A Séance for Past Selves and Mistakes

Séances are used to make contact with the dead.  I’m not using it in the literal sense so much as I am applying it to our past selves.  We’re so quick to hide every mistake and passed uncertainty six feet under.  There’s a grief in this for me.  I don’t want to identify my errors by epitaph.  We canonize success, which is to say that once a person ascends to an established position, their narrative suddenly loses its bumps and bruises.  This successful person is holy until they aren’t, until he or she falls from heaven.  We’re all people– these messy, frantic beings doing the best that we can.  Sometimes that best isn’t enough, but I don’t think that defines us.  We aren’t our worst selves, but I don’t think it’s ok to abandon all our flaws once we’ve “made it”.  I think I should always be in contact with every former me that brought me to this.

I want to hear your mess. I want to know how things didn’t go right. Without agenda or any expectation, please make my ears the audience for your divorces, businesses that folded, academics that never materialized into degrees, financial struggles, body insecurities, family tension. I don’t want your Instagram page. I want you.

For a long time, I felt like my imperfections and past were an invitation to poor treatment.  Because I am not perfect, I needed to prove my worth, and I (unconsciously) sought connections that confirmed that belief.  But even our worst selves need love– especially our worst selves.  And if I am waiting and waiting for perfection until I can begin my life, nothing is ever going to happen.

It wasn’t until I unlocked my tongue and confessed how I’d been professionally railroaded, failed, been the collateral damage for somebody else’s war with themselves, that I have been left and unwanted and still prayed they’d change their minds. It wasn’t until this strand of overwhelming debris became words that an encouraging chorus found me. I’m not the sum of my mess. Not then, and not now. Because I am a mess. This is an anatomy composed entirely of question marks— of how I feed myself with my purpose, on if my attraction to men and women is “right” (because I want the safety of a binary where I don’t belong). I want people to think I’m cool even though I’m all Golden Girls references, feeling too much, no poker face, exploding with more life than one body can contain, and always wondering if I am an extra puzzle piece in God’s design.  This is a lot.  I am a lot.  But I’m not wrong, and I’m no longer seeking the safety through the parameters of someone else’s definition.

These aren’t sexy things to say. Certainty is valued.  In a life so amorphous and changing, we all want to stop for a minute.  We want to rule the chaos like the moon over the tides.  Only, we can’t.  I can’t.

Hindsight is the best polish. It glosses over the carnage of self-discovery.  In retrospect, everything hazy grows clear.  Time weaves stories of the thousand tangled threads that were way more mangled when they came together.  And sometimes, the story changes.  We talk about our partners with certainty when the love story, upon close inspection, hides trepidation and other contenders who time absorbed.   We make hometowns of places we scoffed at for many years before (or maybe that’s just me).  The point is that when we lose ourselves in the confusion, maybe it’s just the mist fogging up where we thought we were going.  And when it fades (because it always does), the path makes so much more sense.

You don’t owe me your story, Reader. In the era of vulnerability culture, I will not pry these things from your sealed lips. I am asking. You can say no.  But if you want to, if those words lurk behind your teeth, and you want to give them breath, I’m not going to judge all the places you’ve hailed from.  My affection won’t abandon you.

I’m done with sanitized versions of us. There’s nothing rich in projecting some fairytale where it wasn’t. We don’t have to hide our scars from each other. Any person who has really lived understands that everyone is more than the sum of their past selves. We gotta give ourselves a break, and dare I say, venerate all the fallen idols we’ve been on our way to this?

We are never not a mess. I’ll forever be a ghost story to my future self. I long to grow and err and stumble all the way into places I never considered. I exorcize all my past demons from me.  I wanna have a séance for all the women I’ve been and invite your past selves to come too.  Regale me with every story about your past life.  Hell, come with how things are messy right now.  I’m not telling you that this is comfortable.  I’m saying that we can do better than to subsist on diet narratives where everything went right.  I’m saying that our mistakes aren’t anything to be ashamed of.  It’s ok to struggle.  It’s ok to be depressed, anxious, manic.  It’s ok to quit a job or be in a dead-end right now.  Maybe you’re just turning about in the cul-de-sac.  It’s ok if “the one” was just the first one or the second one.  We’re all getting to where we need to go out our own pace, in our own way, and sometimes, the trail is more of an Ironman than a stroll.  But we’re in it together.  We, the messy, messy humans.  We, the descendants of every former self.  We, whose heritage might not be embarrassing but edifying in the end.

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