Somewhere along the way, I lost a part of who I am.
It’s easy to scoff at youthful naivety: just you wait till they are older, then they’ll see. Well, maybe it’s not that we start seeing with age, but our vision gets cloudier as we buy into the cheap excuses offered up for our cynical opinions.
Looking back at who I was 10 years ago, I cannot deny I acted younger. How can that not be true? A 16 year old is not comparable to a 26 year old in maturity. You see, I have always been one who is passionate about issues that are close to my heart, and though that passion was at that time expressed youthfully, it was not wrong for me to feel as I did. Yet as I have gotten older, I somehow I equated what I felt with immaturity, and taught myself to turn inward instead of outward.
Misguided, though well-intentioned, reproof from others turned me inward. Feeling disconnected from my peers turned me inward. Being afraid of ruffling feathers and being misunderstood turned me inward. My own infatuation with comfort and ease turned me inward. But just like a candle covered by cupped hands, isolating my heart extinguished the passions that once thrived freely.
Then I was introduced to cynicism. My unstoppable confidence and belief in what was true didn’t cower at cynicism as a teenager. One afternoon as I got to English class early my senior year of high school, my teacher and I began talking. He asked me what I wanted to do for a living when I was older, and without skipping a beat I responded that I wanted to work with women who were rebuilding their lives after abuse, like former prostitutes. “Well, we’ll see if that actually happens,” he responded with an eye roll. But it didn’t phase me, I just made a mental note to google him when I was older and prove to him that it happened. One day he would see.
It’s not that that particular desire has fizzled; no, that’s still exactly what I want to do with my life. But the cynicism kool aid was being passed around by the time I started my last two years of college, and I took a sip. I watched as friends became angry at the church, questioning everything they knew about life and ultimately Jesus. And I began to feel a little less certain about everything in my world. Cynicism undermines what’s true. It fuels a constant chorus of second-guesses, and never lets you experience the joy of an undivided resolve.
What I learned? That it’s okay to question and learn and feel the emotions we need to feel during the hard times of life. But if you are left angry and bitter, you have cut yourself short in the process. It’s okay to allow your view of the world to be tempered with the wisdom of age and experience; it’s not okay to give it up entirely.
I’m ready to move on from that. I’ve felt like a hollowed out version of myself for sometime now, and I am ready to feel alive again. A reintroduction of sorts. I want to be who I was at 16 as a 26 year old. And in 10 years from now, I want to look back and not feel like my passions are just out of reach, inching farther and farther away by a hardened heart. Instead I hope I feel and cry and care and love freely with passions that have been renewed and refined by age. I don’t want to lose anymore along the way.