Looking back, over my shoulder

I have a Saturday tradition.

I sit in front of my laptop and watch all manner of shows with one golden rule; they have to require as little brain power as possible.

Now, not to mock Hallmark or anything but those movies do it for me – not a lot of adrenaline or deep mystery involved. They get together in the end, of that I’m certain, so I just sit back and enjoy the ride to getting there.

Occasionally, I find a cheesy American high school movie to watch too (I may have watched a few too many), and I’m surprised to say I like them.

They also get together in the end… Occasionally. In their beautiful world of excitement and fun, of first loves and heartaches, or rivalries and jealousy, of friendships and learning, I find myself a bit lost.

These characters are young and alive. Not to say that I am exactly old – yet – but I am drawn to their hopeful dreams and their naivete of what the world beyond these glamorous years look like.

I never attended a “school dance” and no cute guy ever “asked me out” in High School. I didn’t get to dress up or party or have defining embarrassing moments. I had hundreds of crushes and never did anything about them. I never had the courage to do any of those things… and I convinced myself, even though this was mostly the truth, that I wasn’t interested in it.

In my defence, an all-girls high school in an African country doesn’t really allow for “prom” – the culture is different. And, with my personality, there was no way I was going to say yes if I was asked out. I was wary and I was jumpy around guys (I always have taken my purity pledge seriously) so you can see why that didn’t exactly mean scoring (or having a major interest in scoring) many points with the opposite sex. Also, I only just discovered self-esteem so I never did anything about it.

But I still yearn for that piece of my youth – the idea that anything; anything is possible for me. The idea that I can go out there and show the world just who I am and get what I long for; happiness, peace, hope and love.

The world I live in now is plenty harsh compared to that glittering one I left behind. My parents shielded us well, I kept hearing “life is hard” but you don’t find out just how hard until you step out and face the universe; galaxies of possibilities and almost as many heartbreaks and disappointments. It’s the difference of someone explaining a roller coaster ride to you and actually experiencing the ride yourself.

My twenty-six year old heart remembers a time when I dreamed of love, of success and what that looked like. Then I look around and I’m a little disappointed; not too much because I can’t change what I did before, only what I do now, but mostly because that wonder, that magic, that purpose is gone. It’s now my job to look for it, to seek it out and grab a hold and never letting go lest I lose all faith in everything.

My twenty-six year old heart smiles wistfully at younger people with grandiose problems that will “ruin their lives” or something similar. I remember a time when I was like that, when my diary was my best friend and I needed to belong, to find my place and stay in it. It was a cruel place in its own way and I suppose hindsight has covered up all the bumps and dark spots…

My twenty-six year old heart looks back over its figurative shoulder with a bit of regret, a lot of nostalgia and fluctuating levels of heartache.

The hopelessness of the adult world can really get you down sometimes.  A monotonous job, attending your tenth wedding of the year (none of them yours), developing ideals in a world that doesn’t care, watching so much destruction and ruin and feeling so very small, longing for one person to wrap their arms around you and tell you that it’s going to be okay… It’s not pretty. I know it gets to me, like it has just now.

But I don’t face all the way around to look back. I can’t afford to. I can’t turn the clock back or make any changes on the path already trodden. I can’t live my now thinking about all that has happened, no matter how much I wish some things might have gone differently.

So I look back over my shoulder and catch a glimpse of the young girl I left behind in my yester-years, with her head full of dreams as she looks forward to a bright future.

Then I smile and look ahead.

She’s looking ahead at me – and I have to make sure I don’t let her down.

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