Do you ever look at old pictures of yourself and feel compassion for the younger you?

I’d been thinking of my youth this week even before my sister posted this picture on her Facebook account from 25 years ago.

Me with first daughter, 1987.

March is always a reflective month with important anniversaries for me.

*March 5, 1990– I fled my marriage with two toddlers in tow and stayed at a battered women’s shelter.

*March 13, 1994– my little daughters left to see their father for a weekend visitation and disappeared to Greece.

Precisely two years later, I journaled from my hotel bed in Greece.

*March 5, 1996

 Today it is six years to the day that I left my husband. Since then, I’ve been on welfare, raised two children through diaper hood, got my head screwed on straight, earned my degree, found a niche in my job, got a  promotion, bought a fixer-upper home, fixed it up, made incredible and interesting friends. And had my children abducted.

*March 27, 1996– I was reunited with my now non–English speaking daughters in a small village in Greece.

No, I can’t say I miss much about being young.

While it’s true we’re genetically superior in our youth, with more vitality, more hair, less weight, less wrinkles, it doesn’t translate to anything useful as far as I’m concerned.

In the documentary I’m Your Man it, a now-old  Leonard Cohen says that it’s the acceptance of what we hoped for ourselves in our youth versus what actually happened in our lives that is the essence of grace (paraphrased).

My daughters are now in their mid-twenties. More educated that I was, more sure of themselves, I still see the angst that comes from being newly grown, living in a big mean world that threatens to eat them up. Disappointments with relationships or disappointment with not having one. Anxiety about finances, education, jobs, peppered with the inevitable heartbreak of an unexpected trauma here and there. Things we’ve all faced.

I find myself wanting to tell them and their young friends what I wish someone would have told me.

Dear Young Person,

Though your circumstances appear dire at times, they will inevitably improve. Those things you feel are awful impediments to your dreams? They’ll be what shapes and reveals your character, flaws and all. And those dreams that have come true for you?  Count them as blessings, not entitlements. Remember, life’s a marathon,  not a race. Slow down. With a little time, some faith, and a lot of hard work, it will all come together. You’ll be fortunate if you can become the old, saggy person you’ve secretly dreaded being. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from the elders in your midst. We’ve been there.


Another Old Saggy Person in Training

What do you wish you had known when you were young that might have made a positive difference? I’d love to hear from you, but if you don’t share it here, share it with a young person in your life.

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