In some occurrences between my slumber and waking, I often get strange visions. You know, the ones strange enough you couldn’t help but realize you were still half asleep.
For instance, I once had a strange vision of meeting my younger self right there, inside my room.
My younger self sat in the corner of the bed. It felt really strange seeing myself there—as if I was looking into a mirror, only that the mirror reflects things from the past. In any case, I knew exactly what I was seeing; a phantom from my childhood who refuses to disappear in my sea of consciousness.
“Why don’t you wake up?” my younger self, perhaps from when I was 10 years old, asked.
I recall I didn’t reply immediately. I’m not sure whether the incident was too peculiar for me to react in time, or it was just too early in the morning for me to gather my thoughts, but I just laid in bed for several seconds, as if verifying that I wasn’t hearing voices. I was wondering whether I should answer the question or not.
Curiously, when I was actually ready to answer the question, I glanced over the corner of my bed and found nothing. Not because I was seeing a ghost, but most likely just because I was already completely awake by then.
When I told my mother about this incident, she found it really creepy.
I can’t blame her. After all, if I didn’t know any better, seeing my younger self just sitting nonchalantly in the corner of my bed would drive me crazy. And maybe I should, too. But strangely, I felt completely fine. If anything, I felt curious; why would I suddenly have this strange vision of myself? I believe everything happens for a reason, and I struggled to formulate the reason for this disturbing occurrence.
“What if you were trying to say something?” my mother asked.
Possibly. But I wouldn’t really know. What would I ask myself? I can imagine what would I tell my younger self, but for some reason, I couldn’t draw an outline to what kind of questions my younger self would ask me now. Moreover, this is my 10 years old self we’re talking about. Philosophical and rhetorical questions were definitely out of my league back then.
The other day, when a blogger friend Alicia (yes, we have the same name) tagged me in a challenge, and I started to wonder if that tag is the question I would be asking my future self.
The challenge goes something like this:
If you were granted the ability to be a genius in something (math, economy, chef, dancer, etc) at the expense of forgetting everything else that doesn’t belong to your area of expertise (say, you are the best dancer but you suck at math, burn the food, fail at giving speeches, etc)… what would your mastery be and why?
The question makes a lot of sense for the younger me, since back then I had so many qualms about what to be when I grow up. The word “talent” seems to lose its meaning when I look at other people and realize how they are living with their respective talents comfortably, while I was plowing through life as if I had nothing to be passionate about.
I always find it unfair that geniuses in their respective areas are dictated what to be in the future. You know, the piano prodigy who automatically goes into Got Talent shows and become bright young pianists no matter the outcome. Or the artsy kid who became a painter, sculptor, musician, whatever their talent dictates them to do. Some children even showed talents for selling things when they were little, convincing me that they would eventually have their own businesses, or at least become amazing salesmen.
I, on the other hand, only had creative writing as an outlet to vent.
And to be perfectly honest, I used to really suck at it.
I used to have questions about my own hobby: what if this isn’t right for me? Everyone else who has a hobby or two usually are really good at it. But how come I’m not showing any progress even though I’ve been writing fiction for a long time?
As anxiety crept in, ironically the only thing that could keep me sane was writing itself. And no matter how much I thought less of myself, I still kept on doing that in a vicious self-deprecating cycle that eventually caused my severely low self-esteem.
But the question lingers in my mind, even now. If I could choose to be a genius in one aspect, and suck at everything else, what would I pick? Or, more specifically, what would my 10 years old self pick?
Perhaps I would still pick writing, over all else. But who knows?
Whatever it is, I sure hope it would help me with my self-doubt issues.
So let’s return to the vision of myself in the corner of the bed. What would I want to convey to my future self? Would it be some kind of question? A similar one to what my friend Alicia was challenging me to answer? I would never know for sure since I never saw “myself” again after that incident.
But it sure made me think about a lot of things. Like, how a younger version of me could survive all those bullying, all those people looking down on me. The world is too cruel a place for a kid to grow up nowadays. It’s almost a miracle that I could be here today, writing a blog post and reminiscing the time when I couldn’t reach the top shelves of my wardrobe with fond recollections.
So instead of thinking that my younger self had something to say, I’d rather imagine that it happened because I have something to say to myself from the past. Maybe, as an afterthought of my recent blog post where I talked about forgetting to ask my friend, Irene, about what to ask our younger selves, I subconsciously created a scene inside my dream to think about it thoroughly.
That seems to be a more logical explanation.
So here I am, trying my hardest to think of a sentence—or a paragraph, perhaps—to convey to my younger self. There aren’t many criteria to fulfill, but I suppose it has to be honest, easy to understand, and more than anything, relevant.
And before I knew it, I’ve already written a short letter to myself, addressed to a certain house in the suburb of Jakarta, many years ago.
Life might not make sense right now, and I can assure you it never does.
But live anyway.
I know you think your writing sucks and nobody wants to read your stories.
But write anyway.
I know you think you’re ugly and could use some braces for your teeth.
But smile anyway.
Because no matter what you think, there is never shame in living. No matter how bad you think you are, no matter how many rocks you throw at yourself—how bruised and battered your soul is—there is no shame in living your life as only you can.
So please be strong. Be brave and bold and happy. Be in love, be adventurous, be kind, and be faithful. Because you are one of the strongest people I’ve known in my life, and I can say that for sure since I have walked your path once upon a time.
And if, even after reading this whole letter, you still don’t feel like it…
I’d strongly suggest you wake up. From your despair. From your delusions and doubts and fear. And then, perhaps, try to live a little.
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