Last night while scrolling through my WhatsApp messages, a new message popped up. The number looked familiar and on closer examination I remembered that it was my old phone number from almost 15 years ago. I looked at it frantically. How was this possible?
In utter disbelief, I started typing.
ME: Who is this? Do I know you?
SHE: Yes, you do. You have been talking to me in your head for so long that I decided to show up.
ME: I do talk a lot in my head – but with myself. Not with you.
SHE: But I am you. Your younger self.
ME: My younger self?
SHE: Don’t sound so flabbergasted.
ME: Obviously I am. What are you doing here?
SHE: I’m here just to see how things have been with you.
ME: Not too bad. I’m still chewing on the stuff you served me.
SHE There you go!! I have been receiving a lot of flak from you for quite some time. I’ve had enough. I want to put an end to this once and for all.
ME: Alright, busted. I do blame you for everything that has gone wrong in my life, but who else is there to blame? At least I am not blaming other people or circumstances like other people do.
SHE: People who blame others are losers and people who blame themselves are victims. In either case they sulk in self-pity. Why does there have to be any blame at all? Why not take responsibility for your actions?
ME: That does make sense. I always wished that if I ever get to meet my younger self, I would give her a piece of my mind. Here is my friendly advice to you:
“Don’t take life seriously. Don’t kill yourself for your goals. You can’t have a perfect score in everything. Be flexible. When life does not seem to go according to plan, be open to change. Life’s plans might turn out better than yours. If things are not favorable, wait for them to change as nothing lasts forever. Have some confidence in your own ability to withstand the storm. Give yourself credit when you deserve it. Project confidence. If it does not come from within, fake it till you make it. Make friends, but don’t lean on them far too much. Share not just your joys but your sorrows too. Depend only on you for your happiness but include others in your journey to share it. Laugh more (crooked teeth don’t matter). When confused, follow your gut. Your instincts are there for a reason. It’s alright if you are not successful in your venture. Success is defined by others, but contentment is defined by you. Every successful person is not content, but every content person has transcended success. Immerse yourself completely in this life without fear of getting wet. Life will leave its mark, but those marks are the living proof of a life well lived.”
SHE: Hold on. Before you go any further, you seem to be finally catching up with emotionally intelligent peers. Which self-help books are you reading? Good job memorizing them. And to sum up your advice that amounts to “Follow your heart,” sorry, but I find that overrated and unrealistic. You seem to sound as if I was sleepwalking all along
ME: This is not a self-help book talking, this is my experience talking.
SHE: And from where did this experience come from?
ME: Life, of course.
SHE: Exactly my point. Let me complete it now. That experience came from the mistakes that I did in that life. Choices that I made, that you now think were wrong. If it was not for those unwise choices, you wouldn’t have learned these life lessons you were preaching just now. The wisdom that is a by-product of those wrong choices cannot be used to undo those choices. You cannot reverse engineer in this case. These problems only tested your grit and helped you grow. Now use this wisdom for your current problems to build a better future. You will obviously see things more clearly with a bigger flashlight. But you still need to change the direction of that flashlight. Instead of using it backwards, please use it forward. You were not there to guide me. You were not even born. In-fact my problems, my losses, my wins, my successes and failures gave birth to you. You came out of me.
ME: So, you are my mom!!
SHE: Sort of, but not literally. Like a mom, I always wish for your happiness, but unlike her, I can’t be around.
ME: What does that mean?
SHE: Get rid of me and let me rest in peace.
SHE: I am the unfinished business that you need to take care of. Instead of blaming me, give me some credit for making you who you are. You are an ardent fan of Buddhist Philosophy. I am sure you understand the law of impermanence. Don’t let me linger permanently in your subconscious mind. Everything has an expiration date. Why are you holding on to me? Why this attachment? Let go of me. You can’t live with this divided identity. Calm and peace cannot co-exist with fear and insecurities.
ME: But I need someone to talk to. If I let go of you, who will listen to my rants?
SHE: Your friends and family. Invest in your relationships. I don’t exist in real life. You are keeping me alive. My job is done.
ME: Alright. I can let go of you only if you answer one question. Since you are here, tell me how I should deal with difficult people in my life.
`SHE: Be difficult for them. Sorry, you know I am impulsive. If you are looking for wiser advice, listen to the wise! . Go chat with your older self!
ME: Thank you. That really helps (sarcastically!)
And she disappeared. I kept typing but a reply wouldn’t come. I guess she was right. Her job was done. I closed my eyes. Confusion gives way to clarity, insecurity gives way to strength, agitation gives way to calm and peace.
Every now and then we have to die to be born again as a new person with a renewed sense of self. We are in a constant state of flux. Life keeps happening and we keep changing. We wish that we could have done some things differently and life would have been magically better. But the truth is nothing comes for free, not even wisdom. By making us go through difficulties, life is charging its price and making us wiser. Probably life’s best gifts are not wrapped in pretty gifts. When you look back, don’t just look at one aspect of your past. Connect the dots to see the complete picture. Everything will start making sense. My younger self was trying to follow her head and I am trying to follow my heart. In this battle of head and heart, no one wins. I am logical and rational when I use my head and I am intuitive and kind when I use my heart but I am wise when I know when to use what. So, I choose the middle way. As explained in Buddhism, the more we delve into the middle way the more deeply we come to rest between the play of opposites. And the conflict ended.