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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Letter to Young Me

The bulk of this post is from an article I wrote back in April for the Home and School Mosaics site, but, in looking for something else, I stumbled on it again......and....

I needed this little reminder for myself...personally....even though I am not so young now.....and I originally wrote this with my kids in mind.  But, I am the one that needs it today.  Right now, I am in the midst of feelings of shame and almost hatred towards how my body looks.  It still does amazing things, but clothing it and going out in public in it....that is a whole other thing.  Bleck.  So, I needed this reminder....and though you might too!

Uniqueness. Why, oh why does that seem like a dirty word to teenagers? My own, included.
I have strived to raise and help create unique little people to send out into the world. Little people that I want to embrace the fact that they are fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image. Uniquely made.
But, I am having a problem. My kids don’t want to be unique. They want to fit in. They want to be like everybody else.
I get it.
I do.
Because, I remember, I didn’t want to be unique and stand out either. (Well, okay, I sort of did. I wanted to be so fabulous that everyone loved me/that boy wanted to date me…… but, NOT unique in a……..she is really different (weird), let’s pick on her, kind of way. LOL)
So, I thought I would write a letter to “Young Me” explaining the virtues of uniqueness.
Dear Young Kayla,
I am writing to you today to tell you why I want you to stop trying to fit in and be like the rest of the crowd and be unique. Parachute pants and R.D. Simpson jeans really don’t look all the good on you. And, listen to me closely….that hair….don’t do it……you went from this…..
To this…..
To this…..
In 2 short years….because “everybody” was doing it. Everybody was getting bangs and layers….then everyone was getting perms. Yes, the glasses were unfortunate too, but notice the smoky pink and the little monogram “K” that you were styling in the Great Perm Incident of 7thgrade. (Honestly, your youngest daughter will cry every time she sees this picture when she is about 1 year old. Every time.  Your other kids will think it is funny and sneak up behind her and flash this picture at her and  then laugh and laugh when she cries. True story.)
You didn’t realize that you were following the crowd and trying not to be unique when you got your hair cut this way and styled it like that…but you were. You thought you were just being you.  Scary, isn’t it? Just remember these pictures when you feel yourself weakening your resolve to go ahead and not follow the crowd.

Here is one more example of you being "unique", just in case you don’t believe me yet. Here you are with a few of the other Madonna WannaBe’s back in the late 80’s. Yeah, we stood out (she said sarcastically) and none of us were crowned the winner of this particular pageant.
Be brave…be bold….be you. Uniquely and wonderfully made. You.
You are different. You really are. Not a lot of people will ever really understand you. But, that is okay. That is a good thing. You just need a select few in your inner circle that “get” you. It doesn’t need to be an army….just a special forces unit. I know, it may not seem like it now, but it is a very good thing.
You are curvy and womanly when everyone else is lean and straight. You will not be able to change your DNA. You are going to have boobs and cleavage and a curvy backside. Don’t hide. Don’t feel fat (like you actually did in the picture of the many Madonnas in the picture above). Just figure out what kinds of clothes look good on an hour glass figure and embrace it. Don’t wait until you are older to figure that out and wear low cut/skin tight stuff to “flaunt” those curves because you are looking for acceptance….and being sexy seems like a good idea. It will just get you the wrong kind of attention and acceptance. I promise. Neither scenario will turn out well. Hiding it is bad. Flaunting it is bad. Embrace it and be in charge of how you view your body. Be in charge of not being tied into what the world thinks of your body. Don’t allow yourself to be judged based on your body…for good…..or for bad. Your body is just your body. Your body is……a work of art, no matter its size, no matter how much of it you share with the world. It just….is. (This is the part I needed to hear today)
Your body will actually prove to be strong and powerful and will do miraculous things. Not to scare you or anything, but your body will carry 10 babies. Your body will give birth to 7 of those babies. Six of them will live. I share this to show you that your body will take a beating and keep on going. It will survive 5 C-sections. Sadly, it will gain too much weight, and you will, once again, learn to “hide” it, but, it will still work for you. Be kind to it. Take care of it.  Appreciate it for the spectacularly unique thing that it is…stretch marks, scars, and all. Don’t allow yourself to judge your worth based on your body size either. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, whether you are big or small. (Again....needed this reminder in November of 2015)
Your brain and the way you think and look at the world and the people in it are unique. You are not the smartest girl in school. It is okay for people to know that. You do not have to pretend to be smarter than you are because somewhere along the line you got the reputation as a “brain”. It is totally okay to admit to your fellow students AND your teachers that you don’t get how to do something. You don’t have to cover your grade when the test is given back to you and pretend that it was higher than it actually was. You aren’t dumb either, so when you get that C in college chemistry in nursing school,not, I repeat, do not, drop out of school because you are convinced you are too dumb to be an R.N. Again, it is okay to admit to yourself and your professors that you are falling behind and don’t understand something. Remember that you are there to actually “learn” not to show that you already know stuff.
Not everyone will see things the way you do. Not everyone will understand that no matter how honest and kind you try to be, or think you are, some people just won’t like you.  You cannot change that. They just won’t… you…..get you….want to be around you. That is okay. You don’t need to be around people that don’t see the beauty in you….even if it is different than theirs. You will end up with friends that have made different lifestyle choices than yours. That is a good too. You don’t all need to be alike. Just treat every conversation or discussion with love and respect, and your friendships, will not only last, they will thrive – even though in the eyes of the world, you are supposed to despise people that don’t think like you. Be unique in your thoughts and your acceptance and love for others.
Remember this:  Everyone is just trying to figure their own lives out. Everyone else is trying to become okay with their own personal brand of uniqueness. Remember that. Everyone. Everyone is trying to figure themselves out and ultimately be okay with who they are. Even the bullies and mean girls. Even the quiet nerd in the corner. Even the popular kids. None of them really know and accept their own uniqueness…..yet.
Remember, Young Kayla, being unique and different is good. Sometimes it will even be fun. When you move to the south after 40 plus years in the north, you will be considered unique by your new friends and neighbors. To most of them that will be a good thing, but to some, it will be considered a bad thing. (some will think of you as a crazy, outspoken Yankee)  For you, consider it an awesome thing. It will end up being a chance for you to come into your own and not “just” be one of the Atkins girls. You will be on your own. Nobody will know anything about you, your family, your school, your church, your pageants, your jobs, your bad choices. They will just get to know… The unique, and yes, sort of quirky, lady that is truly happy to have 6 kids….and would have been happy with 10 kids. The unique, quirky lady that has fun glasses and wears sandals 364 days a year. The unique lady who still….occasionally….has to remind herself that it is okay to be unique.
Be Unique. Be You. It will be so worth it.
Love, The Middle Aged Unique, Quirky You

I wish I could really send that letter to the younger me (although I would be totally freaked out by how many children I had and how much weight I would gain, so maybe it is best to keep that a secret from myself! Because I am still sort of shocked when I look in the mirror and can’t quite believe that is really me.) I really am at peace being unique now, finally, in my mid-40s. I take a little pride in it too (that is an article for another day). I am glad that I don’t blend in. I am glad that I am not just one of the herd. I am glad that my style, my feelings, my way of talking, my opinions, my way of raising my children, my choices, are my own.
Nobody else is like me (said with a secret smile rather than a bone crushing sense of dread and shame).
That my dear, unique, little people, is a good thing. A very good thing.