I carry with me a vivid memory of myself around the age of eight. There is a lot that this version of myself had yet to experience, but at her core, she had something down that I have been trying to get back to ever since:
She was free.
Growing up in Kansas, thunderstorms were a mundane experience. But even still after the downpour had ceased that day, I felt called into the wild wonder.
Without telling anyone where I was going, I ran outside in my salmon pink dress. I never wore shoes unless I had to, I needed to feel the wet earth beneath my feet.
In our old neighborhood houses were often connected by run-down alleyways where massive potholes made for puddles the size of ponds. This was where I headed.
I remember singing to the world around me as I stomped in the puddles, feeling like the plants and the trees were protecting me and celebrating recent rain alongside me. I twirled and I danced and I tromped and I sang.
I was not alone. I was simply free.
I carry this memory with me because I think that it is the essence of who I am. I believe that memory clip is where I come from, and where I am supposed to go.
As I’ve mulled over this memory, and particularly how far from that girl I seem to be now, I’ve realized the answer lies in perspective. Our thoughts are seeds. Where I spend my time and energy planting is where my life grows. Unfortunately, as I’ve grown, I’ve started planting seeds in anxiety and fear. So much so that oftentimes I look around and see that’s all I’ve grown in several years.
Lately, I find that most of my thoughts and energy are consumed with the voice of unworthiness. I live in fear that I’m not good enough and it’s only a matter of time before the people around me find out I’m a fraud. I have nothing to offer, and soon enough my mountain of mistakes will tower overhead, leaving me alone and broken.
It’s a difficult practice, in fact, most days I’m not even sure how, but I would like to plant my thoughts in the wild, carefree, and joyous parts of the soil. I would like to grow a life that is free—just like the little girl after the thunderstorm had.
So in an effort to go back to my essence, I try to remind myself of a few things that she did really well:
First, trust yourself. Little Abby knew she needed to get outside, but she didn’t tell anyone where she was going. So, remember: It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. You are on your own journey, embrace it.
Second, slow down. Little Abby didn’t even bother with shoes when she left the house, she was not concerned about having what she needed to get to where she was supposed to go. So, remember: you are a work in progress; unfinished. You don’t need to hurry up your growing. All you need to do is show up and be you. You will grow and get better as you go, you don’t need to rush to some ideal, acceptable form of perfection.
Third, be wild. Little Abby was not without fear, but she didn’t let it rule her existence. That’s the tough part about fear: you’re never going to get rid of it, so you have to pretend. The key to making it smaller is to keep moving forward as if you don’t have it. So, remember, in order to live with less fear, you must live like you don’t have it. Don’t just try to calm yourself or quiet your fears: fight them by being wild and free, by living like you’re not afraid.
With these reminders, to trust myself, to slow down, to be wild, I want to continue to hold dear the little girl stomping barefoot in puddles following a thunderstorm. I want to grow up to be her again.
So I can become free.