I had the fortune of taking over my parents’ basement when I was a sophomore in high school. I had a bedroom and a living room, and I was pretty much the coolest kid ever.
Before that, I had an upstairs room facing the backyard. This room has gone through a couple phases. When we moved to Buffalo when I was 6, it was pink with some wallpaper border that I can’t remember. It was my fortress of playtime where I preferred to play on my own with American Girl dolls, Polly Pockets, Barbies, you name it. I had an awesome imagination. It was the bedroom where I got ready for little league games, then came back after to make myself look like a girl, only to go running around outside barefoot and get dirty all over again. It’s where I stood in the mirror smoothing out the bumps in my hair from my ponytail during the phase where I was really into those snappy clips, which were later replaced by every butterfly clip you could possibly imagine.
Around 10 or 11 years old, the room went purple with a wallpaper that had yellow and green flowers. I changed the setup and got my first TV – that I won – which completely changed that place. I no longer had to suffer through the news channels and boring shows that my parents watched. I could toon into Nick or Disney or even MTV all I wanted. That was also the room where I experienced my first childhood heartbreak, and all heartbreaks since have been handled the same way: find a comfy pillow, lay on the ground and stare at the ceiling until you can figure out all your feelings.
Though the colors and designs stayed the same through middle school, I moved my bed and convinced my parents that it was a great idea to put these dreamy, see-through curtains around my bed as if I was some sort of khaleesi. I loved this so much aside from the nights when the curtains would crash down and scare me awake.
In high school, the purple became covered in band posters. The curtains concealed my late night phone calls to friends when my parents thought I was sleeping. The heartbreaks were handled the same way. And then I moved down to the basement.
As I sit here in what is now the guest room, I try to think about what little me would think of older me. She would probably first want to know if I was happy. She wouldn’t understand what a difficult question that is to answer, even though my answer should just be, “yes, I have a lot to be thankful for.” She would want to know if I’m having fun. I’m pretty sure that would be a yes, if you’re able to forget some of the stress that adulthood brings with it. She would then want to know if I was learning something new everyday and if I was still the most curious person ever. I would tell her about the internet and how it makes being curious the most rewarding and time-wasting trait you could ever have. And I can honestly say that yes, I am still learning something new everyday.
The lessons I learn now aren’t nearly as fun as what I would learn as a child. In fact, I learn most of them the hard way. I don’t know if I would tell little me how painful lessons can be when you’re an adult. Why would I try to curb that intense curiosity I was known for so early? But at the same time I wish I could warn her of and protect her from the things that will hurt her in the future that some people deem as “character building.”
But you can’t protect everyone from everything, and you can’t go through life being constantly worried or scared. That’s the current lesson I’m learning, and I’m not even really sure how to feel about it. In high school and college, I learned you can’t change people no matter how much you intervene in their lives. I’ve been trying to be good about keeping my mouth shut when it comes to others’ decisions, because more often than not they still do what they wanted to do regardless of my advice. So I thought I could at least be the protector for those that I love. But now as an adult, I’m learning that you can only protect someone if they want you to. It’s hard because I go in with the best intentions, but more often than not I’m the one who ends up looking like an idiot.
If I was saying all this to little me, she definitely would’ve asked for a snack at this point, because I’m really just going stream of consciousness style at this point. I think if I really were given the chance to warn my young self against anything, I wouldn’t. Everyone has to learn things their own way and experience it for themselves. And I really just need to let go.