“Hey, Joey.” A Candid Conversation with My Inner Four-Year-Old

“Hey, Joey.”

“What?” she says.

“Just saying hey.”

“Hey,” she replies sharply.

She glances up at me with her foggy goggles and sandy hair to see who interrupted her playtime. Once in a while, I visit my inner child to connect and check-in. I often meet her at the beach where we grew up, where we both feel the safest and free.

It’s always a precious moment, to approach myself at four years old, even though when we first started meeting, she didn’t want to talk to me. She felt abandoned. She says that I was making life, in her words “hard and sucky” and she was pretty upset about it. It’s easy to be patient about this because I completely understand.

Still, I wonder why she reacted sharply. Then I remember she still doesn’t like being called Joey at this age. I just continue the chat.

“What’s this?” I ask her, gesturing to her creation.

“A castle.”

“Nice.”

“Yeah. It’s going to float in the air,” she says. “But it’s not ready yet.”

“Nice.”

“Yeah.”

“Hey, I just want to tell you something.”

“What?”

“I’m proud of you,” I tell her.

“Ok.”

“I mean, you’re gonna do good.”

“Thanks,” she replies.

“It’s also… well, it’s gonna get rough.”

“Ok.”

“I mean, you’re gonna find your way, too.”

“Ok.”

“I mean, you’re gonna find out what you’re really made of. You’re strong enough for that. Like Thundercats and She-ra, you’re going to have your own superhero journey. That means it’s gonna have some real, real tough parts. Even though you’ll surround yourself with an amazing tribe of friends and helpers, you have to figure out your own way. A true adventure.”

I crouch down and stare at the waves as she continues to drip sand spires on her castle. She pretends not to care, but I know she absorbs everything honest and I can feel her interest.

“Listen. What’s gonna happen is that you’re gonna lose everything you thought you wanted. Many times over. At a point, it will feel like…”

I reach for a metaphor that we can both relate to.

“Like your life is playing the same song on repeat. A song you used to play but never really loved and now it’s as if somebody turned it way up and you can’t turn it off. It’s your old life shedding away. And it only lasts as long as it takes you to let it go. The more it plays, the more maddening it will feel. But not forever. It will just feel like life forever. But it all turns out magnificent. You’ll see.”

“You’ll also explore depths of yourself that you spent a lifetime trying to put band-aids on. This is where you have to stay extra strong because this takes some time. All the while, other people who are covered head to toe in band-aids and don’t even know it will tell you that you should stop looking under yours. But you’ll trust your guidance. You’ll know that you can’t become what life is pulling you towards with all of those old, stinky band-aids.”

“Ew,” she sneers.

“Exactly. Hey, remember when She-ra was captured in a cave with an extra powerful force field and she didn’t think she’ll ever get out, but then she did? You’ll get out too. You’ll get out and see that you were never stuck in the first place. You’re going to understand how life works. You’re going to laugh at all of that struggle and even fall in love with it. And you know what?”

I pause for effect.

“You’re going to fall in love with being weird.”

She smiles softly.

“Yes,” I continue, “You’ll realize that the things that make people think you’re weird are the same things that are the source of your superpowers. Pretty cool, right?”

“Cool.” She shrugs her shoulders.

“Basically, life won’t make sense for a long time – and then it will.”

“Life does not make sense,” she says.

“Yep. I sure get that. That’s why I’m here. So I can tell you that eventually, it does. Everything that comes is preparing you for the next step, but you only get to know the next step. That’s why it doesn’t make sense.”

“Ok,” she says.

“Listen, it’s worth it. It’ll eventually feel like all the hamsters in the world came to visit you on your birthday and you get to take them all to the beach. For a whole week. A month. The whole summer.”

She has a serious thing for hamsters.

“All the hamsters?!” she asks with wide eyes.

I nod.

“Yes! All of them. Just for you. It’s a beautiful adventure, really. You’re going to put all that glorious grit and reclaimed joy into your stories.”

“I’m going to make stories?”

“Yeah. You’re gonna write so many stories you won’t know what to do with them all.”

“What kind of stories?”

“The kind with castles in the sky and little goggle-faced girls on the beach.”

A wave crashes and foamy water floods her castle. She takes advantage of this opportunity to quickly dig where there are bubbles. Sand crabs live under the bubbles, but you have to be fast to catch them.

I smile and stand up.

“Keep going, ok?” I say. “It’s worth it.”

She nods, still digging.

“Also, don’t let anyone tell you that goggles aren’t cool.”

She stops and looks up at me.

“Yeah!” She says enthusiastically.

“Goggles are way cool,” I say.

She stops digging to really be with me now. Watching me through her foggy goggles, she smiles.


Also published on Medium.