She sat across from her future self and tried to maintain eye contact but was in so much awe that it was an arduous task to not break it. She marveled at this adult version of herself, a picture of steely-self-confidence. Her future self’s chestnut hair laid in effortless curls around her shoulders and the caramel highlights that lined each strand shone in the sun like threads of gold in a queen’s tapestry. Her adult self was certainty incarnate, the embodiment of all that was strong and sure. The young girl watched as her future self briefly turned her gaze to the sky before giving an all-knowing smile and was dumbfounded again and again how someone can be so magnetic by doing so little.
She sat across from her budding self and looked her in the eyes. She felt an amalgamation of wistfulness and warmth, and it was a very welcome surprise. She looked up at the sky in contemplation and smiled evenly. I guess you really can miss everything, she thought to herself.
The young girl failed to meet her companion’s eyes for the millionth time and continued to fidget with her hands whilst a silent battle raged in her mind. I have to say something, she ruminated desperately. This is so awkward. To her enormous gratification though, the daunting task of being the first to speak didn’t have to be hers today.
“So, are we just gonna sit here in total silence all day?” the adult teased.
The young one let out a nervous laugh and stuttered her reply.
“No, um, I’m sorry about that. This is just so,” she gestured to the air in an attempt to describe the overwhelming absurdity of the situation but couldn’t find the right words to. She shrugged and burst into embarrassed laughter.
Her future self smiled affectionately at her past self. She remembered all too well what it felt like to never be quite certain if you were doing or saying the socially acceptable, the “cool” thing.
“No, it’s fine. I get it. But hey, this isn’t the weirdest thing you’ve, uh I mean we? The weirdest thing we’ve ever been through.” The adult laughed.
The adolescent finally managed to look up at the adult, saw the impish glint in her eyes and giggled.
“I guess.” She took a deep breath and reprimanded herself once more. Come on, just say it. Ask her what you’ve been wanting to ask her this whole time. But the reprimand was met with a rebuttal from the corner of her mind that sliced through conviction like a blade. No, don’t. What if she thinks it’s the stupidest thing in the world? I’m sure she will. Like, look at her. She’s probably judging you right now.
“Do you have something to ask me?” The future she asked pointedly.
“Um. Well, like, this is kind of stupid but like,”
“It’s not stupid.” The adult responded shortly.
The encouraging tone of her future self made the youthful one sigh quietly in disappointment. It’s literally me. I can’t even talk to my own self? She lamented. Then that very same corner of her mind, that unyielding cave of insecurities opened its’ big mouth again. That’s exactly why you can’t talk. It’s your future self, the better version of yourself. I bet she doesn’t miss being you at all. She probably thinks we’re pathetic. The young one felt herself recede deeper and deeper into her own voice of unreason before it was broken by a very similar sound.
“It’s confidence, right? Is that what you wanted to ask me about?” The adult prompted.
The young girl cringed a little but proceeded to give a gentle nod of confirmation.
“I just, like,” She sighed at herself again. “I just want to be more like you. What.. how did you do it?” She wished her voice didn’t waver as much as it did when she finally asked the big question but settled for being thankful that she did at all.
Her adult self nodded solemnly and sat up in her seat. The young one’s eyes shone in anticipation. She was finally going to learn the secret to self-confidence. Doubt was a foe she had grown tired of facing.
“I think you’re looking at this the wrong way, honestly.” The future girl began.
Her young self was taken aback by this statement and asked for clarification.
“I remember what it was like when I was you. And it’s not that much different. I know your thought process, and I can probably tell what you’re thinking of right now. But before I get ahead of myself,” The adult laughed. “I’ll ask. What do you think of me?”
Her young self shrugged.
“I don’t know…like, you don’t really care what other people think?”
The adult pondered this for a moment before answering her younger self.
“I do, though. But the difference is that I try to listen to people that I know have my best interests at heart. If someone matters to you, and you matter to them, it’s okay to take what they say into consideration.” She looked deep into the eyes of her growing self. “I don’t think confidence is not caring at all, it’s just being more selective, I guess. And,” The look in her eyes grew more intense, “Not letting that voice in your head take control.”
The young one took in every word and quietly thought it through.
“But how?” She asked.
“I mean, it doesn’t happen immediately. It starts with awareness, paying attention to what you tell yourself. But don’t think for one second that I’m perfect at it. Your future self isn’t someone that can do no wrong. I feel like you might be hinging your hopes on that, on me being the final destination in this big journey or something.” She chuckled and shook her head. “But you couldn’t be more wrong. In many ways, you know, we’re just the same. And yes,” She folded her arms, grinning.
“I do miss being you. You might not think so right now, but there will be many things you get to experience right now that I don’t again. Live in the moment, okay?”
The growing one looked down and nodded, but was still unsure. Easier said than done, she sighed to herself. But I have to try. I don’t want to be like this forever.
“Well, anyway…” The young girl smiled shyly. “I’m really proud of you. I feel like, I don’t know, even if you aren’t ‘’perfect’’ or whatever, you’ve still come really far. That’s great.”
The grown one smiled back.
“Thanks. But I could say the same about you. I mean, compare us to our even younger selves. It’s all a process. I’m proud of you for wanting to get better. That’s always the first step to anything.”
The adolescent tucked a strand of dark hair behind her ears and looked up at the sky longingly. For the first time in a long time, the cave of insecurities had an intruder. A young, nervous, uncertain girl who chose to enter it, sat alongside the shadows that were singing their songs of doubt, and listened. She took in every word of their symphony that mourned her every thought, her every word and her every move. Then, she opened her mouth and sang a different melody, cradling the shadows in her lullaby. She was very much a novice musician, but her song had that same reassuring tone that her older, wiser self-retained. And though it had very few lyrics, it was enough to soothe the shadows, at least for now. But she was prepared to keep singing over and over until the shadows and their persisting anguish faded.
“It’ll be okay.”