing taller. I let her know that every little thing is gonna be alright. That she DID survive failing Geometry, backstabbing teenage girls and falling off the back of Paulie’s bike and all the way down Riggs Street.

That not all kids play nice but many do, and she has them as friends today…20, 30 and 40 years later.

That her first love might have broken her heart but true love found her, and is snoring on the couch. And the truth is that zits reappear during menopause, but she won’t stress over that any more.

Get it all out.

Write a legacy letter

If this idea moves you, go a step further and write a letter to the young people in your life — kids, nieces, nephews, team members, students, grandchildren.

Share with them what you know. Provide guidance and wisdom and encouragement. Be honest in your stories so that someday they don’t grow up and want to beat the crap out of their childhood.

BE F♥CKING AWESOME TODAY! (#BeFAT)

Original graphic: Stephanie DelTorchio

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