I hauled myself up into the attic and looked around warily. I don’t like climbing into the attic. I get all paranoid that someone will close me in there, and I’ll be stuck like Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Only I live in Florida, so instead of freezing in the attic, I’d swelter slowly and painfully.
Have I made it clear that I don’t like climbing in the attic?
I did that day, though. Because for months my daughter had been asking to see her baby pictures, and I couldn’t find them. I knew I had albums stored somewhere, and the attic was the last on my list of places to check.
I had to dig through every single box before finally coming upon the tub full of missing photo albums and books. It was in the far back corner…of course. But the effort was worth the search, because I unearthed another treasure inside that forgotten box.
I pulled out the folder and blew the dust off the cover, and a thousand memories came flooding back. Flipping it open, I felt my heart catch in my throat. Folded neatly inside the folder were stacks of papers – letters from my past.
I quickly left the attic with the photos and precious letters, and I settled in my armchair to read. These were letters written by dear college friends – three years’ worth of encouragement, of inside jokes I’d long forgotten, of remembering the carefree days of college life.
I read through each letter with glistening eyes as friends described the girl I once was – the girl that I sometimes forget is still a part of me. She was carefree and funny, and clearly a little spastic.
Such lovely things were written about that girl, the 19, 20, and 21 year old versions of me.
“Thank you for talking to me late at night when I was feeling down,” read one note.
Did I do that?
“Thank you for making me laugh that day that I was struggling with life.”
Was that me?
“You are hilarious! I so look forward to seeing you every day!”
Goodness, I want to know the me from back then!
Sometimes my memories of those days are a bit skewed. I look back and see my flaws. I was judgmental and legalistic. I was a know-it-all (weren’t we all in college?), and a bit too prideful. I look back at those days and remember thinking an awful lot about myself, and not nearly enough about others.
But those letters told a different story. They told the story of a girl who loved to laugh, who wasn’t afraid to try new things, who truly believed the world was her oyster. Those letters told my story, unfiltered and lined with grace. They made me laugh, and they made me cry.
But most of all, they made me remember.
My kids came running through the room as I set the packet of letters down, and my daughter shrieked, her deep laugh bouncing off the walls as she skipped from one room to the next. And her boisterous joy nestled deep in my tender soul – that was my laugh. A part of the carefree me of the past is right there inside my daughter.
There’s a carefree youth buried somewhere inside all of us. <-Click this to tweet!
Of course, there’s an obvious maturity, and security of self that comes with age, and I wouldn’t trade that in for anything. I like where I am now. But I wouldn’t mind mixing back in a bit of that young soul who was yet to be jaded by adulthood.
There’s a younger version of you still swirling around inside, as well. It’s the part of you that stopped her car on the side of the highway, and ran barefoot through a field of wildflowers on a spring day, just because she felt like it. It’s the part of you that stayed up late into the night for no other reason than she wanted to see the sun rise.
She’s there, still. Maybe she’s been buried for a bit, bogged down by the responsibilities of life. But she hasn’t disappeared completely.
And I’d be willing to bet that you don’t need a box of old letters to find that glimpse of the younger you. I bet she’s hiding in your children. If you watch closely, you just may see her emerge inside their bad jokes, their hearty laughter, and their impulse toward imagination.
Somewhere, in all of that, the you of your youth is calling out to you, reminding you of who you were then, and telling you you’re still that girl now. A little older, a little wiser, and a little calmer (if you’re anything like me).