Still Living in the Summer of ’79

This past week on my newsletter, I wrote about wishing this year I could have the kind of summer I had when I was 12. You know, staying up late playing hide-and-go-seek in the dark, sleeping in and watching game shows all morning, reading books, and splashing in the pool. Spending lots of time laughing with friends, and a good deal of time alone with my thoughts. Sounds idyllic.

It wasn’t idyllic, of course. My family had its fair share of problems, and they surfaced plenty that summer. My current challenges would likewise do the same even if I “took the summer off.”

In spending a little time with my twelve-year-old self, though, while writing that newsletter greeting, I remembered how much I liked her. And marveled at how alike we still are. It may be true that we all grow up, but maybe we never grow out of ourselves. Maybe the person we are at age two, or ten, or twenty is still the person we are today, just a little older and more seasoned in this thing we call life.

My twelve-year-old self was a dreamer. One minute imagining stories in her head or feeding dialogue to her friends in some make-believe game. The next minute dreaming she was a UN ambassador or the person who discovered the cure for cancer. She could be so silly when she wasn’t being so serious.

She was also a builder. She loved building things from scratch. Whether that was a new game for the neighbor kids, or a magic show, or a tower of cards.  She colored in the lines, but with the goal of using every crayon in the box. She cried hardest when she was angry and loved with all her heart.

She was kinda lazy, to be honest, but hardworking when something mattered to her. She tried to be a good girl, always, unless the situation was unjust, then she let you know it. She wasn’t much of an outdoors girl (too hot and dirty for her), but she marveled at nature and felt a kinship to all living beings. More than anything, she wanted to be honest, to be herself, in any situation, at any time, but found there were few times and with few people she could achieve that.

My twelve-year-old self loved the arts. All of the arts. Theater, music, movies, books, sculptures in the park. She wanted to be a writer someday. Maybe an actress. Maybe a better singer than she was.

She was a learner, but she loved summer precisely because there was no school. She learned by observing, by listening, by thinking, and by imagining. She believed anything was possible and people were mostly good, but she also knew life could let you down, and you could let yourself down, and she feared those things.

She loved to travel, to meet new people, to gather up new experiences. She annoyed but protected her brother, delighted and infuriated her mother, was a mystery to her father, and was as good a friend as she could be. She was far, far from perfect, but she tried.

We can’t go back in time, but we can bring time back to us. We can revisit memories, reconnect with old friends, return to the places where we grew up. But mostly, we can go inside ourselves and remember who we are at our core. Not who we think we’re supposed to be, not who they expect us to be, but who we have always been deep in our souls. And from there, we can create. Create art, create love, create meaning, create joy.

Spend a little time with your twelve-year-old self this summer and see what you can create together.

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