I often wonder what I would say to my 10-year-old self if I could go back in time and sit next to her on the swings at recess.
Would she believe me if I tell her what will happen?
In her young innocent mind, could she even imagine a life full of adversity? Would she start sweating at the thought of all the hard work I’d have to put in? Would she be proud of who I am today?
10-year-old me was eager to please. She was going to make something of herself someday. She would not be defined by where she came from. People would never remember her as the girl who was adopted, and would think she was lying if she said she grew up in foster care.
10-year-old me loved to read books. As many as that small town library could offer. She dreamed of a great big world waiting for her out there. She dreamed about living a life that was a fairytale, as if its narrative came right off the pages of a book.
She was determined to be smart, beautiful and successful.
What if I told her our plan for high school didn't work out? That she wouldn’t fall in love with the high school quarterback and she wouldn’t go to college to play volleyball?
Instead, she would go to community college, and it would be the best decision she’d ever make.
Would she believe me?
10-year-old me still didn't know what she wanted to be when she grew up. What if I tell her we decided on becoming a sideline reporter. Sports, fame, money, success, admiration, beauty; all the things we wanted. Surely, she’d be proud.
But what if I tell her it’s nothing like we thought it would be? And that attending a university is nothing like the books made it out to be. What if I tell her she would grow weary of reading books, the choice to take interesting, exciting classes is an illusion and her endless love for learning would die?
What would her face look like if I tell her that I wasn’t going to be the president of a sorority, or go on dates every weekend? She’d probably be disappointed if I tell her I’m not in a single club and I don’t date.
Could she believe how many funerals I would have to attend? Would I spare her the details of all my heartbreak, temptations and rules I’d broken? How would I form the sentences to explain how many times I’ve chased the wrong guy, how many times I’ve made a fool of myself on drunken nights or how many times I’ve cried because of mistakes I’ve made?
If I tell her, would she be able to look me in the eyes?
How much could she stand to listen to me if I tell her life doesn't get easier after high school, but instead every year of college has only gotten more confusing? Would she cry tears of fear when I tell her I’m 21 years old, I don’t have things figured out and I’m sorry I let her down?
Most 10-year-old girls would have, but I was not like the rest.
By the time I was 10, I had gone through so much already. And while my dreams were big, bright and changing every day, having a family who loved me and wanted me was the ultimate dream.
My 10-year-old self would look me in the eyes and tell me how beautiful I am. She would notice I don’t have scars or bruises, like the older girls in foster care sometimes did. And while I have bags under my eyes, they aren’t from drugs or alcohol abuse, but simply exhaustion.
She would tell me how happy she is for finding the most amazing family. She would ask about them and get excited when I tell her about how she’ll someday do her sister’s hair on her wedding day, and how she’ll get to play sports with her in high school.
She’d laugh when I tell her about all of my funny friends. She’ll believe me when I tell her the mean girl phase will pass. She’ll listen when I tell her to not let her guard down just yet, as it’s how she’ll protect herself and our younger brother.
She would cry. She would cry tears of excitement for herself and would ask me 100 times if I was “positively sure” all of this would happen. She would give me a tight hug and run back inside the school with this new found hope of dreams coming true.
10-year-old me couldn’t wait to be 21. And 21-year-old me forgets that.
Life is still hard and hasn’t turned out the way I planned it would. But it’s no longer just a great big dream I had. It’s no longer a fairytale story I have to open a book to fall into. I’m here. I’m doing it. And sometimes, I forget to give myself credit for that.