Lessons From My Younger Self

      Our early lives began with exploration—a lot of it. In figuring things out, we were guided by our loved ones; they taught us the difference between right and wrong, how to carry ourselves and the essentials of being a “good person.” We were taught to use our manners, to be kind, to be honest, to behave….and these building blocks amongst others effortlessly became central to our younger selves. As we began to grow out of the simplicity that was so many of our childhoods, we became tasked with the duty of piecing together our identities and making sense of the world we are immersed in. Our experiences become lessons, our minds become impossible Rubix cubes and the world turned into a playing field, challenging us to win every game. The overwhelming, yet enlightening nature of it all, often meant naturally straying away from the simple lessons we were taught, as we began to make sense of our own. While the things we were once sure of can become foggy and over complicated in our minds, I have learned that they will always come back to us in one form or another. When we lose them, life has a way of re-teaching them—only proving how important it is to reflect on the things we once knew as children, but somehow managed to lose sight of in the midst of it all…

In hindsight, these are a few of my most valued lessons from my childhood.

1. You Can Be Whoever You Want to Be

      You can be whoever you want to be. As kids, we knew this all too well. We dreamt of operating rocket ships en route to the moon, we envisioned ourselves taming lions and painting masterpieces. When I was little, who I wanted to be was a matter of how fast I could make up my mind. I shuffled dreams more than I could remember and every time I thought I had decided, I felt as though my future was already secured. Somewhere between then and now, I was taught to be ‘rational’ about my goals. I was met with the question “what do you actually want to be when you grow up?” when my first answer wasn't conventional enough for a cookie-cutter life. Whether it be the way we were conditioned or simply the realist in us, it isn’t uncommon for people to lose faith in the identities they once wished to grow into...but if our younger selves could see it all happen, I’m sure they would ask us “why?” Why did we choose to stop chasing after the things we wanted? Why did we let anyone convince us that we couldn’t get them? Are the obstacles so daunting that we shouldn't even try? When I was a kid, nothing felt impossible. My younger self believed that everything in this world was within reach, and as I open my mind to this possibility once again, I can feel my aspirations shift just a little bit closer — I am finally reminded that when you know that nothing can stand in your way, nothing ever will.

2. Treat Others the Way You Wish to be Treated

    Also known as “The Golden Rule,” treating others the way you wish to be treated was a phrase that was repeated to so many of us, more times than we could count. We were taught to have empathy by putting ourselves in another’s shoes...by trying to feel what they feel. While some of us have managed to stay empathetic, the emotions of others rarely appear to be prioritized. This may be because acting selfishly is not only easier but directly seems to be in our own best interests. If the importance of the Golden Rule was emphasized throughout the course of our lives, perhaps we would remember why treating those around us well, also means treating ourselves well. Not only does it lead to your own personal happiness, but it also prompts positive connections, makes us more understanding, helps us cultivate a love for others and makes us kinder people overall. While our younger selves may have only practiced this rule as a result of being prompted, it is important for us to reflect back on it, and become inspired by the positivity it has the power to spread. In aiming to become better human beings, this is an important lesson we should all take from our childhoods

3. Be Honest. Brutally.

    As a kid, I was promised that “honesty is the best policy” and that my words were the best tool to enact it. Whether it meant confessing to something I did wrong or telling someone how their actions made me feel, the truth was always held to the highest importance. As I aged, I began to brush it off more easily…I stopped holding myself to the same standard of honesty. I left too much room for white lies and had not only found myself becoming dishonest with those around me, but even with myself. Avoiding difficult truths and sugar coating the facts rarely played out in the way that I had hoped them to. More times than not, it led to the circumstances becoming overcomplicated. With honesty, we avoid the tangled mess that deceit can make. It allows us to get things off our chests and keep a clear conscience. When it comes to being honest with ourselves, refraining from the truth is only a force that stunts our growth. It is admitting things to ourselves that helps us understand where our weaknesses are and what must be done to mend them. Sometimes being brutally honest can demand a great deal of courage, but I have learned that it is always worth telling.

Perhaps my younger self-lacked the insight to rationalize why these things made sense, but in spite of this, my world was nothing short of a dream. While I can never downplay the lessons I have learned throughout the course of my life, I have found it both humbling and rewarding to reflect on the values I held close as a child. It has reminded me that as we grow, we mustn't lose sight of the simple things that served as the building blocks of our character.