I had to steel myself before reading: sadly the youthful version of me is just as awkward as the adult. Plus, this was a tricky time in my life. I was coming out of anorexia and struggling with depression/OCD, as well as the usual stuff of a teen negotiating her body, relationships, independence and life.
Some of the things I’d written were unique to that time: sibling rivalry, exam pressures, etc. But many were not.
I winced when I read this entry:
‘It’s hard to believe that things will get better. But I know they will. Remember Emma; in ten years, you won’t recognise yourself: and you won’t have any of these hang-ups! You’ll be normal and confident and life will be so much simpler. I can’t wait’.
20 years on – and I recognise more than I anticipated.
I’m not ‘normal’ or ‘confident’: at least, not in the ways I planned. Though some of the old hang-ups have gone – there’s new ones in their place. Instead of being simpler, life seems increasingly complex.
However. One thing has changed: the way I see myself. As I’ve experienced more of the gospel and Christ’s grace, I’ve softened. Instead of hating that girl, I have compassion on her. Instead of despairing at her weakness, I can rejoice in Christ’s strength and the hope that is at work in all of us who believe. If I could go back in time, I’d say: ‘I know you’re scared and you feel like a mess, but you’re okay and Jesus has you’. ( I’d make some serious wardrobe adjustments too – but that’s less pressing).
Tomorrow night, I’m speaking at a youth conference in Norfolk. It’s a bigger crowd than I’m used to; and I haven’t spoken for a while, so I’m a bit rusty. (If you have space in your prayers, I’d be very grateful). I’m also especially nervous around teens: in my head, I’m still the 15 year-old who didn’t fit and is a million miles away from the beautiful, self-assured young adults I see everyday.
Reading through my diary however, I’m not so sure. We look different and we invest in different things; but all of us have questions about who we are and where we fit. If I had 25 mins to talk to the 15 year-old me, I don’t think I’d waste time giving advice – sartorial or otherwise.
I’d talk about meeting someone who loves you enough to die for you.
I’d talk about forgiveness and grace and hope, even when you can’t see it.
I’d talk about trying desperately to be beautiful and finding out you’re already are.
I’d talk about Jesus: the Word who rewrites ours.