Thoughts with my younger me

If I could transport back in time and speak to my younger self, my seven-year-old self, I’d tell her how beautiful she is and to never lose that imagination. She loved pretending to be Pocahontas and run on the front lawn barefoot as if dashing through the forest. She played in a kiddie pool with her neighborhood friend. She loved dancing in her backyard to her boom box that played Britney Spears CD’s.

I would travel back to middle school and whisper to thirteen-year-old me that I shouldn’t insist that dad buy those boots that I’d never wear to the school dance.

To my seventeen-year-old self, I would tell her that her boyfriend would not be the man she’d spend the rest of her life with and to thank the heavens for that. I’d tell her that she will spend the next ten years of her life with all of the wrong boys.

“The man you’re going to spend the rest of your life with,” I’d say, “is with the wrong ones, too. Be patient, and continue on. He’ll find you when God knows you’re both ready.”

If I could check in with the woman I was five years ago, I’d tell her to be prepared for her life to take a giant turn.

I’d tell her, “The storm will come in and it will be fierce. But like everything, it will die down and you will find an even greater strength within you. You will be braver than you have ever been.”

Checking in with the woman I am now, I am telling her not to crumple up this page and throw it away. I am telling her to keep writing and believing in herself, because I know my seven-year-old self would tell twenty-six-year-old me to do what I love and get my feet dirty.

Seven-year-old Amanda is my guide as much as I am hers. She reminds me to embrace the imagination within me, dance when I think no one is watching, and stay in touch with old friends. Thirteen-year-old me whispers, “Dad will always have your back.” She tells me that in his eyes, though, I don’t need boots in order to be beautiful. Seventeen-year-old Amanda is on the verge of finding love and tells me to never give up on it when I have found the right one. I reassure her that I have indeed found him.  Twenty-one-year-old me reminds me that every day is a gift. Live it as though tomorrow won’t come.

Time collapses upon itself to reveal an untold story: the one I am living now and the one I will continue to live. I honor what me at seven, at thirteen, at seventeen, at twenty-one went through to get here.

This is where I am meant to be.













My father smiled sitting there in the Starbucks at a small wooden table across from the regional manager who would promise to put in an emergency exit sign on the back door.

“And the store needs to close an hour earlier,” I said glaring at the corporate weapon in his black uniform.

He continued to nod his head, asserting his submission and concealing the doubt.

“She’s a fighter,” my dad said. “She’s not backing down.”

The manager laughed in relief. My armpits were sweating, my mouth full of cotton.

I used to drive past that Starbucks on 3rd and Market, seeing the red letters ‘EMERGENCY EXIT’ on the door.

Yes, I was a fighter, I think to myself. But I was a coward.

How can I be proud of myself for those red letters? I ran away like a scurrying rat, taking workers comp with me.

If I could relive that night again when the man robbed us, I would.

In that moment, I had two choices: do as he said or not. The thought even crossed my mind to grab the gun and aim it at him. But we weren’t trained to react. Baristas were trained to be brave by not reacting, giving away the money and going back to work the next day.

I wasn’t brave.

I just wanted to fight.

Those co-workers of mine who were there that night, they went back to work the next day. No tears or complaints. That’s brave – to clock in, put on an apron and smile like nothing happened the night before.

I don’t know if my fighting and resistance helped to make that Starbucks safer. I doubt it.

My mother, the teacher, hugs me warmly and says that I did the right thing.

“You learned so much from this,” she encourages.

I used to sit at a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, soak in the Riverside sun and watch businessmen and women stride around downtown.

A young musician with her guitar strummed in front of the antique shop. The homeless, belly exposed, wandered erratically. Elegant women strolled across the street in their heels toward the Mission Inn Hotel and Spa.

What have they fought for?

I want to say that I’m as brave and as passionate as that young musician playing her soul on the sidewalk with her open black guitar case. I’m as grounded as the trees methodically planted within the pedestrian mall, and as steady as the chiming bells echoing from the monument on Mission Inn Avenue.

Maybe I’ll forgive the corporate puppets one day for doing their job and reminding me the compliant employee I could have been. Unlikely.

My brother was the first person I told after the robbery happened. I was almost compliant. I was five seconds from closing my bedroom door and going to sleep, planning to wake up and going back to work the next day.

What if I hadn’t told my brother? What if I was persuaded back to work? How different my life would be.

What if…

I would have been owned by corporate. I guess a part of me still feels somewhat owned by corporate, by a system, out of fear and self-preservation. Especially now more than ever that I am in the military.

My guard is up more than ever after going through basic training and finishing AIT. But I reflect on that moment when my father called me a fighter. I keep that with me when I feel owned by my fear and regret.

From my mother, I remember that I have learned more about myself, and I owe it to myself to keep learning and changing.

This is also something I carry with me as I write my story.