When I decided to take a little Personal Retreat last month, I’d been reading the book Something More by Sarah ban Breathnach. She was stressing that one of the first steps for getting in touch with your authentic self was to revisit favorite places and events of your childhood.
I found myself thinking about the horse camp, Flying Horseshoe Ranch, that I went to every summer from age eight to fifteen. Suddenly a lightbulb went off in my head and I decided to take several days of my upcoming vacation time to stay at Flying Horseshoe, which had now become a guest ranch and was no longer a kids’ camp. What better way to get in touch with an important place from my childhood than to go back and immerse myself in that very place.
Flying Horseshoe was important to me for a couple of reasons. Mainly two. 1) Horses. Definitely the most important reason, and 2) lack of bullies.
I was the victim of some serious bullying at my school. Physical beatings. Verbal abuse. Molestation. I would come home from school in tears and with bruises all over my body, and my mother’s response was, “Oh, kids will be kids. Just ignore them.” It was me against an entire group of about ten kids who were all bigger and stronger than me. Somehow the school was unware of what was happening, or if they knew, they did nothing.
Anyway, I didn’t mean go off on a tangent. Back to camp.
I felt safe there. I had friends. I found myself in leadership positions. People treated each other kindly. The few incidents of bullying that I was aware of were dealt with swiftly, and the perpetrators were sent home.
While growing up, I always felt like I could be my most authentic self at camp. I wasn’t afraid. I could speak up without fear of ridicule. I could live out my love of horses without kids making fun of me. So it was interesting being back at Flying Horseshoe as an adult. So many memories. And I found myself wondering how to get in touch with that girl who was confident and funny and competent and courageous and a leader and graceful. None of those are words I would really use to describe myself now. So much “life” has happened and torn me down from the best version of myself.
I’m not sure how to bring that earlier version of myself back into the light. Or maybe add those attributes into my current life. But having some time to be quiet and thoughtful at the place of refuge of my childhood was interesting and gave me a great deal of food for thought.
What places from your past may hold secrets to your authentic self? You can’t know what memories will be triggered if you reacquaint yourself with who you once were.