I used to hate my teen self, when I was her. For years I carried around resentment and shame over things I did. Drugs, sex, cutting class, running away. I was expelled from high school and deferred enrollment to college. I did not prepare for a good future.
But I’ve spent the past few years actively learning to forgive and love my teen self. She had fire and spunk and throwing knives. She did drugs when she hurt, had sex seven she was horny, and left situations she didn’t want to be in. She prepared me for a bad future.
Now I’m trying to reconcile my affection with truth. I often think my younger self would be disappointed by the relatively sober, celibate, stable person I try to be these days. My teen self was a mess, but that’s okay. My teen self made bad choices, but it was the best she could manage. What is less forgiveable iis my teen self’s bigotry.
I used racial slurs, told rape jokes, and desperately sought the approval of guys I would no longer give the time of day. I was anti choice and thought terrible things about people in other religions. I was raised in Florida by a woman who defended internment camps and tried to excuse the actions of the KKK. That explains but doesn’t absolve my guilt.
I’ve grown. I’m not the teen I was. I don’t share her fearlessness, her recklessness, or her bigotry. Those are mostly good, though I do miss my brain before PTSD. My teen self might be embarrassed by my boring domestic life, but I’m embarrassed by her susceptibility to peer pressure and her willingness to bend her morals for a bit of social praise.
I imagine in my fifties I will feel this way about my current self: that she had things I’ve lost along the way, most of them worth getting rid of. I appreciate my teen self, and I wish things hadn’t been so hard on her. I forgive most of the disastrous life choices and her frequent drug use. I have to acknowledge her flaws too, and the ways I don’t want to go back.