Christmas 2019 I went home to Michigan to visit family. I feel I’m not alone in the habits I have when I go back to my childhood home. Suddenly naps feel like a necessity, I rifle through old things to try and conjure up some memories from a life I no longer attach myself to.
I found a school project from 2005. I turned 15 that year. It was a personal anthology project. I remember this project well, mostly because I love talking about myself. I mean that whole heartedly. Maybe it is an ego thing or maybe I love being known and seen by people. Either way, I remember loving this project.
I did not, however, remember a lot of the content of the project. I realized this quickly as I read the words of a former, younger version of myself. High hopes, dreams, thoughts and goals. A part of me felt saddened because I know at that age I was desperate for someone to affirm this young woman. I needed a woman like the one I am becoming today.
I got to the career portion of the anthology. This was one of those sections that eluded my memory. At the time I was reading this, I was four months into a six month massage and bodywork therapy certification. I was working full time and going to school full time. I doubted often that I was where I needed to be but kept pushing forward. I began reading the career section. I felt the air escape my body as I read “I hope to one day be a sports medical massage therapist.”
This dream had been planted nearly 15 years ago. My teenage self had a vision of her future. My immediate thought was “what happened?” There I sat, 29, in my childhood home reading the words of my younger self and wondering how my journey became so disrupted. I thought I would feel great joy reading those words, and after some processing, I feel that now. But when I held that high school project in my hands, I couldn’t help but feel as though I had let my younger self down.
The story of my life from age 15-30 consists of a lot of pain. I won’t go into all of that here for this is not what the intention of this post is. My intention is to show you how attainable a new beginning can be.
Society has put special limitations and expectations around age and where we should be at any certain point, especially if you’re female bodied. Often I wonder if I am falling behind in the structure of it all. Comparatively to what society says I should be, that might be true. But then again, society puts women in a box and I cannot complain about living outside of those limitations. It feels very free on the other side.
I was in college for six years, four different schools, academic probation, pill addiction, heavy drinking, death of close friends, and a whole lot of other self harm. I was lost in the world and had no desire to find my way.
At the age of 23, I stopped drinking. I like to look back and think I did it to try and better myself and get well. But I think the truth is I was trying to fix a toxic relationship that should have ended when I put the bottle down. Whatever the reason, I will celebrate seven years alcohol free this year and that is a pretty wonderful feeling.
At the age of 25, I went to my first AA meeting. I was 18 months “dry” but still very much so reliant on substances to take the edge off. I met my first sponsor and her first question was “You’ve been sober for 18 months with no meetings, no help. How do you feel you’ve managed?” I gave a flowery answer because I had learned in that meeting that “sober” included pot. YIKES. I was not sober. Eventually I came clean and told my sponsor the truth. This lead to me having two important dates. My sobriety date 04/20/2015 and my “soDRYety” date. 12/01/2013.
Ten years after writing that school project and I was damaged, wounded, egotistical, and as lost then as ever. Fast forward five years, breezing by the broken relationships, failed engagement, and move from Chicago to North Carolina and here we are.
I am turning 30 in about three months. I am writing this blog in my office that I moved into July 1. My massage table set up behind me, my diffuser filling the room with peppermint and lavender. My beautiful partner at home with our two wonderful pets.
My life wouldn’t have turned around the way it did without a lot of privilege and love. That isn’t the case for everyone, especially those with struggles in the BIPOC community. I remind myself every day how different my life would be. I have to always check that privilege and use it to better the world around me. When COVID took over, it seemed my journey into finally realizing my dream was going to disappear before my eyes.
I did not allow that to happen. I pushed through every uncomfortable morning and forced myself to create something that my 15 year old self would be proud of. I allowed myself to Begin Again.
Knowing I couldn’t massage meant I had to find a way to bring about healing without touch. I began this Morning Coffee Series as a way to remain connected to my body. This has then shifted into becoming a space for people to come center themselves in order to turn around and show up. To do the hard work needed. This is not easy work and without healing, feels nearly impossible. I hope to be a source of help in that.
So, dearest 15 year old Mary –
We made it. We did it. We took a very long, winding, uncomfortable road to get here but we found ourselves here. I know you would be so proud of the woman you became and are still growing into. I am so sorry you didn’t have the guidance you needed back then. You became lost in the world and it took a long time to find your way. I love you, I am here for you. I promise to continue to heal our wounds. I promise to never allow someone to take advantage of our heart, mind, or body. You manifested a dream and you would be so happy to know you finally made it come true.