If you asked me about a time in my life when I still felt like I could be anything I wanted, and that life would happen exactly as I imagined it, before anything ever felt truly hard, or scary, I would have to go as far back as maybe 4 years old or so. Before school age. Before the world and its realities came crashing in... before I was exposed to the life outside my family womb.
She had big dark blue eyes and brown and golden hair, she was beginning to grow and stretch into her frame, she was transitioning from one stage of life to another, from being a baby, to being a girl. But she didn’t know or care about the implications of all that. She was blissfully unaware of both the hardships, and the absolute wonders that were waiting just outside her door.
She was happy and full of sunshine. She loved to sing and make up her own songs. She loved to put on shows for her parents, and sister, or just for herself, or for no one at all. She loved to be the star and didn’t mind a bit being seen in her full and total self. She did have friends, but she mostly had family, even her friends were just friends of the family. She wasn’t yet the raging introvert she would become—her self-awareness still half developed and tightly in its bud—she was free to exude whatsoever was there to be witnessed of her.
She owed nothing to nobody, she was the great receiver of love and care—without a moments hesitation about her worthiness of it—she was not yet the giver she would grow into. She received it all without a care for its depletion, or return. She had no notion that she was not enough of a gift, in and of herself.
There was nothing she loved more than to express herself through various unrefined and unperfected art forms, and to share those expressions with those that she loved, exactly as they arrived to her, and exactly as quickly as they did.
She loved books, and would lie on the couch with stacks of them in her nightgown, pouring over newfound worlds and funny, charming characters. Her most cherished belongings were those books, and a tape recorder that she would sit and record herself singing her made-up songs into, and listening to herself played back—as if to momentarily cross the divide and peer through the window of how it might feel to be outside herself, looking in—instead of forever being inside, looking out.
At this time in her life, no matter which side she was looking from, she was nothing but delighted with the marvel of her creation, and her creations.
It’s funny to recall, but even then, before the revolution of her body and mind as she knew it, the person she felt closest to in her life was always her. She was not exceptionally affectionate, but she loved deeply and more than she could begin to comprehend, or express. Sharing herself was easy at this age, but connecting with others was harder, because it required her to attempt to explain things that she could not yet put into words, and in fact, would never be able to—for all of her days left on earth.
Even then, full to the brim with brightness and joy, she was her own lighthouse.
But none of that would be possible without the incredible love, warmth, and safety that her mother and father built around her, and for her—they were not perfect, as she would later come to find out and heavily grieve—but they gave her the container and space in which it was safe to be herself, and know herself, and share herself, as clumsy and incomplete as that would always seem.
It was because of their love and shelter that she could even begin to have the courage to voyage out of that world and connect with the people and universe around her. Their selflessly crafted terror-free world gave her the great gift of daring.
A daring that she would continue to rely on, and to discover more and more of, with every step she took... even when the nightmares could not be kept at her door. Her sense of adventure outweighed her apprehensions every time—because she once had joy, she knows she will find it—no matter how buried it may seem.
Even at 4 years old, her dreams were what propelled her. The eternal thirst for more was born into her like a fire that would only be extinguished with her life. She had a lot of dreams. Too many dreams to mention: she dreamed of being a singer, a musician, an author of books, an artist, a performer, a dancer, a movie-maker, the list goes on and on and on...
but the heart of her dreams was that she wanted to create things that made people FEEL.
She was a feeling girl, in a feeling world, and she wanted to inspire and create more feeling... because that was the only language she ever understood. She wanted to inspire connection through creations that used that language, no matter what the medium. She wanted to remind herself, and others, how much they truly are.
She wanted to play back the tape.
So they could hear—so she could hear—the ebullient and unrestrained miracle of life.
No matter the dream, she was the sole star in her life’s constellation. The show, and the stage, was all hers to be had. There was no competition, no rival, and no other lighthouse she needed to outshine. She believed in plenty, before she even knew what that meant.
There was enough to go around... there would always be enough. In adulthood we call that priviledge, we call it lucky, we call it a fluke. We call it all kinds of things to try to get a handle on the give and take of life. But the thing we know as children, before that script colors everything we know... is that life is always giving, and there is always plenty, but it is just WHAT it is giving and WHAT there is plenty of, that is constantly in flux.
It is not always the things we want or need. It is not always fair. It does not always seem kind. But if I am brave, I will find the gifts... even strewn about my nightmares. It just may take some time. The story is ever-ongoing.
What we call the end is a yet undiscovered unknown— just like every second beyond what exists this instant. The world is full of starts. Life is a series of leaps in which you are mostly blind as a bat, and yet, you will tip off each edge with the invisible wind that blew you, hardly knowing why, and explaining it later like you knew what you were doing.
Somehow I know this at 4. Somehow I understand this, without the faintest hope of being able to articulate that. It’s a given.
I will have a family, I will have a home, I will have love, I will be seen, I will be appreciated, I will get things that make me happy and light me up, I will create things that make me happy and light me up, I will share things that make me happy and light me up. These are the things I know when I am 4 about the woman I want to be.
I don’t know exactly what that will look like, but that will be the basis of it. There will be disappointments—there are disappointments already at this age—but I will be a home to myself, no matter what may come. Because the things that I treasure are all here inside.
I do not yet know about loss, I do not yet know the vivid, inconsolable grief of disconnection. But there is a wisdom in that too, because to her, it’s still all within her. She is a world in and of herself—and the stars in her galaxy cannot go out. They will remain, forevermore, just as she will, no matter how nebulous and ever-expanding the web of life and death may be.
The woman I want to be when I am 4 is confident and unapologetic about who she is and what she wants for her life, not in a “sorry, not sorry” way, but in the way that a flower is not sorry for its color. Confident in the way that that flower has no shame for what it needs:
Sunlight... storms and rain... rootedness and shedding... pollination and connection... fertile ground and space...singular unabashed expression... even amongst a bed of a thousand other blooms.
The woman I want to be when I am 4 does not compare her body, mind or talents with anyone or anything. No such comparison can exist for her, because such a comparison would require two identical things, and there are none that she can find. Every being, is its own intricate constellation of experience—shapes, colors, sounds, smells and textures—and she is nothing less.
The woman I want to be when I am 4 loves others and life without condition, she dreams big, and dreams small, she steps out, and steps in... she creates her own universe and allows it its visitors.
In and out people come to visit, they marvel at the unique landscape, they complain about the heat or cold, they luxuriate in the comforts, or they quickly decide it’s not for them, and leave — and she is unchanged by their presence there, except to marvel at the wonders of their own universe, which they simultaneously shared with her, and which she got to visit and love and complain about too.
That 4 year old was fresh out of 3—growing into her childhood from her infancy, transitioning a central stage of life, crossing unknown waters the way I am now crossing them from my 30’s into 40. Again my body is changing, again my level of self-awareness is changing... again my world is changing.
And just like then, it is not in a way that you can detect all that much from the outside. Little cues here and there... the kind of slow reveal that only time could portray. But inside... it’s a hurricane. Everything’s being leveled, one structure at a time, so that new and wider worlds can be born.
The woman I want to be when I am 4, or 14, or about to be 40—believes with absolute certainty in the beauty and wisdom of her own aspirations and inclinations—because she knows she is just as important, and as ultimately clueless about her purpose here as every other particle of dust that’s spinning in the cosmos.
She is here... and it is joy enough in trying.
She is here, and it is joy enough in the simple fact that she is even here at all. But that joy doesn’t mean she doesn’t keep reaching, doesn't keep dreaming, doesn’t keep stumbling...
doesn’t keep hitting record and playing it back.
So she can hear her own voice in the many.
So she can see what it is that she came here to be.
So she can know this bloom before it wilts and fades away... and becomes a thousand other blooms.
The world is full of starts.
Life is a series of leaps in which we are mostly blind as a bat.
And I will tip off each edge with the invisible wind that blew me, and only see much later...
that I knew what I was doing.