by Rebecca Baldwin, 31 years, Australia
If there was one thing I could tell you when you were 13 years old it would be this – drug taking is not rebellious; it is not just ‘experimentation’; it’s not really even defiance – it’s just compliant. It is one of many things in this world that is engineered to keep you from your power and your beauty. You are not the first person to think that smoking a cigarette is cool and you won’t be the last. You are not a rebel. You are walking a well-trodden path paved by all the other bright kids and teens who thought they were breaking the rules, only to play right into them. But I know there is more to it than that. I know that your bravado is just that and I know that you miss yourself. You miss the easy way you were with yourself when you were a kid, before the onset of all this intensity. And for the time being and for many years to come, the thick smoke in your lungs will make you feel for a moment that you are full. At the top of the drag there will be a split second, a fleeting moment where you feel there is an end to the empty feelings; the vague but persistent anxiousness; and you will feel at peace. Of course, and you already know this, it is then that you have to breathe the smoke out again, and your predicament will be the same as it was before.
But rewind a few months. Your body was always telling you this would not work – when you fought your burning throat and constricted lungs to teach yourself how to ‘properly inhale’. And months later when you taught yourself to pull a bong, trained yourself in the resilience to not crumple into yourself in a corner, red-eyed and paranoid (and often failed), your body was speaking to you loudly and you silenced it with more of the same. And you could pretend that you were a rebel but in fact it was the opposite. It wasn’t rebellion so much as a wanting to fit in. But fit in to what? Whose mould didn’t you fit? And what did you have to forego in order for you to cut yourself down to comply? What courage did you let slip and what love would you have walked with, had you not become a paper-cut out of all the other lost girls?
Consider that perhaps ‘rebellious’ is the girl in year 9 who you called ‘straight and boring’, who said no to drugs and sex-without-love without questioning that it was her right to be honoured and truly cared for; who refused to cave to the pressure of popularity and notoriety. Perhaps rebellion would have been to speak what you truly felt and allow those to fall away who inevitably would. Remember when at 16 years old you decided to quit pot, and all your smoking buddies stopped knowing how to be around you? Well, that was an act of rebellion. In a world that glorifies self-harm as a badge of defiance, loving and honouring yourself is rebellion. And the world eagerly awaits more true rebels to step up.
What would I say to my 20 year old self?
Beware of apparent ‘opposites’ and knee-jerk redirection. Rebellion is not burying your self in books and striving to write the best essay and get the best mark – that’s just another form of compliance. In fact, you may just find you do more damage to your lungs with the dusty book than with the cigarette. You may find yourself more strung out and anti-social from overdoing it with study than you did when you were sitting stoned in a corner. Don’t let yourself be duped again. No employer is ever going to ask you what grade you got on your 2nd year Media Studies mid-year assessment. Learn what you need to know but don’t abandon yourself in the process. Never forget that the greatest teacher in the world will not be found in any lecture hall or University. The greatest teacher in the world is your own body. Listen intently to it. If you actually listen to the rhythms it is asking you to honour, you will most certainly find freedom. Cut the excuses and the overriding. Your body is always asking to be loved. When it is tired and wants to go to bed, when it tells you that alcohol leaves it sick, when it tells you that to pull the all-nighter hurts and that the fleeting elation of a good mark is just that, it is sending you a message. STOP. Say no to false highs – from the highs of driven academic achievement to the highs of ‘recreational’ drugs. Know that there is no difference. But know there is a different way; know that there IS a way to be with yourself beyond the constant ‘pursuit of happiness’ and / or relief. There is a way to honour yourself and be the full you in all that you do without compromise. There is a way to know love without substituting it for good grades, because the love is already there – in you. Not in any accolade, or in any box you ticked, or in any thing that you did or will do. It’s right there already in you.
What would I say to myself today?
Together we can re-write the future that is fast unfolding to be our history. We are always the sum total of all our choices. And while the memory might become foggy, the body never forgets. The body holds the marks of every choice we ever made, it was with us for every one of them and it is still here with us today – at once a record and a crystal ball. Carrying with us all the imprints of moments past – imprints there waiting to make the next moment what it is; and these imprints are there with all people; in the sadness you can see held in a woman’s cheeks, in the way a man walks, either fluid or with the hardness he’s learnt to hold as he braces himself for the barrage of the world’s expectations. But is the next choice inevitable? Does it have to come with the loading of the past? Well no, that’s why it is called a choice.
But you can only make a choice if you know it is there to be made, otherwise you will default to the choice predetermined by the culmination of your life’s habits. You will live as you always have. So choose to be aware and to feel, deeply, everything that is there to feel, both the pain and the triumphs. And remember your body is your companion. Change your posture and you will change the world. Turn your shoulders out, it sounds simple, but lift your chin. By walking with grace in your step, you will change your mood in that moment. And it is these small moments that add up. It is these small moments of illumination that strung together make the light in your days. Don’t discount the simplicity of the smallest act or intention to love. Certainly don’t discount any act of love towards yourself.
And you will find there is a freedom to be had. It is not really a freedom born of rebellion, it is a simple act of return. A re-turn to yourself and to the body you have long ignored.
And there is a freedom in discipline, but this discipline is not harsh. It is the discipline to consistently and honestly love and honour yourself. To know that fragility is a strength that is indeed rare in this world, but need not be. There is a freedom to be had by putting a stop to the running and constantly striving. There is a freedom to be had in simplicity.
With love always,
P.S. Doing it hard doesn’t make you stronger or wiser, doing it hard just makes you harder, and that hardness stays with you unless you heal it.
Your past hurts aren’t an achievement, they don’t make you “the person you are today”. Your essence makes you the person you are, the unbreakable love that is at the heart of every man and woman. What most of us are reluctant to admit is that we never needed to ‘”find out the hard way”. Had we honored our essence in the first place we never would have walked the roads we knew would hurt us. When we stop saying, “I guess it was meant to be”; when we stop romanticising our hardships and conveniently wrapping them in a fog of nostalgia, only then will we have the clarity to take full stock and full responsibility for our past choices.
Only then will we realise they were indeed choices; and with that knowing we have the freedom to make new ones – true ones – for and from the love we are.
P.P.S. Dear me, it’s me again, just a reminder for you to tell Natalie Benhayon and all the other amazing young women you know today, that they constantly inspire you to see that there is (and always has been) another way.
And say hi to Serge Benhayon and thank him from me; it is his perspective that will inspire you to see that the past was not inevitable, and neither is your future. And it is also him that will help you realise that there is more to you than just a brain on legs – there is a heart always emanating and a body worth cherishing and a soul worth knowing. There is a preciousness in you that can be felt and lived and shared.