Monday, May 19, 2014

For 16

Dear 16,

I have a confession to make. Or perhaps we should call it an apology, cutting through the crap of my careful wordplays, my gentle phrasing to lighten the load of reality.

I’ve blamed you for a lot of things in the past few years. I’ve ridiculed your clothing, your choices in music, your social habits (or lack thereof), your seemingly constant sadness. And I know why I do it: I’m treating you exactly as it so often felt like everyone else did. The only terms I ever learned from others in which to capture you are phrases carefully carved to let you know just how ashamed of yourself you should be.

I make jokes about the “emo phase” you’re in, and in doing so align myself with those words that you hate so much, those words that still demand I treat you as insignificant: it’s just a phase. You’ll be OK. But you know a very different story, 16. And I’m sorry for looking backwards with the same kind of contempt that once crushed you.

And I’m sorry for offering disgust or dismissal over the simplicity of your outlook on the world, the questions you’re afraid to ask yet, and the ones you are asking. You’re not failing to grasp things, missing anything major-- you’re just a few steps into the process of finding your faith, a faith that will become the multi-faceted, strange, sometimes fluid and less than certain, but most crucial foundational reality of who you’ll become.

You’ve been handed some hard, hard battles, and the fact that you haven’t quite figured out how to win them yet doesn’t detract from the incredible courage you have when you roll out of bed after another near-sleepless night and choose to send your fragile breath against the relentless march of another morning. You’re not being irrational or overreacting or just being angsty. The early stages of recovery is the hardest thing most people will ever do, and you’re doing it almost entirely alone, sent with just songs as stairsteps towards the starlight you can hardly believe still exists behind these rolling storm clouds. It may be that you are stronger than I am now.

So I’m hoping you and I can reconcile, make amends, agree to belong to each other again. The truth is, these things I’ve said about you so often-- the way I joke about you around others, the way I put you down-- is just another way for me to divert the distaste I still sometimes feel for myself into a more socially acceptable channel. 

Because if I’m honest, some days on the inside I am still you-- 16 and scared, facing odds I’m afraid will make victory impossible, buried under a mountain of shame, trying to figure out how to believe I could be forgiven. Trying to figure out how to forgive myself.

But I'm writing this because that is a process I'm not giving up on-- I still haven't given up on what you could become, I haven't given up on you. Because though you don’t know it yet, and some days I still don’t know that I know it… you’re worth it.

- Elraen