Dear Younger Version of Me,
I want to begin by thanking you for contributing to all of my experiences that have led me to this point in my life. Most importantly, I forgive you. Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have said that. In fact, I would have cursed you. Why? Because I didn’t understand, nor did I grasp this magical thing called: gratitude.
Did I have a tough childhood? Absolutely. At the time, it was miserable. Everything is always perceived as bad, when you’re going through that storm. But, everything is just temporary.
“In life, you’re either headed to a storm, going through a storm, or you’re coming out of one. We all have problems.”
– Eric Thomas
Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s was very difficult because there were a lot of racial issues (LA riots, O.J. Simpson trial, etc.), hatred toward the LGBTQ community (Ellen DeGeneres), sexual harassment issues (Clarence Thomas), murder on the streets of Las Vegas (2-Pac), the Branch Davidians tragedy in Waco, Texas (David Koresh), the Oklahoma City tragedy (Timothy McVeigh, which is tied to David Koresh), and other miscellaneous incidents. All of these things shaped me into the person that I am today.
Those negative experiences were the training that I needed. You read that right; I used the word training. That’s how our younger experiences should be categorized. These events and circumstances are what I needed in order to grow.
When I failed at something, that put me one step closer to succeeding. Every time a girl laughed at me and told me “No,” that prepared me for what I needed to do on my quest to meet my beautiful wife. Every time the bigger boy/man tried (or did) to bully me, that trained my mind how to utilize offensive and defensive postures, aka situational awareness. I needed that training.
When you’re younger, you don’t realize that events and experiences are giving you an advantage. Now, at age 39, I don’t worry about those things because I recognize:
- Failure doesn’t define me.
- If it takes 8 attempts, so be it.
- Patience and consistent action are required with everything that I do.
- If I can survive those things, I can survive whatever life throws at me.
- I’m not afraid of embarrassing myself.
- I can use my voice to help people that are too afraid to speak for themselves.
- I’m comfortable in my own skin.
- I don’t fall for the man card trap.
Those exeperiences contributed to me becoming:
- A Service Member of 20+ years
- A Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) and Victim Advocate
- Someone that is against racial violence, domestic violence, sexual violence, and violence toward the LGBTQ community.
- Someone that fights for equality.
In conclusion: No, I don’t regret anything from my childhood. I am thankful that I experienced those things. Adversity – you didn’t win; I’m still standing. You made me a better person and I can’t thank you enough. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
I challenge you to try this exercise. This is an excellent way for you to forgive yourself, exercise gratitude, and to finally realize that your story is powerful and important. Every single person is a piece of the puzzle. From the janitor clear up the CEO. I can’t wait to hear about your journey.