By Kate Kole
I don’t know about y’all, but my transition from college to the real world was a bit rough. Like a glass of ice water straight to the face kind of unexpected. I could tell you speech communication theories for days and give you the entire history of psychology, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what to do with the degree I’d earned.
I’d spend my lunch break at the mall getting to know the self-help section at Barnes & Noble. Hiding on some corner stool, flipping through the pages of books like It’s Called A Breakup Because It’s Broken, and then listening to Miley Cyrus belt it out about keeping my faith because life is “all about the climb.”
Slowly but surely, (and with a very supportive cast of characters) I Dorthied my way down the yellow-brick road of my early 20s and started piecing together what I love, stripping away what wasn’t serving me, and getting to the heart of who I am.
That journey isn’t over now, but I’m in a different chapter than I was back then. The kind that allows for a little hindsight is 20/20 perspective.
I suppose I could write a long letter to that younger me and fill her in on all the things she needs to know or all the steps to be taking and exactly where to start. But I think I’d just offer one simple gesture that’s often worth more than words anyway.
Not advice that the younger me wouldn’t have taken, or a sandwich that she probably wouldn’t have eaten, or a tanning bed warning that she would have ignored.
She didn’t need a pep talk for the ages or some philosophical wisdom that she wasn’t yet prepared to appreciate. She wasn’t looking for somebody to tell her what she should be doing or how much money she should be making or how many times a week she should be getting to the gym.
Retrospectively, what I can see she craved the most was an ‘I’m here and I’m not going anywhere‘ hug. The kind that she would have likely tried to morph into some weak ‘ass out’ embrace or quickly pull away from – before eventually succumbing to the comforting silence.
A hug carrying the sentiment that says: the mistakes you’ve made, the shame you’re carrying, and the fears you have don’t hold a candle to how meaningful, worthy, and loved you are. One that says: you belong.
The type that doesn’t try to change anything, but that lets things be. Just as they are. Knowing that the lessons to be learned will seep in when her soul is ready. That she’ll navigate her way through the messiness, and that she’ll discover herself through the process. That she doesn’t need to be fixed. She simply needs to be seen, heard, and loved.
Since I can’t go back in time, I think I’ll start that simple act now. Maybe not truly embracing myself in the middle of the grocery store, aisle 7, because “security!” but living with that kind of self-love. The kind that knows the best and worst and public and personal parts of who I am and chooses to accept me for all of it.
I’ll show up for myself. I’ll embrace myself through the hard times, the happy times, and the mundane times in between. I’ll be there for me and give myself the same benefit of the doubt I extend to others.
Because some days – most days – I don’t really need advice or guidance or even wisdom. I need presence, compassion, and acceptance. And a hug.