loving younger you
on looking back with self-compassion
Disclaimer for cringe-worthy language: This is a flashback post that includes some “Christianese,” which I will only qualify in italics in order to let you know what was past.
I will be reflecting on some old writing in this post. You are under no obligation to read anything I wrote on Medium.1 I am adding the links for my own ability to reflect and reconnect with my younger self.
I do not profess to know anything about designing logos, building a website (with a blog and a store) and trying to become a freelance writer and artist while also being a pastoral intern at the same time. I actually don't know any other experts in the arena of tackling all of those things at once. There have been and there will continue to be challenges and setbacks, but I am learning to trust God and the abilities He's given me.
That being said, I am excited to launch my new website, which will serve as my primary hub for all the passions and interests I am pursuing in life. I am casting a wide net and yes I am very much afraid. But fear reminds me that it’s worth it.
—me, March 8, 2018, [ a caption for a Facebook post]
five years ago
I was 26.
If you asked me then what my purpose was, I would tell you it was to listen to and follow the heartbeat of God, inspired by a line from a popular evangelical Christian song. “Break my heart for what breaks yours.”
I finished taking classes in undergrad. I say it that way because I did not technically graduate undergrad in 2018, since I had three credits of math or science to make up somehow. I was convinced in the fall of 2017, while I was already experiencing signs of burnout, that I could talk a CLEP math exam. I took the exam and failed, and I would fail many more times after that. Knowingly unfinished with college, I began a journey of trying to understand if I was called to pastoral ministry.
I knew back then that I had “a heart for justice” and I was just looking for a place to be where what happens in the community around the church mattered as much as the Sunday service, if not more. I followed the first answer I found, particularly because I struck up such great conversations with the pastor.
I grew up with very strict parents and lived a pretty sheltered life. My college experience was yet another layer of being sheltered since I served in the chapel, the office of spiritual life, and did a bunch of jobs. I had friends, but very few close relationships. And I was convinced my gifts would always lead me to places where I could be “needed but not wanted”.
I thought this was my fate.
I made my way to this city, community, and church knowing I was signing up to be poor for a while. So I made a website and moved my Medium posts over, with the intention of blogging my journey. I also listed the numerous things I could do, hoping I could find ways to get paid that would allow me to still focus on church and justice work in the community I was in.
I learned that I was good at preaching at white churches and singing in them, too. The lack of recognition I felt in Black church spaces at the time was not eased by acceptance in white church spaces though. But for the next several years, I would think about how my formation in white spaces shaped me. But at first, it was just comforting to have my voice accepted.
I started thinking about dating in a whole new way—I got on the apps. I found out that talking about being a pastor was an immediate turn-off for so many people and an odd fetish for others. It would take many years and many more failures to embrace who I am and come to a place where I did not want to conceal any part of myself to be seen as attractive to anyone.
things I wish I could tell 26-year-old me
The first thing I would say to her is…thank you for trying.
You have been told you are inconsistent. You have too many interests. You’ve “quit” to many things. You are scattered. People who do not know how to hold all the ways you feel called to be in the world have always found a way to say the wrong things in hopes that they are making life easier for you.
I feel like I am sometimes looking back at you and trying to hold your tender heart as close to my current one. But look at you, knowing what you wanted to do, five years ago….and you are doing it now.
So I’ve really been thinking though what year 26 and 2018 will represent. I don’t have a catchy phrase yet…But I have been fascinated by the idea of self-care as resistance. I have a heart for creating safe spaces, especially for people who carry a lot of emotional weight and stress: empathetic people, social justice warriors…people who spend time caring and fighting for others, myself included. So I want to focus on developing more self-compassion and I want to invite others into that journey. With that also comes a need to continue to preach this message to as many Christians2 as possible: Our embodied lives matter to God. Therefore, caring for what happens in our own bodies and how other bodies are treated are important. I am fascinated by spiritual practices and sacraments — lived religion. I’ve spent 3.5 years studying and thinking about religion…so this seems pretty natural.
from “Following the Heartbeat of God…to Brockton!” published on Medium
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Writing affirmations is more than a hobby
In 2018, I was new to the idea of affirmations.3 But I found ways to surround myself with them regardless. Such as hand-lettering or writing Instagram captions. Even creating my website was a process of affirming myself. I even wrote a whole post on Lupita Nyong’o, who became for me a walking affirmation of dark-skinned beauty.
I want to write new affirmations today in light of the last five years, which I feel in my body as I look at these pictures. I know when I was saying I wanted to go where God’s heart was broken, I was not aware of just how painful that would be. I did not understand fully how much I needed to rework my theology of suffering. I would not know until the fatigue stayed longer in my body than just the next day. I would not know until I was bouncing from community to community in search of a place where I could be just human…I was just following Jesus, I thought, and Jesus said “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” So maybe, faithfulness looked like my restless wandering.
I am sitting with the reality that self-compassion means literally being with your own suffering. And I know the weight of that Rose’s suffering.
Now that I know what I know about rest, self-care, self-compassion, burnout, disability justice, etc…I am now able to advocate for her care in ways she was not able to. Writing affirmations for me is more than a hobby. Affirmations have saved my life. Even when I can’t remember them for myself and someone else does and quotes them back to me, the scattered girl in me searching for love through all her offerings is re-membered.
“No" is a complete sentence.
Romance is gonna find you, babe, and it’ll be wrapped in a sweetness that takes the edge off after a long day. You will be surprised, but you shouldn’t be. You’ve always been worthy of it.
This one comes from my friend Robert Monson, writer of“There is a whole life beyond white evangelicalism.” Emphasis on “whole,” sweetheart. You can be your whole self and be loved.
You’ve been taught that the favor of churchgoers is everything. You have felt alienated in most of those spaces unless you are serving. You’re going to find friends who love you even when you are on a break from all the great things you want to do.
Fear is not the only metric for discerning what’s possible. You can lean into new dreams because you love them. You can express vocational joy because you find pleasure in your work. So yes, you an find vocation in heartbreaking things, but how about the things that call you to life and flourishing?
That being said, work is not your life, and not everything you love to do with your hands needs to be monetized.4 You can make time for yourself to just be you with the people who just love you and who justly love you.
I will stop here before I get carried away. I hope you can find time today to sit with yourself, a younger you, and write the affirmation she/he/they needs to embrace self-compassion.
Describe yourself at that point, spending time thinking about your internal world. Maybe it wasn’t recorded in writings across the internet like mine. Do you have an artifact you made? Think about how your body has changed in that time. What lessons have you learned? Can you write an affirmation for your past self?
In fact, just don’t look at it.
insert WHITE in here in bold.
Shoutout to my friend Jedidiah Kim who first introduced me to them in a spiritual direction session in undergrad.
This is all the more true as I sit with carpal tunnel.