Last night laying in bed, I cycled through the Rolodex of my repetitive thoughts. Frustrating as that can be, I tried to think of ways to fall asleep without that kind of mental poison.
I started talking to the 13 year old girl who dwells deep within me. Since earlier this year, I’ve been attending a support group, working a program, and talking to a therapist, all who emphasize work around healing the inner child, so “talking” to my inner child is something I’ve been practicing for a little while now.
Like a lot of us do with prayer, I regurgitate the same words I’ve been told to when talking to her, and oftentimes, it feels useless and like I’m speaking a different language. She still feels like a stranger to me, someone distant, different, and at times one I’d like to forget.
Last night, I did something a little different. Instead of regurgitating the same old I love you and value you, I visualized myself standing by her side as we looked ahead at our reflections in the mirror of the bathroom in my childhood home.
I forced my brain to remember what she looked like, what she wore, how she did her hair, how long she took to get ready before school, what her braces looked like when she smiled, and how skeptical she’d be when I told her everything would be ok.
I felt tears well up in my eyes as I saw her in my mind. She’s just a little girl. It was the first time I realized that.
Alone between the walls of my studio apartment, I cried involuntarily thinking about how much she has overlooked about herself between then and now.
‘If only I knew then what I know now,’ right?
In our conversation, I told her about many things. They felt important to tell her, like I had a vault of secrets to the future that if she only knew about, she’d have so much more faith in herself because of them.
I wanted to write down what our conversation would have been like had I been able to write it in a letter since that’s the easiest way for me to process it all.
In full transparency, before I write it all out, my gut reaction is that this feels so self-centered. Like a typed out version of navel-gazing. For 29 years, those feelings have stopped me from succumbing to the power of self-compassion.
I think it’s really important work to revisit your inner child and let them know that you’re here for them. That things will work out, and that they are loved.
I’m sharing it with you all here because it shifted something in me, and I think it’s worth passing on.
It’s hard and weird for me to write this because you’re me - just me from a long time ago.
I’m sorry it took me so long to find you to tell you everything I have seen, learned, and experienced since we were last together. I’m sorry I didn’t check in on you, make sure you felt heard and seen, and give you the love you needed from me.
I could say I’ve been busy. Busy with getting through high school, college, boyfriends, jobs, apartment moves, roommates, traveling, hobbies, letdowns, crumbled relationships, and so on. That wouldn’t be a good excuse though, so just know that I’m sorry and I’m here now.
Right now, you think freckles are horrible and wonder why you were the only person in your family who got them. You look at your body in the mirror and pick apart everything you’d fix. You scrunch your nose when you laugh, and you say “just kidding” and “like” literally all the time. You love cloud potatoes because they’re better than just regular mashed potatoes.
Your favorite dessert is plain cheesecake, and lucky for you, your sister is a really good caterer.
You love jet skiing and making your dad drive as fast as he can in the backroad “dips” so you can get a head rush.
You’re changing up how you do your makeup every week. You like to make up dance routines and then teach them to your nieces. Later you’ll watch videos of these dances and wonder where you ever got the notion you were qualified to teach.
You’re practicing free throws for basketball and conditioning the horses most nights, showering off dust and sweat like a construction worker after a long day.
Dial-up Internet finally arrived, so you’re spending a lot of time on MySpace, in chat rooms, and writing down all your deepest thoughts for the world wide web to see on LiveJournal.
“You got mail” is by far one of your favorite sentences to hear when you sign in to AOL under your email@example.com email address. I know you think that’s cool right now, but one day, you’ll probably avoid telling anyone you had it because it’s not a cute look. Then you’ll write a letter to yourself, publish it online, and expose how big of a nerd you truly are. It’s all good.
You’re having sleepovers with your friends and hanging out the car window singing Bye Bye Bye and Say My Name. You’re painting your nails every color of the rainbow and discovering music outside of the top 40 playlists. You live in the hill country but love to wear DCs so you look like you know what’s up when a skater boi walks by.
You highlight your hair and try not to highlight your pale legs. You haven’t discovered tanning beds yet, but you will, and you should definitely try to avoid that. Wear sunscreen instead. Be pale. Someone will love you anyway.
Girl, welcome to 2003.
Your family loves you, is proud of you, and wants everything for you.
Your mom has always been your rock. Who else pretends to be an American Idol judge on the way to school in the mornings so your singing can be validated on a scale of 1-10? She’d send you straight to the finals if she could, but you’ll have to accept singing just isn’t your thing.
Your dad has always pushed you to do your best. These things will be so good for you as you grow. He’s hard for you to understand and get along with now. This is because he was a kid too once and went through the same things you have. You’ll get to know the true him one day, and things will get better.
Your dog, Puddles, can’t stop spinning in circles when she sees you. Make sure you soak up every minute with her while you can. She won’t be around forever, and that will be a sad day for everyone.
You have horses that make you feel freer than anything or anyone else when they break out into an open run. You adore your nieces, admire and want to be like your big sister, and you pick on your big brother (that’s what they’re there for, right?). He still loves you though, so remember that when you go periods without being in contact.
Sometimes you play rough because it’s how you were raised.
You navigate the waters of learning to sign to your deaf sister, who’s challenged with communicating thorough sentences and thoughts due to a variety of medical issues. You feel proud when you’re able to get a response and wish you had a deeper relationship with her. You don’t even realize what role she’ll play in your future yet.
You always stick up for the underdog, and this will carry with you forever. Don’t ever stop.
You have some really inspiring coaches - Coach Green and Coach Bates. You have talented and caring teachers, Ms. Young, and Mrs. Billingsley, who will always echo in your thoughts when you doubt yourself.
You’ll forever remember September 11th even though you didn’t know much about the towers a couple of years ago when they came down. That event will determine a large number of situations in your life, along with many other lives for years to come. From people you know being deployed to it somehow leading to your impending battle with math. It’s complicated.
I mean, you get up and run before sunrise for cross country for crying out loud. That’s not something you’ll do forever, thank God.
You’re fearless - like totally fearless. That fearlessness means you get back on the horse, you give a speech at your high school graduation, and you take off to a new state without knowing a soul for college - just for the adventure (and journalism). Maybe that’s naivete, or maybe that’s just how you were born. I love it.
Now, let’s get into some of the hard stuff.
I know you’ve also spent a lot of time wishing you weren’t alive anymore. At 13, that’s tough, and it’s not fair. You haven’t even gotten to your darkest place yet. And I’m so sorry for that.
Those feelings come from experiences we don’t have to go into in this letter. We both already know. You spend a lot of time tiptoeing, making sure everyone else feels comfortable and happy, and repairing broken things that should never have been something in the first place.
You also take a lot of blame for things you didn’t do - like being ‘dishonest’, ‘selfish’, and ‘inconsiderate’. You’ll start to believe those things about yourself for a while, so try to stop that nonsense as soon as possible.
When you think about yourself that way, you dim the light you’re meant to shine.
Hurt people hurt people. Remember that. It’s hard to see now, but those who hurt you the most are the ones most troubled on the inside.
I know that little black journal you keep, and I know you still have some years of writing in it. I know that the journal will be found one day and cause concern for your safety with those close to you.
Please, I urge you to keep writing. Writing will save you from yourself for a long time to come.
This journal, strangely, will always hold a place in your life. It holds a record of how an innocent, happy girl can retreat to a dark place that will be pretty hard to come out of.
You feel like a mistake and like someone who could slowly disappear, clearing a path for everyone else.
I remember you feeling small, really small. And like with each passing day, you grew smaller and smaller, until one day you floated away and no one noticed. I know you don’t allow yourself to ever show it. You’re tough, and everyone knows that. Parents talk about it, coaches talk about it, your family and friends talk about it. It’s one of your best qualities, but don’t ever sacrifice yourself to be tough.
You’ve made some mistakes and hurt people, too. Your words can be harsh, and that cold shoulder you give feels like ice. You know how it feels, because you do the same to yourself.
Fortunately, you do know how to apologize - and if you don’t now, you will learn really soon. Humility, awareness, and forgiveness are things I wish I could just give to you, but it they are those things you have to go through learning to truly understand.
I wish I could tell you how important it will be for you to never let someone else’s actions dictate your own. If they hurt you, love them. Always.
Things will get a little worse after this year. You’re going to grow and experience the best and worst parts of life soon. What I want you to remember as you move through those experiences is that you have so much to look forward to afterward.
Everyone says that, but I’m you, so I know it for a fact.
Family issues, mean girls, a close friend dying, one of your sisters dying, and a fairly intense bout of depression - it’s going to be tough, but stand for something and always know there are better days ahead.
But, do you see me here? That means you make it. You’ll be just fine. Better than fine. You’re going to be amazing.
You know what else you have ahead? Babe, let me tell you. This is the exciting part.
The most compact and cutest little travel companion and best friend you could ask for - a Corgi/Jack Russell named Sage. Long red hair, just like you always wanted after falling in love with mermaids- especially right now while it’s that shit brown color. Don’t worry, this is just a middle school thing. It’ll be better by your junior year.
A longboard and rollerblades - and no, you don’t get them when you’re a teenager. You’re well into your 20s when you decide to pursue these hobbies. Don’t worry, it’s cool.
A Bachelor’s degree from Mizzou. A professor who really believes in you - even seven years after you’ve graduated. Amazing new friends from all over who are business owners, doctors, lawyers, artists, craftspeople, farmers, athletes, and more. Your life has so many years ahead of meeting inspiring people from all walks of life.
Adventures - so many adventures. A backpacking trip through the Ozarks with strangers. Press passes to the best shows in town. Trips around the world to Africa, Costa Rica, all over South America, Europe, and Southeast Asia. Boarding down sand dunes in Chile. A hike up a volcano and sliding on your butt down a glacier at sunrise.
You’re going to see everything from the catacombs to the Alps to a lion feasting in the dead of night to Victoria Falls to the driest desert in the world. You’ll have conversations in Spanish and attempts conversations in other languages. You will also come face to face with a great white shark, and you’ll make sure everyone from your co-workers to guys on a dating app know about it. Yes, dating apps become a thing. Just wait.
New cousins, nieces, and nephews (even great-nieces and nephews)! Your family procreates long before you ever will. This is ok though - you need longer to become the best version of yourself you can be.
A study abroad experience in the street art capital of the world that will change your life forever.
Apologies from the asshole bullies in your past. This will come at a party you’re hosting very soon after high school, and it’s going to feel great.
Skydiving, SCUBA diving, snorkeling, parasailing, kayaking, waterfall rappelling, and ziplining in and over oceans, jungles and beyond.
Some man with dreads is going to offer you sopa de caballo in Chile, and you’re going to eat it. I know it’s hard to believe considering…. But, you’ll tell the story for years to come. You’ll also try what you’ll think is dolphin in Costa Rica - because when in Rome, but fortunately you find out later that it was just Dolphin Fish - entirely different marine life.
Another man with dreads is going to pass you a joint in Tobago. You’ll take it and understand why he now knows how to talk to over 200 bird species.
You’ll go on other adventures with strangers like a 22 mile canoe trip down the Santa Elena Canyon. That one you’re going to love, and it’s going to give you healing when you need it the most.
You’ll hike knee-deep through the snowy cap of a mountain in the Swiss Alps just to get to the cold beer at the top. Well, you also enjoy the scenery, but that’s secondary after the hike you’ll endure.
You purchase a banjo that you swear one day you’re going to learn how to play. Still TBD.
You’ll work all kinds of jobs. A Sonic fountain girl, a burger flipper at Starburger after you wreck your truck, an Old Navy cashier, a Macaroni Grill waitress, a sales consultant for a Missouri startup, a Voice consultant working with brands like Skechers, a Communications Director at a YMCA branch, AND eventually a marketer in the tech industry after you taught yourself how to code.
I know, right.
Also, and more exciting, you start a business of your own called Rosie Sunday. Imagine that. That’s been your nickname for most of your life, and you make it into a Lindsay-kind-of-thing, complete with photography, writing, and design, so those passions you have now? They work out. Your clients are aspiring authors, film directors, e-commerce business owners, and more! They’re real people who think you’re great, so believe them.
You’ll try yoga, being a vegan, and kombucha. You’re not a fan of any of them. Feel free to skip on to the next idea.
Girl, you will even go on a four-month-long road trip with your dog all over the U.S. and Canada, sleep out of your Subaru and a tent, spend a day with a Gullah woman, shoot guns with rednecks, sit around campfires with families from coast to coast, brave snowstorms, and create one of the best stories ever from it!
Did you even know you had that in you? Well, you do.
You’re going to say some things that sound like advice to people you love. Remember to put yourself in the other person’s shoes first. When you do remember to do that, do it again. And, again, until you decide not to give advice.
This will happen a few times over the years, so learn to listen closely to their responses. They don’t need or want your unsolicited insight, and giving it to them could lead to distrust and a big hole in your heart. This is avoidable. Be honest but don’t overshare.
You’ll also feel a panging desire to share things weighing heavy on your heart. You’ll have good intentions. You’ll try your best to go about it the right way. It may not work out how you envisioned. I can’t even tell you that this part will be ok. Life is hard. Just be patient, always leave your door open for your loved ones, and try to find an excuse to make things okay again.
Life is short. Your love doesn’t have to die when someone else’s does.
You’ve always been a sap for romance, so I have some great news for you. You will have romance, girl. You will meet a number of beautiful men, starting from the day you land in Missouri to the day I’m writing this letter.
You’ll date a few musicians. They’ll be adorable when you first meet and probably long afterward, but be cautious. Your “type” doesn’t change much over the years, so if I could give you any advice, it’s to really analyze what attracted you to them in the first place. Did they need to be fixed? Were you caught up? Did they give you that sense of abandonment you probably feed into too much? It’s hard to see these things when we fall in love. Enjoy every minute you have with them, but don’t waste too much time.
They will teach you all kinds of things: how to make a ten pound burger, know the difference between stage right and left, how many roses Al Green likes to throw to the crowd when he performs, and how yoga apparently makes you a better singer. They’ll propel you into finding yourself and taking huge leaps of faith. They’ll break your heart, and you’ll break theirs.
You’ll think one of them was the one, and it will take a long time for you to think otherwise. They’ll all hold special places in your heart, so let them. When you feel resistant toward acknowledging their value in your life, remember at one time they made you feel like the best thing on the planet. And that was pretty special.
There is someone out there who won’t have any doubts about you and who will be ready to take that jump. You just need some time to grow into the person who’s ready to meet him. This is actually the most exciting time of your life, believe it or not.
Boys and confusion should be synonyms, though. That will probably never change.
Oh, you also start a podcast, host a monthly writers circle, are writing a book, and joined the search and rescue team of Texas. You paid the TEXSAR membership fee, but the actual rescue part is still TBD. The fee makes you feel official though, so it’s worth noting.
You do a lot - probably too much to be honest - but you’re just like that. You’re all over the place, and that’s why you’ll lead such a colorful life.
After you get past some of those hard years that are around the corner, you’re going to see just how strong you are. Through so many experiences that are impossible to individually recall, you’re going to put one foot in front of the other and march on. You’ll learn so much, help others along the way, and grow into someone you can really be proud of.
You’re a badass, Lindsay. I don’t know why life has a way of making us forget that, but when I look at you in the mirror, I see a girl who has not just ideas of big things ahead, but actual big things ahead. Despite all doubt you have about yourself, you’ll do things you never thought were possible.
The most important thing I want you to remember is to be kind to yourself. As your own biggest critic, you can also fall into being your worst enemy. This won’t serve you well. It will send you to some dark places if you let it. Also, reach out. You have people in your life who care about you and want to be there for you, so let them. Pick up the phone when they call, respond to their texts, show up - don’t isolate.
I’m so proud of you, excited for you, and here for you - now that I know how important it is to truly see you and remember you, I’m here for you - always. Keep your head up, shoulders back, and a big smile on your face - just like your mom’s always said.
You were given that smile for a reason, so don’t rob yourself of opportunities to use it. Your happiness is contagious, so spread it. The world will need it.
Your future 29-year old self