There was an overwhelming urge within me to write the nostalgia I felt yesterday onto a page of blank paper. Perhaps this was in part due to the lure of a brand new notebook laying casually beside my bed as I finally sank into bed. I am more inclined to believe, however, that it was mostly due to the memories coursing through my heart and mind after a day full of reminiscing. Indeed, it seems the past months have been bursting, overflowing, heavy with remembering – the beautiful and the horrible things.
First it was the seemingly endless old Facebook “notes” I wrote as a young girl (young, as in 13). Questionnaires, quotes, writing bits and bobs, etc. I shared it all. I laughed and laughed as I reread my answers to silly questions, knowing full well how I used to truly believe that other people read and cared about whether I liked Coke or Pepsi, dresses or skirts, bad boys or jocks, or what have you. I remembered the way I would pray that a certain boy would read my questionnaires and fall in love with me instead of any of the other girls who were posting the very same things. I covered my face in shame as I painstakingly read through those “flippity”, senseless, words. I used to wonder why girls were so nasty to me in the Facebook “honesty box” and now I realize that I was absolutely and utterly annoying. In their anonymous online corners, how they must have laughed at our grade 9 antics and mercilessly tried to tell us to shut-the-hell-up. I wish they had done it more.
Second, it was the sending of all those teams from my high school to the outer corners of the world as spring break broke this year. These memories have not been so humorous. I nearly lost my mind all over again as the weight of a thousand mistakes came crashing down all around me. Like a fool, I traveled back in time to those days of pride and regretted every instance that my broken heart screamed the I’m-sorry’s instead of quietly and humbly whispering them. But like a cool breeze, the memory of the laughter, of the people, and of the most wonderful version of Jesus Loves Me I’ve ever heard, so the times of absolute elation and exhilaration brought me down to the ground again, safe and sound. I remember the way the golden and magenta sunset on the African plain looked like heaven was opening all around us. I think Jesus wanted me to know how heaven would look when I go there someday. I remember how the elephant wrinkles were close enough to touch and how the lion’s mangy mane shook as he jogged all around our jeep. I remember every cursed joke we made as our hands tightened around each others in defense of the discomfort. I remember the gleaming white smiles against creamy chocolate skin as their rich voices rose to God’s ears.
Third, I remember being sixteen. It wasn’t all too long ago, you know. I remember the first time I ever kissed a boy and when nothing but making him mine seemed important. My greatest sense of nostalgia came from speaking with the ones who made an impact whether or not they know or believe it. I can feel my eyes sparkling as wave after wave of happiness washes the bad memories away. Last night I wrote because of this ‘one’. Somebody who wasn’t THE one but is one in a million anyway. He’ll read this and I hope he feels happiness.
It doesn’t have a name but, then, the past doesn’t really have a name either.
“We long for yesterday like we used to long for today. We used to pray unceasingly for momentum to pick up and bring us further along in the great quest to grow up. Though I am not yet grown, I know now what I did not know then about the weight of my mistakes and the heaviness of a choice made wrong. I know now how it cripples and cages you – how it clutches at your fingertips even as they open in the art of letting go. I cannot go back, but oh, how I long to. I long for yesterday like I used to long for today.
I am not yet grown but this weathered self combs through the memories like they were a lifetime ago. I speak of days when teal blue eyeliner owned every inch of my eyelid like it was a possessive older boyfriend. I speak of days when I wanted to be just like her and so the words came tumbling out, unabashed and grotesque. I speak of days when we rolled the waists of our skirts to match the height of our too tight cut off shorts to show the world God-knows-what. I want to shake the girl and tell her to be a lady. I want to tell her how lovely she is and to simply stop giving them something to talk about. When I remember how that girl let her words go wild, I want to run back as fast as I can to tell her first, that nobody is listening and second, that everyone can hear. I want to tell her how nobody did end up standing up for those kids that day or how that boy didn’t matter anyway. He wasn’t worth it. I want her to know that sleep is overrated when you’re twelve.
As these memories flow unchecked, his face emerges from a sea of what-if’s and text-messaged plans and promises. This time I want to scream at that girl from the sidelines and tell her she’s doing the right thing in telling him no. I want her to know that though it hurts, even though the reasons are too weak to admit, she is making the right choice.
I am not yet grown but with age has come bashfulness and doubt. They overwhelm my passionate worship in making way for skepticism. I want turn back and look that single-minded girl in the eye and tell her to march on, unafraid, because cynicism can wait. Why is bravery the first to go? Even as I pose the question, I know such is not the case at all. All those years ago, we had not the bravery to ask questions that would no doubt beg unwanted answers. We had not the bravery to love anyone but ourselves. We had not the bravery, nor the audacity, to ask if God was real.
I am not yet grown and Lord knows I am likely not done being selfish, but I am ashamed I ever tried to be better than the rest. We were all just trying to be someone we were not and in our pretending, we forgot what it means to be free. We forgot what the sky looked like. And remembering something so important really does hurt, believe it or not. I cannot go back but if writing it now was enough to change anything, I would write an ocean. I would write a desert. I would write anything to keep her from herself. I would write her off the pages she wrote herself on to. I would write two words for her on a crumpled piece of paper and pin them to her pocket. Be Free, it’d say. Be Free. “