87: To Thine Own Self Be True

87: To Thine Own Self Be True

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Amazing Mom

To Thine Own Self Be True

One of the most important relationships we’ll have is the relationship we have with our mothers.

~Iyanla Vanzant

The country roads are horrendously icy this evening, so I take extra care driving home. As my small, tin-can car moves steadily down our long driveway, I realise it’s not just the harsh British weather that’s slowing me down.

I’m reluctant to arrive. So nervous to tell her what’s happened.

The situation I now find myself in will change my life forever. I’ve just been offered a new job, hundreds of miles from home. In less than a month, I’ll be gone. For some people, these decisions are no big deal, but those of us who are deeply connected to those who raised us can feel their hearts breaking before we’ve even packed our bags.

“She has to understand,” I whisper to myself as I pull up outside the house. “It’s her influence, after all.”

My love for literature and theatre is directly inherited from my mum. Whilst other kids my age were opening new make-up on their sixteenth birthdays, I was hugging the heavy anthologies of William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Sylvia Plath . . . to name a few.

Now, one of those great names would drag me across our country quite literally. I’d secured a position working for the largest theatre company in the world, dedicated to performing the works of The Bard. I was going to live in his hometown—quaint little Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire.

Throughout the whole recruitment process, I kept telling myself that it was my destiny. An emotional force constantly re-assured me that this was where I was meant to go. This upheaval would allow me to truly become myself.

I started talking before I’d finished walking through the door. “Mum, I need to tell you something.”

“Me, too.”

I looked puzzled. “Um, okay. You first.”

She walked off into the next room and returned with a small parcel, wrapped in light blue paper, and handed it to me.

“I bought this for you yesterday,” she muttered. “I don’t know . . . don’t know why, but I thought it was important that . . . I give you this.” She looked uncomfortable, like something was troubling her. I tore open the package like that sixteen-year-old version of myself.

Inside was a beautiful silver chain, and from it dangled a ring. Inside the ring, I could see the inscription: This above all—to thine own self be true. My jaw dropped. My new boss had spoken.

“Why did you get this?”

“I just felt compelled to buy it, like I said. I don’t know why. I can’t explain it. Do you like it? Do you recognise the words from Hamlet, one of our favourite plays?” She looked into my eyes. “I just . . . wanted to let you know that you must always be true to yourself, no matter what.”

I burst into tears. Then, at a million miles an hour, I told her everything.

That I was leaving.

That we wouldn’t live together anymore.

That I was scared.

That, for some reason, I just knew this was my path.

That I was going to work for the man whose words were inscribed on this piece of metal.

That I would miss her terribly.

That I was, just as the engraving stated, going to be true to the voices in my head.

She was overjoyed. And shocked. Not at the move, but the synchronicity of our thoughts. This sentence, spoken by Polonius, is the last piece of advice that Laertes hears from his father before he goes overseas.

They were now my own parting gift from the woman closest to me in the world. A woman who, until a few seconds ago, had no idea I was even considering this move.

Language can hold a power that is, ironically, inexplicable. A small saying can pick us up when we’re at our lowest. A quote can inspire us to make life-changing decisions. Books written by these legends remain in our bedrooms throughout our lives, tucked away in a sea of our favourite stories lined up on our shelves. We sleep alongside their voices; perhaps that’s why they find their way into our dreams. I had always believed that words could change lives, but had never even considered that they could predict the future.

The following week, I would be late for my goodbye dinner—too busy getting those nine words tattooed on the back of my neck. I would contemplate the perplexing experience my mother and I shared that day, how it transcended the worlds of literature and motherhood. Our spiritual connection could only be remembered with a permanent reminder on my body.

This inky mark, now on my skin, will be with me until the day I die. For me, these will always be powerful words. Not because they were spoken by Shakespeare, or Polonius . . . but because they were a message from my mother.

~Rebecca Rimmer

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