Last week I turned 33. Do you ever look at older pictures of yourself and wish you could talk to your younger self?
When I look at pictures of myself as a child, she feels like a daughter. I want to crouch down and hug her. Let her know that everything is going to be okay.
Better than okay.
The little girl who’s beaming with joy and pride of who she is, I want to tell her to never let anyone change that.
To not listen to what they say in books and movies about us. To let the hateful words people use, people she knows and strangers, just be a faint murmur.
Don’t let them take your voice, I tell her. But she can’t hear me and becomes quiet. Disappears for hours into the stories she reads and writes about.
One day a friend tells her that boys don’t like girls that look like her. They like girls with light hair and blue and green eyes.
As she lies in bed I can hear the thoughts that are keeping her awake:
“When I grow up, I’ll marry a boy with light hair and eyes so my kids won’t look like me. So they don’t have to be different and worry too.”
I want to hug her and tell her the world is mad for making her believe that she has to dilute her bloodline. Erase her race.
Just hold on, I tell her. One day you’ll change your mind.
Fast forward to April five years ago. Her husband has made her think it will be her last birthday and she can’t see a way out.
Just hold on and be strong, I tell her. Don’t give up. Think about your family. Think about your ancestors.
She gets the chance to get a tattoo. She’s never gotten one before, and despite years of hiding who she is, she picks two signs from her tribal nation. Two Mapuche symbols. One to remind her of love, one to remind her of her soul.
Two months later everything has changed.
See, I tell her. You made it even though you never knew how.
Not having all the answers and not knowing the next steps can be scary. But it can also be a good thing. It can open up doors and opportunities. Give us a life we could never have imagined on our own.
All we have to do is loosen the grip a little bit and have faith that if we listen hard enough and open our eyes, the answers will come to us.