Dear ‘Future Kate’,
You’ve always been self-aware. Sometimes cripplingly so. But there’s something about being unable to move around freely that really takes self-awareness to a whole new introspective level. ‘Excess’ seems now to be shadowing how we used to live our life. I wouldn’t take on one project at a time, I’d take on 6. I wouldn’t buy one pint, I’d buy 10. I wouldn’t use the make up I have, I’d buy something new I knew would be a novelty. I wouldn’t try only pleasing a few people, I’d try and please everyone. Thinking about that now, I question why this was our mindset? Moreover how, as a self-aware person, we let ourself get wrapped up and lose sight of what was most important – and live our life according to other people.
What I actually want to tell you, is how quickly you seem to be coming. Remember the feeling of the summer between Year 6 and Year 7 – when you had reached the end of primary school and could not really comprehend what was waiting for you in September. But that whole summer there was a sense of endless opportunity, the lightness of coming to an end of one portion of your life and thinking that anything could happen after that. An element of naivity was vital, so I am not saying I can get that back again, but it still could be something to aim for. The sense of weightless relief, without the pressure of time, I don’t think I haven’t felt pressure since I was about 12.
First it was football, where the pressure was so much that it would squeeze the air out of my lungs and I couldn’t breathe. Of course, people didn’t know about anxiety attacks then. And so I had ‘lung spasms’ and ‘asthma’. But when you put a 13 year-old on a pitch with 16/17/18 year olds and say that success or failure relies on her, relies on her training as hard as she can for 6 days a week – isn’t stress and anxiety what is to be expected? That and premature joint pain. Was there a long term plan for this? Once the career path closed, I was left only with the weight of a failure and the inability to do something I loved casually.
And once you start building your rock and your hard place, it’s very hard to escape it. Now you’re not an athlete it’s time to ‘act like a lady’. Of course, the way to define that is by being pretty, appealing to boys. At 15, when some of your friends are losing their virginity and everyone is partying, that was the perfect time to introduce the world to ‘Gappy Chan’ (yes, the nickname that married Jackie Chan and being ‘gappy’ with no canines or incisors – got to love the creativity). I’m surprised actually that I did get out of secondary school as unscathed as I did, no one bullied me. Of course, ‘banter’ is a slippery slope to some people but it all remained in the realm of permitted disrespect to me. But how about self-image? When everyone is telling you from the ages of 15 to 18 that you’re undesirable – whether thats to your face: ‘I mean I like you but maybe when you have teeth’ or just the double take from strangers when you first smile hello and they look away panicked. Who knew the future impact of this? Squirrelled away in ‘Short term pain, long term gain’ I guess? But who checked in after all this, and these are the ones I’m happy to talk about.
What about this moment right now. Being alone makes you think about things you’d rather forget, but they want you to focus on the future. Always. How are we meant to behave? People were ‘proud’ of me for taking it on the chin like I did, when really I just didn’t know how to make a fuss. There was no real point because fuss wouldn’t be answered with anything. But then of course, fuss makes you and your situation not so forgettable. When I’m feeling sorry for myself, I sometimes think about that, if I had made more of a fuss then I would have gotten more attention. But a good child doesn’t need much attention do they? They raise themselves. In a family of 6 children theres only so much attention to go around. Now this letter may smack of bitterness but I’m really not bitter. Honestly. I had everything I needed growing up, I was very well provided for. But I do wish I had the emotional maturity to look after myself better in that department sometimes.
But sometimes you have to apply hindsight to your own past so you can just move on a little further, a little more aligned with who you actually want to become. And this is why I addressed this letter to you, to ‘the future’. I’m sick of this excess that I’ve been using to compensate for a lot of the inadequacies I have felt in the past. A lot of the attributes of this current self, can be linked back to moments in the past that I can see as clear as anything. I have been working consciously, especially over the past 3 years to get over myself, and I don’t use that phrase in jest. Literally to get over, habits and barriers I have built to protect my sense of self. But a lot of them are outdated, or more I recognise now more than ever – now the world has clicked the proverbial pause button – how actively I have to focus and craft my own personality. People don’t have good or bad personality traits by accident, every action is a decision and so if you’re not happy with something about yourself, now is the time to consciously change it, for the future.
Only now I’m realising things that I crafted to get me through the past 4 years at University, are an outdated model that won’t necessarily get me through the next 4 years. Another version of ‘short term pain, long term gain’ – but this time I’m in the driving seat. I’m peeling away each piece of curved metal that surrounds my body, this armer that I no longer have time for. No wonder I’ve been weighed down, carrying around some old outdated armour that is adding to the pressure I have been feeling. But now I am going to slow down, breathe and pay attention. I’m not going to let this time in lockdown be another time you have to recover from.