Imagine your 9-year-old self coming up to hug you. 

What would they say? What would they see? Would she think what I’m wearing was crazy? Would she be happy, excited, sad, fearful? What would it feel like? 

Imagining my soon-to-be 26-year-old self being embraced by my 9-year-old self, I imagine it to be a simple encounter. I can hear her say in her little voice, everything’s going to be okay.

She might not understand all that I have gone through, she might be excited to see what adult Soleil looks like, she might just want to play, do some craft, or go share a snack. But at that moment, she wouldn’t care about the past or the future. She would just be here, hugging me. 

A quarter of a century I’ve been here on this Earth. Lived life, built and shared experiences. Forgotten some moments, idolized others. Thought too much about the future, dwelled too much on the past, strived to live for the present.

Without question, this has been one of the hardest years for me. But I’ve learned that in the hardest moments, that is where growth happens. That after death, there is new life. That the hope of the Gospel started with a moment of pain and darkness. That to blossom you must start in the dirty, dark dirt under the ground to grow above and beyond the grass. That the first step into grace and seeing life with gratitude is to honor and grieve what is lost.  

I’ve shared this sentiment in snippets, but 25 rocked me. I’ve experienced whole shifts in everything I thought I knew and believed.  

But as I step into my 26th year, I’ve never felt more different, and yet, fully me.

What moved away made room for more. What I thought was good and great became grand and glorious. Old thoughts and views moved away to make room for greater strength in my physical body, a deeper sense of humility and maturity, an honest view of love and relationships, a step into an elevated phase of womanhood. 

New life after death. 

I didn’t think 26 was going to be anything special but I think that’s what makes it even more special. That there’s nothing on the agenda, so anything – the wildest of things – makes it on. 

There’s a lot I want to do this year. A short list of 26 includes earthing more, increasing my strength, reading more, hiking and stretching more, pushing my creativity, getting back into blogging, learning more about photography, starting a few businesses, spontaneous solo trips, growing my relationships with my parents and family, minimizing time wasted and maximizing intentionality in all things I do.

Mid-twenties is an exciting and vibrant time to live, and also confusing and chaotic and sometimes a mess. But I think there’s no other way to experience it. To sum up in a few words, I’ve found Slyvia Path’s writing to express what I feel most in this time of life;

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

-Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

So what would my 26-year-old say to my 9-year-old self? What would I see in my younger self? What advice would I give her?

I’d hug her back with the most love I could give and say something similar to what I say to my nieces and nephews at that age; “I love you…what do you want to do?”

And once we got a snack or started a game, I’d want to learn from her. Have her tell me her stories, what she feels and likes, what makes her sparkle and curious. To be reminded of all the things I have and how I learned. To teach me how to be her.

And with the inquisitive wonderment of a child, she may ask me what 26 is like. And I’d want to tell her is all the things she has coming for her. 

I’d tell her that adventure is always with her, to not limit her creativity, to not put too much pressure on herself and that perfection is a myth. I’d tell her that you can’t be all things for all people and that it’s okay to change and in fact, good to change. I’d tell her that there is a world of opportunities in front of her and no better person than her to go for them. I’d remind her to appreciate her body in all its beauty, to honor her boundaries and others, and to never lose her sense of wonderment. I’d encourage her to be the best version of herself that she can be, to continually challenge herself, and that being knowledgeable, kind, gracious, and loving is enough. 

I remember thinking 26 was so old. If anything, I hope my 26-year-old self becomes more like my 9-year-old self.

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