Of course, I was thinking about myself at eighteen, still fettered by other people’s ideas about who I was and what I “should” do. If I could do it over, I would wander more in the world, would let myself try things, quit things, try other things. . . .
So, it was a surprise this week when, seeing the latest iteration of this thought experiment asking people to offer only two words that they would say to a younger self, the words that came were, “You’re okay.”
Yes, if I could only say two words to the person I was at seven or seventeen or twenty-seven, they would be “You’re okay.” It made my heart ache a little to realize I had not known this truth at any of those ages.
Those words have two meanings for me: I am - we each are- okay, just the way we are, and okay is good enough to contribute to the world and have a full, deep life. And, we will be okay- which is to say that although at times the body knows pain, the heart does ache, and the mind reels in confusion, who and what we are in an essential way remains and is okay. It is possible that if I had known that I was and in some essential way always would be okay, perhaps some of the suffering I unwittingly created for myself and others might have been avoided or mitigated.
If I was speaking to that group of students graduating from my old high school today that’s what I’d want to communicate: You’re okay. I'd want to say those two words in a way that would root them in the minds, hearts and bodies of those listening, infuse them with the power of deeply loving our human lives. Because all the rest of it- giving power over to others to decide what we do, where we go, how we live; getting stuck in the fears and limitations that have nothing to do with who we really are- all of this is based on the fact that we don’t really know that who and what we are is and will be in a profound and deep way, truly okay. Oh, if we’ve lived even seventeen years we have no doubt been wounded by the well-meaning (or the not-so-well-meaning,) picked up some bad habits, and developed our own conscious and unconscious fears. But none of that changes the truth of what we are.
It made me smile to see how my answer to this question has changed over the years, reflecting some of what I’ve learned, what I’ve been able to let go, and the changes in how I hold myself in my own heart.
So those are my two words, words I sometimes still need to remember to say to myself: You’re okay.
What about you? If you could say only two words to your younger self- what would they be?