Updated: Nov 13, 2020
Last month, I was very pleased to read a “love letter to myself" written by one of the strongest and most amazing women I’ve ever met.
Despite the fact that I thought it was a great idea and how she encouraged me to write a love letter to myself, I kept postponing it. Recently, after experiencing a very emotional moment, and as Valentine's Day approached, I realized it would be the perfect time to reconnect to who I am right at this moment and to see where I stand at this point in my life as far as self-awareness.
A couple of weekends ago, I decided it was time to clean up the garage. As I worked there, my daughter decided to ride her bicycle. It didn’t take long for her to get distracted by trying to read all the labels on each storage box I was working on. She then decided to make drawings as way to decorate and identify them. That’s when she realized there were some bins placed all the way on top of others where none of us could reach. The box marked “Childhood Toys and Memories” caught her attention.
"What’s in there?"
"I'm not quite sure! I haven't looked inside that box for a long time. Would you like to check it out?"
With the help of the tallest member of our family, a.k.a daddy, we were able to get it down. To my surprise, besides a few of my favorite childhood toys, I found a box loaded with cards and letters I had received when I was still living in Brazil. Among those letters were some my father wrote to me.
As I read them, I felt like he was still here talking to me, but now as a grown woman. Although the letters weren't new to me—I had read them years ago when he had written them—but just as it happens when we watch the same movie after many years, my perspectives changed. I wasn't reading them just as a daughter anymore; I read them with the eyes of a woman, a wife, and a mother. Then, I realized how many things I didn't really get in the past when I first read them. I simply didn't have the maturity to understand.
Now it all made sense. So, I realized it was definitely something I should start doing for my daughter. It's one thing for a parent to express their love to their child daily, to teach them right from wrong, to discipline them, but it’s another thing to make those feelings, values, and principals transcend the barrier of time by writing them down in a letter. So before writing myself a love letter, I took the time to write one for my daughter. I read it to her yesterday and she loved it.
Just the simple fact that Dad wrote me those letters made me very emotional. In one of them, for instance, he used a whole paragraph to express his concerns about me dropping out of school after he passed. For the first time in almost 16 years (I do not allow myself to think much about things that can't be changed), I wished he were here to be a part of my life. I wondered how many times he would have visited me in Miami since he loved to travel. How much he would enjoy spending time at my house. I could even visualize him chilling in the hammock outside by the pool and calling my daughter pequerrucha just as he did me when I was little. Gosh! He would be so crazy about her!
I also know he would be very proud of me—not only for graduating in college, for receiving an A+ on my theses, or for writing the valedictorian's speech on the same day he would have been celebrating his birthday—even though I am far from being a perfect daughter wife, mother, or person.
One thing I have learned is love doesn't come from perfection. It is quite the opposite: real love is the ability to love someone regardless of how imperfect they are. The same applies to others loving us and the pride they feel in us; I know my dad would feel that way about the person I became.
Unquestionably, as human beings, perfection is something far from our reach. Acknowledging it is the first step to learning how to love and accept ourselves. Just as with forgiveness—when we acquire the capability of forgiving ourselves, it becomes easier to apologize and to forgive others because it teaches us humility. And that's how, slowly, I have learned to love myself and to know who I am.
When it comes to self-knowledge, my greatest challenge was when I first moved to the United States; I felt a little lost since I came alone and didn’t I know anyone where I was living. That, however, was probably one of the wisest decisions I ever made in my life: distancing myself from everything and everyone I knew allowed me to spend more time within, to get to know myself better, to understand who I was and find out what I really wanted. That became a work in progress. So, during the nearly 13 years here in the US, this is what I have learned about myself:
You are imperfect, full of flaws, temperamental, and moody at times. You have very little patience and demand a lot from yourself and from others. You can be bossy, which probably has something to do with the fact you are a natural-born leader. You completely lack emotional intelligence, but you are transparent and, in fact, that is a great quality. Overall, you are a very difficult person to deal with. At the same time, though, you can be so loving and caring. Most importantly, you are very aware of your bad qualities which helps you to constantly seek improvement; to become a better and more evolved person. However, despite this long, scare-people-away list, you know your good qualities just as well. At the end of the day, that's what defines you.
Besides, when life hit you hard, you collected every single thorn that you encountered along your journey as a remembrance of the lessons each one taught you. Instead of becoming bitter, you learned to be grateful and appreciative of the good things in life, starting with the simplest ones.
You are kind and generous. On the other hand, you are very blunt. Thankfully, you use that bluntness mostly with your sense of humor. At times, you are funny even when you are not trying to be. But the truth is, one of the things you enjoy most is making your friends and people who surround you smile.
You are also a very good listener. You are touched and humbled when friends seek your advice. You are passionate about caring for and helping others, but at the same time, you don’t allow anybody to take advantage of you.
You don’t care if acquaintances don't like you simply because you don’t believe in popularity contests or in being someone you are not. You would rather have people hate you for who you are than like someone you are not. Also, when your friends describe you as “awesome,” “amazing” or “the best,” you appreciate it, but it makes you feel uncomfortable because you just do what real friends should. You know that your good qualities don't turn you into a saint. And just like anybody else, you fight with your own internal demons.
You try to surround yourself with people that bring out the best in you. You have no time for drama, haters, or envious people. Your main goal is to be happy, not to impress others or to “fix” anyone. You make decisions based on what brings you joy, not applause. You know your value is not based upon what others think of you, but of what you know you are worth.
But the thing I am the craziest about you is how passionate you are about life. You have encountered very along the way who are as enthusiastic, authentic, dedicated, and passionate as you are.
You are far from becoming a perfect person, but it doesn’t matter. I still love you! ❤️
BTW, what would your love letter to yourself say? Happy Valentine's Day!