One of my most unglorious public moments was when I gave a talk at the Sunstone Symposium a few years ago, about 10 days after having surgery on my left leg (surgery necessitated by the mysterious bacterial infection that I’d been fighting for 6+ months). I looked like shit when I gave my talk, and was so weak that I couldn’t stand for more than a few seconds. I was taking painkillers all day long to even make it through the event, and was quite emotionally fragile. I’d also gained quite a bit of weight during the months I spent immobile on the couch, too–ugh.
But what I like about this video is that I can look back and see how much has changed since that hard time in my life. I’m now healthy and strong–emotionally and physically. My body’s immune system is so robust now that I’m rarely ever ill.
As a historian, I’m rather obsessed with marking change over time, with creating a narrative of how the past has impacted the future. So when I watch this video and think about how awful that time was, or how it hurts to see myself declaring love for a spouse who’s since left me, it can be a bit…hard. But it’s also validating to see just how much change has happened in my life since the Fall of 2008.
I want to put my arms around my then-self and tell her that life is going to be more amazing than she could have ever imagined. That she will recover from the surgery and walk confidently again. And before long she will paddle to off-shore islands and fly in small planes and travel to the places she could only dream of. I want her to know that she will finish her dissertation and be a professor and nail a job that will make her happy everyday. I want her to know that she will experience tenderness and unconditional love from new friends and partners. And although she knew then that her children were divine, I want to tell her that this will be even more evident as they grow and make wise choices with their lives.
But most of all, I want her to know what she learned about “what has to be done” will be the most important lesson of her life, and will get her through all of the challenging days that lie ahead…