A Letter to My Little Self
By Keri Bowers
Circa 1965… The yellow bus squealed to a halt. As the doors flung open, the angry man yelled “I’ve been searching for you; get on this bus right now, Keri!” I do not know why I chose to walk home from kindergarten to my house faraway on Franklin Avenue in Hollywood. I only know I distinctly remember feeling disconnected from the unreal reality of my family and my five year old self. Stoically, I replied to the ass bus driver: “I do not belong on that bus,” and with shame, I lowered my head, climbed the stairs, and walked down the narrow isle to my seat as all the kids laughed.
Dear precious one,
You cannot feel it now, but one day you will not just love yourself, but you will actually like yourself. I know, I know, it’s hard to imagine knowing how isolated you feel. I know that even a loving foster mother and sister cannot take the place of a disconnected mother – but they will show you what love looks like.
You cannot see it now, but one day your past will lead you to a future where your experiences form the basis of leadership and compassion for others. Every single experience – save none – will be the basis for all your future decisions – and most of them will be good ones. You’ll see, you’ll be proud of yourself.
You cannot imagine it now, but one day you will cherish your own children’s right and need for a joyful childhood. Your life experiences – especially the hardest ones – will teach you what your children need most; to be seen and heard. I promise you, Keri, you will be a great mother – and that will reflect in your grown children’s eyes and actions.
You cannot trust it now, but one day you will look back and be grateful for the darkness you experience now that will beget the light in (our) future. It’s not that I wish or want darkness for you, I’m just saying for a while, that will be your path – it’s a bitch, right? YUP… But you’ll see… You’ll take those empty, unfulfilled spaces – even the death of the one you vow to love forever – and fill those vacancies with powerful strength that will guide and foster great, significant possibilities.
You cannot not yet know how to believe in promises little one – I know it’s hard for you to trust now; there were so many broken promises… but listen to me – little me with wide, sad eyes, I promise that over time, you will learn that some promises are kept, and that all promises are worth waiting for.
You cannot fathom it now, but one day your sadness will beget BIG joy and love when you meet your firstborn son. You will draw upon the weakness you felt now to know the strength and wisdom that will come with time. Those strengths will be there for you when you both need it most. Your boy will be a gift who will need your empathy – not your sympathy. He will need your eyes; your ears, and especially your voice until he can learn to use his own. He will NEED your guidance and your whole self to be his everything until he can be that for himself. And one day, through each choice you make, you and this boy will fly against the odds. And as surely as you are alive, nothing can or will defeat him or you. And with his gift, one day you will see the world shift ever so slightly with boundless possibilities because this beautiful creature came into your life.
I know you cannot believe it now, but one day you will know the closeness of a mother and child. “Whaaaat?” you say… Yes #indeed. The joy you will experience with your second-born son will give you the chance to know the bond you missed out on. You will know a different and unique kind of love – one you can fully trust. And you will know that not only do you love him, but you actually like him – and get this, he will actually like you! What a promise for your future, egh? And when this comes to pass dear one, you will reflect back on all the difficult years (or decades as it were,) to the cellular memory of somehow “knowing” through all the crapola that you’ll be okay.
And most of all little me, what is lost upon you now, but I need you to know, is that though you cannot presently touch, see or feel this promise – it’s just not yet your time – I can and do promise you this:
ONE DAY YOU WILL BE A BADASS GODDESS MOMMA BEAR; A FABULOUS FORCE OF SUBSTANCE FOR MOSTLY GOOD IN THIS WORLD. YOU WILL GIVE BACK TO THE LITTLE YOU, THE THING YOU DO NOT YET KNOW… THAT GRATITUDE WILL BE YOURS. YOU WILL KNOW WITH NO UNCERTAINTY THAT FOR EVERY STONE YOU STEPPED UPON, AND EVERY FALL YOU EVER TOOK, THOSE WERE NECESSARY TO LEAD YOU TO RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW, TO THIS VERY MOMENT
YOU WILL SEE LITTLE ME, THAT YOU HAVE LIVED A LIFE WELL-SPENT (AND YES, ALL CAPS IS MEANT TO BE SCREAMING THIS TO YOU FROM THE HEAVENS!)
from the very best of me now
P.S. Though I can’t say I would actually change anything in your young life; I believe all things happen for their own reasons, I will caution you on this: Consider it will not be wise to sneak out of the house at 14 to go skinny dipping in the Pacific ocean with a bunch of potheads, while leaving your clothes in a friend’s car who will drive away when the cops come. I promise, you WILL get arrested by the Malibu Sheriff for being a minor displaying public nudity way past curfew.
Keri Bowers is the co-founder of the Art of Autism collaborative, a film producer, speaker, writer, and mom to Taylor and Jace. The Art of Autism is accepting Dear Me letters and videos from autistic people and their parents.