Chad Grayson

To My Younger Self

Grayscale photo of wooden dock on sea

I heard the now Grammy-winning Brothers Osborne song, Younger Me, today and really listened to it for the first time.  And it kind of got me in my feelings a little, thinking about my relationship with my younger self.

I was so angry with him for the longest time. I thought he had ruined our life, that he’d been a coward. And yeah, there were sometimes he could have been braver, but really, he kept us safe. He kept us alive and whole, even though it was hard for him to understand that something good was coming.

Part of how he kept us safe was by keeping certain things locked down, which was not always healthy. He kept us safe by not acknowledging one of our core truths, and maybe he shouldn’t have done that, maybe he should have let some things be dragged out kicking and screaming into the light, but if he had? Well … I’m not sure we could have dealt with the fallout.

He wanted a marriage, and he wanted a family so, so badly, and there was only one path he could imagine that was open to accomplishing that. So, he convinced himself that he was in love. And yeah, that wasn’t great, especially for her. But it meant that we were in the right place at the right time to adopt Sarah, and then Drew. And even now, I would not have given that up.

He stayed in an unhealthy situation far longer than was reasonable, true. But in doing so, he made sure we were there to take care of our kids, to be a daily presence in their lives until they were grown. That was a sacrifice he made for us, and I am grateful for it.

I’m grateful to that guy for many things. For pursuing an education. For getting us the fuck out of Indiana. For the friendships he pursued and maintained. And I’m grateful to him for not giving in to bitterness and despair, no matter how miserable he was. He did not take his pain and inflict it on other people. Yeah, he lost his shit sometimes (still a problem!) but he always tried to repair the damage done. He wasn’t always successful at this, but he tried.

He also pursued development as a writer, which has really started to pay off the last couple of years. He kept pushing through the million words of crap we needed him to produce, even though he had no real sense that this was going anywhere.

If I could speak to him, I would tell him that it would have been okay to embrace his authentic self-earlier, that the darkness he saw inside himself was not darkness, but difference. I would tell him that one day he would be able to admit the truth to himself, and then to speak the truth out loud. And it would be hard, and it would be terrifying, but that it would be okay.

I would tell him that, yes, he would lose some people in this process, but that he would gain others. But that he wouldn’t lose the most important people, his parents and his kids.

I would tell him that it was okay if he felt like he was falling apart all the time, that true strength lies in putting yourself back together. The hard things would make him strong. I would thank him for not numbing himself with drugs and alcohol, and also tell him that he should stick up for himself a little more forcefully.

But most of all, I want him to know that I appreciate his service. I am thankful for everything he did to keep us together and alive. It really was a heroic effort.

So that’s what I want him to know. That I am thankful.

So, thank you for everything you did, everything you endured. Thank you for giving me the life that I have now, a life that I love.

I’ll take it from here.

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