It’s that dreaded time again—summer cleaning.
I sit at my desk and slide open the top drawer, exposing its faux-velvet-lined wooden interior. Amongst the numerous pens and paperclips, my hand-crafted acrostic poem from the third-grade peeks out from the colourful mess. I smile as I run my hand over the cranberry-red ribbon stapled to it. “First place,” reads the tightly-embroidered golden threads.
I stop, inhale deeply, and reflect. I think back to who I was. Who I am. How far I’ve come. All the things I left in the past as I climbed the unpredictable ladder I always envisioned as linear. I think of all the growth that has led me to this moment.
On top of my cherry-wooden desk lies a sheet of loose-leaf paper and a pen. Memories and realizations of my growth over the years rush through my head as I remember the version of me I used to be. Back then, I was a lot younger, a lot different than I am now.
The rushing wave of thoughts pauses for a moment. Reaching out, I grab hold of the metallic blue pen with my name inscribed on it—a parting gift from my best friend before she left for university. I scribble on the corner of the sheet with the pen I’ve preserved for so many years, exposing its fresh, jet-black ink for the first time.
Dear younger me,
Thank you for shaping me into who I am today. Because of the lessons you learned, I now stand strong on my feet, ambitious, and determined.
I often ponder over the purpose of the lessons and paths in life you showed me. The unexpected events and obstacles you put in my way and how they all helped me grow. How they helped me see that we reached our potential and that it was time to let go and move out of our comfort zone. To learn more. To be more.
From the beginning, you were always determined, undeterred by a challenge. After every fall, you dusted yourself off and kept going. You grew into your space and surroundings, but knew you had to step out of now-familiar landscapes to mature. It was frightening to let go of your comfort zone and make the unfamiliar, familiar.
What was the purpose?
Every new stage of life invited new faces, routines, ideas, and thoughts.
What was the importance?
It taught you the principles and practices you live by today. It gave you memories you’ll always cherish.
It took experience to get to where we are today. Trying to figure out life a little more each day. Learning that plans should be written in pencil instead of pen. That being authentic and true to yourself is what will take you where you want to be in life—to your first job, your best friendships, and the most confident and strong version of you. That the ones close to you and the things you love will always be dearest to you. To guide you with their wisdom and unconditional support. To always be a part of your life, wherever it decides to take you.
Does anyone see this differently?
It’s inevitable. We are all different. We grow and learn through unique experiences. We evolve. We change.
As I write this letter, my eyes wander to the softly-arched leaves of the dracaena tree on the corner of my desk. It’s hardly over a foot tall, but it has a lot more growing to do until it’s a full tree. It is thriving, luscious, and emerald green from its stem, despite some of its sun-bleached leaves and browning tips.
Why does this resonate with me?
Why does this matter?
I can’t shake it. I think I see life’s journey in this tree.
I think of you as the bulb—the roots. Taken care of by our loved ones. Those who nourished and loved you. Surrounded you. Kept you safe. You blossomed with their care and love. Growing as you experienced highs and lows.
You learned from these experiences. Made mistakes you couldn’t always take back or change. These hurdles didn’t stop you from growing, but they left an impact on you. Like a tattoo, your actions and decisions engraved a new mark of remembrance on you with each experience. You find yourself thinking back to these moments every now and then, reflecting, to avoid repeating the same patterns again.
The browning tips.
But sometimes, when you didn’t like the direction things were headed in, you were successful in changing your destination. You constantly pushed yourself to put your best self out there and never gave up when things didn’t work in your favour. You were determined to get to where you wanted to be. To progress, to amend things, to grow. Despite the everlasting footprint that you often ponder over, you always bounced back and became far more capable than you once were. And for this, you often forget to give yourself enough credit for how resilient and strong you are.
The sun-bleached leaves.
Despite all of the experiences, good and bad, you persevered. Even when you were at your lowest, you picked yourself up and refused to surrender. The battle was not over until you said it was. You pushed yourself and kept going. And from this, everyday, you grow a little more. Stronger. More confident. Bolder.
The new leaves.
I look at the tree in a new light. Some older leaves on the bottom look frail and tired— judging by the leaves’ slumped stupor, they look like they are about to fall off. I reach out and gently touch a dry edge peeking out from the green foliage. The emerging leaf gracefully parachutes to its roots, like a weightless feather. It lays delicately over the moist mud, hugging it, reminiscent of a barrette enveloping soft locks of hair.
What does this mean?
I look back to the top of the tree, a knot now present where the leaf once hung. This new, bare part of the tree is a solved mystery. I run my fingers over it. It’s smooth. Adds a new shape to the tree. More character, I think to myself. Uniqueness.
What is this reminiscent of?
The lasting impact of our experiences?
Footprints of memories on our lives?
Is this what makes us who we are?
Who we identify ourselves as?
I am pondering, again.
I think back to how much I’ve changed. From little things to big things—from how I part my hair, to my newfound willingness to try new things, and my constantly changing favourite colour. Physically and mentally. Waves of memories surf through my mind, like the endless tides stretching up the beach’s shore in Florida during our family vacation in 2008. I vividly recall many defining aspects of myself from my past that I let go of. Parts of me that I once felt were essential to my identity faded with time, and I hardly ever thought twice about it.
Images of a younger me in knitting club come to mind, stitching memories together like patchwork. I haven’t knitted in ages. I look down at my hands and feel my silky skin. I think back to the days in elementary school when my hands used to be blistered from monkey bars, spending hours hanging loosely during recess. I realize how much I have let go of and how much I have gained. How much I changed.
Is this how it always is?
Letting go as you grow?
Is it causal? Did you grow because you let go?
Maybe this is why they always say to live in the moment.
No two moments are the same.
You aren’t the same person you were yesterday.
Or the person you will be tomorrow.
It’s strange how we let go of so much and don’t even realize it. We let go of parts of us that define us and replace them, hardly even realizing that we are missing them. Like my new gravitation to adventure and science fiction novels instead of mystery books. It changed the way I defined myself, and how others knew me.
I stop in my tracks as my cramped hand reaches the end of the warm, gently crinkled paper. Words fill the page from top to bottom, spilling over the sheet like ants swarming around a crumb on a picnic day. Each scribble filled with emotion, unveiling my thoughts for the first time. I reach around for more paper but can’t find any in its usual spot. I must’ve already moved the stack off the desk for cleaning.
I am content with my letter. With my growth. Maybe I don’t need another sheet.
I pen the last few words I have in my mind.
Can’t wait to see how much more you grow,
Opinion Editor (Volume 49) | firstname.lastname@example.org — Kareena is a third-year student completing a double-major in Criminology and Socio-Legal Studies and Philosophy, and minoring in Forensic Science. She has previously served as the Associate Opinion Editor for Volume 48. Through her involvement and contributions with The Medium, Kareena hopes to foster a safe and trusted space, while encouraging others to let their voices and stories be heard. When Kareena is not writing or studying, you can find her watching true crime mysteries or cooking.