I knew they were there, so it wasn’t a total shock to find the stack of journals in a box of assorted memories. What was a surprise was what I found inside: I found me. 

As much as I have sworn off moving ever again, it really has been an interesting and cathartic experience. I have found things I didn’t know I possessed, gotten rid of things I never really needed in the first place, and taken so many delightful trips down memory lane. And now that everything has a shelf or a cabinet or a closet to keep it somewhat organized, I took one more look into a box I didn’t recognize. It was the one full of journals from my 20s – a potential memory lane I didn’t necessarily want to ever traverse again. But, in the spirit of research, I decided to skim a couple.

Now, let’s just say I wasn’t my best self in my 20s. A coaching program I’m studying now has brought to my awareness the arc of my life, whereas in early life I was inwardly focused and very secure, shifting to a steep acceleration in my early teens to an outer focus, where the approval of others was paramount. This continued with great intensity until it peaked at about age 32 and started a very slow descent. I didn’t really come “back into myself” until my mid 40s, with each subsequent decade finding me more comfortable in my own skin. 

But back to my journals of my 20s. There was a lot of “living” going on at that time, including more than my fair share of drama. As a naturally empathic person, being outwardly focused for approval was a full-time job, and a bit overwhelming at times. OK, most of the time. In order to maintain that focus, I had to tune out my own inner voice, and I succeeded in doing that through a variety of numbing agents. I only felt my feelings when they were screaming at such an intensity that I could not ignore it. Another thing that added to a less than ideal lifestyle. 

With that knowledge in my mind, I was dreading what these journals would say. The odds of it being hysterical (and not in a funny way) were high. That they’d be overly dramatic a given. I held my breath and dove in. 

What I found was a young woman who was experiencing life. Questioning, searching, curious and frustrated. I recognized her. I am her. What was different about that girl and me at this age was that she did not have the tools to find her way. She did not know that by trusting herself she would be led forward with grace and ease. She allowed her internal Judge and his nasty band of Saboteurs – People Pleasing, Avoiding, Controlling, Hyper-Achieving – to control the show. Instead of relying on the Sage parts of herself that held the wisdom and confidence to push her forward, she was being pulled back into the morass of other people’s issues and opinions. Boundaries existed only on maps. 

I read further and remembered the situations she described. I remembered the anguish and desperation at times. I remembered wanting so badly to find someone to lead me out of myself. What I didn’t realize was that the answers I needed were already there – buried deep inside. 

I saw myself on those pages and I had great compassion for her. My life is still full of problems and anxiety provoking moments. There are still issues of the heart and difficult conversations that need to be had. My younger self did not – could not – see the gift in any of that. I am so grateful that now not only is it possible, but I relish the opportunity to learn the lesson and experience the growth I am sure to receive. I am filled with such joy for who I have become and who I will be even more so in the future. 

Like the story of the 2 wolves, in my younger years I was feeding the angry beast. I didn’t know I had a choice. I do now. And I couldn’t be more grateful for it.