By Celina Hunyh
Imagine being in a room with your younger self. What would you tell them?
If I were in a room with my ten-year-old self . . . for some reason, the first image that pops into my mind is of us in the room where I used to have therapy in person. Maybe it’s because the dynamic between us would be similar to that between me and my therapist.
I imagine it would feel weird for me to see myself from an outside perspective, in 3D, the full 360, because I’ve only ever been able to see myself from within, in the mirror and in pictures. I forgot how tall I was at age ten, but I imagine both of us are standing, and I squat down to match her height, as good adults do when they want to make a kid feel welcome and connect with them, unlike the condescending adults in my family who always made me feel small.
I imagine she’d be shy at first. Why is this person squatting down at me . . . ?
I’d say, “Hi, what’s your name?”
“Celina,” she’d say.
“That’s my name, too.”
“Really? How do you spell it?”
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Would my ten-year-old self recognize me? Would she wonder if that’s her, from the future? Or would I seem like a totally different person to her? How would she feel about me? I hope she would think I’m cool, that I’m kind and pretty and loving, and that I have my shit together, even if I really don’t.
I’d notice her slick straight hair, not yet frizzy and damaged. I’d notice her nerdy rectangular glasses that don’t fit her face at all.
“Look at these circular ones,” I’d tell her as I show her mine. “I think they might suit your face better.”
I’d notice her chapped lips, the eczema rashes on her arms, neck. We are not so different from each other now. We’re the same people, but different versions, neither one the better one.
I’d give her a hug, a long one; I’m not sure when she last got one of those—an I love you one, a there’s nothing else I want to do today but hold you one, an everything’s gonna be okay and I’m here for you one.
Maybe I imagine this scene in the clinic because if I imagined it at home, it would be too hard to separate the two of us. I still live in the same home as her. It’s both of our homes. If I imagine us at Grandma’s house, where we spent most of our time, well, that would get me too emotional, and I wouldn’t be able to focus on her. So I guess the therapy room is a nice objective middle ground, sterile and empty, so we can just focus on each other.
I’d give her some eczema care, some chapstick, some lotion to put on her rashes. “You should apply these products twice a day.” I’d show her how to better take care of herself, how to tie her shoes, the seemingly small things her parents neglected to teach her, small things that are actually really big things.
I notice I’m focusing on the practical things right now. Let me try to cut to the bigger emotional things I’m avoiding.
I would tell her that she’s enough and that she has a place in this world, and not to be afraid to take up space and be herself. I’d tell her to ignore the adults, that although they say hurtful things to her and make her feel bad, they are just mean, and wrong, and one day, she won’t have to deal with them anymore; she’ll find better adults who are nicer to her and treat her the way adults should treat children.
I wish I could be there for her, like a mom, or an older sister. We could be friends. I could be what she longs for deep down: someone to take care of her, to keep her company and make her feel loved.
I want to tell her that she’s capable, that she’s pretty just the way she is, and that her hair, her body, her face, are all beautiful and worthy of love. Even though it’s hard for me to believe those things of myself now. I would advise her to brush her teeth better, though I still have a hard time doing so now at age seventeen. I realize that although I’m seven years older, I don’t have much on her. I still can’t love myself the way I want her to love herself.In some ways, I’m still her, deep down. She’s inside me, a part of me. Her insecurities are mine, her pain is mine. I guess all I can do is focus on caring for myself now, but I’m not exactly sure how. Maybe I can empathize with myself by telling myself the things I wish I could say to her: Life is hard and it’s not your fault. It’s okay to not know what you’re doing, but I’m here for you, babe. I care about you, and we’ll get through this together, yeah?
My mentor Liz and I began thinking of positive prompts to write about, and Liz came up with this amazing prompt that intrigued me and provoked a lot of thoughts and emotions in both of us. We both answered it separately. I chose my ten-year-old self because that’s the age when I started developing depression and insecurities. It was a critical, vulnerable, and formative time for me; I could have really used someone to look up to. I’m glad I wrote this piece (thanks, Liz). I got really emotional as I wrote it, and I think I’ve learned how to be nicer to myself through this exercise.
Celina Huynh is a student and writer from New York City. She aspires to become a clinical psychologist and loves writing as a means of self-expression, catharsis, and activism. She has a passion for bringing about positive change to society and spreading mental health awareness.
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