If I was able to go back in time, even to just a year ago, I’d have plenty of advice to give my past self. To start with the obvious, my 18-year-old self could never imagine what it would be like to live during a global pandemic. Attempting to look past the difficulties everyone’s had to face would be impossible, but at the same time, how could I ever brace myself for something like that even with knowing what’s ahead? There are select words to describe the effect this pandemic has had on the entire world, and you don’t need to hear them from me. I don’t think there’s anything someone could tell themselves that would truly brace them to witness it. Even if I was unable to prepare myself for hardships I’d never thought I, or anyone around me would have to face, I would still have a lot to say to an earlier version of myself.
I’d make sure to remind myself to be thankful and to remember that nothing is promised. To complain less and enjoy more. To attempt to master patience. To fix your posture. Focus on yourself and don’t worry so much. Study for your math tests. Explore more art and music. Quit procrastinating so much. Be more open minded. Cry it out when you need to. Take more risks. Say more of what you mean and don’t feel sorry about it. Shave your head already! Close your eyes and breathe. You’ll be okay. Thinking back to when I was about 8 or 9, I’d compare going through each life challenge like learning how to float on my back.
For most of my childhood, my family owned a house with a large swimming pool behind it. Thinking about all the summer memories with that pool makes me emotional. I think about all the sliced watermelon and popsicles I ate with my tiny legs dangling in the water. My mom with her big sunhat, reading in the shade and looking up to watch my brothers and I shoving each other around and blasting ourselves with big, clunky water guns. I’m always brought back to one summer when my uncle was visiting from Canada, and while we were in the pool, I told him I didn’t know how to float on my back yet.
It can be scary at first, and it was for me, especially learning when I was little. But you’ll find at any age that the key is to trust yourself completely. I definitely needed help at first, so he’d hold me up from my back for the first few tries. My head would sink under and my limbs tried to fight the water. The initial reaction comes from fear, and it’s what was physically keeping me from accomplishing my goal to float. The body is saying, “We haven’t done that before and it’s really scary!” But in reality, I know there is nothing to fear. My uncle is right here, teaching me. I followed his advice to calm down and he insisted that the water could carry me. I’d need to keep my head straight and relax. I closed my eyes, took deep breaths, and tried to let the water carry my weight. Each time, I’d get a little better and stay on the surface a little longer. We practiced all afternoon, and after countless attempts, I was able to float by myself without any help. 8 year old me, missing my two front teeth, smiled ear to ear that day. Even though it’s a small, far moment, thinking back to it helps me through almost any challenge I face today. Even if it means failing and ending up with water up my nose a few times, or needing some extra help, there is really nothing for me to fear. I’m reminded to close my eyes and relax, take a deep breath, and learn to trust myself to float.