It must have been how high above the world I was sitting. One minute I’m in my mid-thirties, dressed for a hot summer day, on a train into the city and see a cement pipe down low -
- then I’m thirteen or fourteen staring stiffly out of the school bus window at the farmed hills and valleys trundling past. Below in a paddock is a fallen tree trunk, and something’s in the end of it. The bus groans down another gear to take the corner, and from my raised perch, I can see there’s something (a cat?) curled up in the rotted out end -
-then I’m back on the train, gulping air. I can feel the loneliness and dejection of my old self as thick as a tidal rip around me, and I’m lifting my face upwards as I fight the pull of the sudden time lurch. The memory of how miserable and forlorn I was back then swamps me; I can feel the itch of my winter uniform, see my breath condensing on the window, as I ignore the taunts and backstabbing going on elsewhere in the bus while I work out how many days until I can leave home…
The train waddles through another couple of stations as I’m considering how much intense feeling has crashed down all because of elevation over industrial plumbing. Oh, you poor, bewildered thing, I think back in time to Me-Then – to the little glimpse of that girl unknowingly still riding a bus inside my forgotten years – oh, life gets so much better! I pause, wince a little, And, admittedly, at times terribly more awful too. But you have so many brilliant things to look forward to: books and boys (yes, someone will eventually kiss you of their own volition) and perfect glass water-skiing mornings. Seeing that cat again, smiling every single time deep down in your hopefulness. Desserts you don’t even know exist and a change in faith which will set fire to your heart. You’ll swim in the Atlantic Ocean one day, and will call it your boyfriend because it so joyously feels you up as you laugh. You will have children, and ideas, and see your name in print. You will be incredible. Really. You absolutely will. You are the most stubborn person I know, and that will take you to the life waiting for you.
I remember, dimly, a letter I wrote to my older self at the time, demanding that I be a journalist and visit Paris and live in Sydney – to be far, far away from the warped country town and family I was suffering through. I remember so much detail and the vehemence I felt in writing that letter, and I’m still sitting on a train decades and states away from who I was then, while also being a weird redheaded girl nobody understood or liked, sitting on a school bus in winter.
Last week I read a book where the main character writes letters to himself (now) from his future self, to help him survive the present and make it beyond the next week/month and (hopefully) year. While Future-Him states the world’s been decimated by nuclear war, He-Yet-To-Be also lives on a lighthouse, with his wife and family doing a job he loves, and scuba dives for fun to the cities far beneath the ocean. He builds himself a loving relationship, a pet animal, purpose and direction far beyond what he currently experiences. It’s a scraggly, whisper-thin thread connecting him to a better place and time, even if it is (at least temporarily) imaginary. It’s a beautiful, wrenching and hopeful exercise all at once.
The tide recedes down my chest, until I am yet again a thirty-plus year old woman on my way to the city, looking through the scratched windows to the landscape rolling past. But I’m also composing a letter to my decade-older self (You’ve been to Paris, right?), and composing a love note (on thick, imaginary, silken paper, scrawled loopily in rich blue ink, because why not?) from Me-Yet-To-Be to the woman on the train biting her lip and smiling as she wonders what the future’s going to hold this time.
Stay stubborn. Just wait – it’s going to be AMAZING.
What has shoved you hard back into a memory? Which memory? What would you say to your past self? What would you write to your future self? What would you want your future self to tell you about You-Yet-To-Be?