A woman holding her ankles as she wears a pink dress and sits on the floor

If I had a time machine, I wouldn’t go back to try and save the world. Before you judge me too harshly, let me explain. 

I am a 30-year-old, 5-foot-2, plus-size, mixed-race Black woman in America. The year is 2021, and I think it’s safe to say, the world is a mess. There are plenty of moments in time where one could argue that it would be smart to use time travel to go back and “fix” things. But who are we kidding? Time travel doesn’t quite work like that.

Here’s what I would actually do if I had a time machine: I would go back and hug myself at five pivotal moments in my life. Yes, you read that right. I’d use the power of time travel to be kind, compassionate and present for myself.

I’d use the power of time travel to be kind, compassionate and present for myself.

I’d go back and lift up the 5-year-old version of myself, who just saw her father pack his bags and leave her family behind for the first time. I’d make sure that she knows his leaving has nothing to do with her. I’d hug her close, kiss her on the forehead and tell her that she is loved immensely by her father and that she will see him again.

My second trip would be to the locker room of my 10-year-old self who just lied to her group of girlfriends about her weight for the first time. I’d grab her hands and walk her to the mirror. I’d tell her to look closely at the beautiful, curvy girl reflecting back at her. I’d tell her that there is nothing wrong with her body and that numbers on a scale can never define her. I’d hold her close, kiss her on the forehead and tell her that one day, the love of her life would find her and love every inch of her.

I’d visit my 15-year-old self who is insecure about her body and wardrobe, terrified that anyone will realize she’s wearing hand-me-downs and three-year-old shoes that are secretly falling apart. I’d tell her to never let where she came from hold her back from where she’s going. I’d also tip her off that by senior year, she’d be voted “Best Dressed” by her classmates because she turned what she had into something fabulous with her creativity and sewing skills. I’d hold her close, kiss her on the forehead and tell her she is enough.

At 21 years old, I was still two years from college graduation, hopelessly single and trying to “save” my mother by having her move into my college apartment with my siblings and I. I’d go back and tell myself to give my mom more grace because she’s hurting more than I know. I’d remind myself how much my little sister, Shamora, was looking up to me and to be proud of the strength that I portrayed for her. 

I’d hold myself close, kiss her on the forehead and give myself permission to mess up. I cannot save anyone but myself. So I’d tell myself to love the ones I love wholeheartedly and without condition. No matter how hard the moments in life might be, be present in each of them and have grace because we are all hurting.

I’d hold myself close, kiss her on the forehead and give myself permission to mess up.

My final trip back in time would be just two years ago. I was 28, just diagnosed with PCOS, when my 19-year-old sister, Shamora, died. I’d run into that hospital room and wrap my arms around myself in the most painful moment of my life. I’d tell myself that it’s not my fault. There is nothing that could’ve been done to change this. No amount of willpower, protection, strength or self-sacrificing could have stopped this. Epilepsy is a dangerous disease, and this could’ve happened anytime. 

I’d hold myself so close. I’d cry deeply and kiss myself on the forehead. I’d remind myself that Shamora knows how much I love her and that one day, I will be the one to share her story with the world and bring much needed awareness to epilepsy.

If I had a time machine, I wouldn’t go back and save the world. I’d go back and save myself because with healing, self-care and a whole lot of love, we become better people. We become people who do better and who intentionally love the people in our lives while we still can.

If you had a time machine, I hope you’d go back and lift yourself up too. If we all lifted ourselves up a little more, we’d be strong enough to reach back, give back and work together to save the world.

Radical self-love and care, that is the secret to save the world.

What advice would you go back and give your younger self? Why is it important to have grace for our younger selves?

Image via Melanie Acevedo, Darling Issue No. 11

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