“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” ~ Proverbs 31:25
(Dear reader, a combination of computer issues, the Thanksgiving holiday, a deadline driven project at work, and a personal creative project caused me to fall behind on posting and, more importantly, reading your wonderful posts. Please bear with me while I catch up.)
When you’re pregnant at 16, people don’t forget. To your high school peers, you’ll always be the girl who had a baby. When you’re older, colleagues appear stunned when they learn your firstborn’s age. Well-meaning, and sometimes judgmental, comments like, “Were you 10 years old when you had him?” roll off tongues. Eventually, you stop telling his age.
With family members, the story is more complex. No matter how old you are, how respectable you’ve become through education, career, marriage or any number of factors that render us so in the eyes of society, they don’t forget. A tense undercurrent is always present, as if somehow your success and respectability are an accident, and that at any moment the fragile façade can unravel. You almost start to believe it. You wonder, do I really have my life together or is it a fluke? Is there something wild and untamed and naughty in me that will surface again and undo all my work?
I have an aunt who loves to remind me of what a brat she thinks I was when I was a girl, even though that was over 30 years ago. It’s the same aunt who, when I announced at age 29 that I was pregnant, remarked how different it would be for me this time, better, more enjoyable, because I was older and stable now. I never forgot her words. They seemed intended to negate, and demean, my entire experience as a first-time mother.
People don’t forget our pasts. Some can’t seem to move beyond them. There is danger in this if we allow their view of us to become part of our story. In this muddy place lies shame, fear, feelings of inadequacy, a sense of not being good enough or belonging. It’s the voice that whispers in our head that what we want doesn’t matter, that our creative spirit doesn’t deserve to shine, that we are destined to fail. It’s what holds too many of us back from embracing the present and welcoming the future.
Whatever is lurking in your past that other people won’t forget or can’t move beyond, please let it go. Their opinions and memories are not your story. Each day that you can live without internalizing their judgment is a new opportunity to grow in strength and dignity, and to shine your God-given light into the world. Your future is part yours to write, part destiny. Let no one take that away from you or make you afraid.