What would your childhood self think of who you’ve become today?
I recently stumbled upon an old journal of mine as I was doing some spring cleaning. And in typical procrastinator fashion, I took a “break” from cleaning to slump onto the floor against my bed and “quickly flip through” the diary kept by my 14-year-old self (I’m 27 now). I ended up poring over the pages with fascination for the better part of an hour. A few things I noticed:
I wrote a lot back then.
Somehow Young Me was able to tap into her flow of emotions on an almost daily basis and write multiple pages for each entry, whereas now I struggle with writer’s block on a frequent basis. Young Me loved exclamation marks, superfluous adverbs and adjectives, rhetorical questions, and parenthetical asides ( I still seriously, completely love informative, clever parenthetical asides!! Who wouldn’t?). And Young Me reveled in using multi-colored milky pens and populating the margins with whimsical doodles as she bared every corner of her young, unsullied soul. She may have been silly and childlike, but at least she wrote consistently, which Current Me should learn to do.
I was unapologetically earnest and hopeful and naive.
Young Me experienced every good and bad moment, no matter how small, with unadulterated emotion. Hearing her favorite song on the radio in the morning delivered pure, searing joy. Learning that her friend cancelled a slumber party resulted in crushing disappointment. She believed in idyllic romance, good intentions in everybody, and happy endings for all. Young Me could not even begin to fathom the darkness that lurked beneath the false or faltering smiles of many people. I’d like to think that I’ve retained much of the optimism from my youth, but my challenges and experiences in the real world have definitely tempered my idealism to a more reasonable level. And although I did go through a period where I repressed my earnestness and weirdness to fit in, I have since embraced being myself…and there is no one else I’d rather be.
I believed in Future Me…kind of.
When Young Me reflected on the future, she knew without question that I would obtain a good education, find a job that was both stable and enjoyable, and continue to pursue my passions: writing and learning about what drives human behavior. And perhaps it was Young Me’s unflinching trust in myself that put me on the right path to my dreams, without ever wandering too far astray before returning to my slow but steady course.
But Young Me also hoped that “someday my prince will come” (she was a little too submerged in the fanciful romanticism of Disney princess movies, Bollywood films, and romantic comedies). And in that hope, Young Me was slightly less secure, pining for The One but secretly fearing this worst-case-scenario: “At 30, all my friends would become busy with their husbands and families. I would become a loner…a depressed, rich, workaholic whose prince never came.” Good grief. That’s a lot of pressure, Young Me! I only have a couple more years before I turn into a rich, depressed workaholic. And I don’t have a fairy godmother to buy me some time.
I had a lot to learn.
What Young Me didn’t realize is that the “prince” (who in reality will be nothing more than a flawed man who is nonetheless perfect for me) will only come when we are ready. And every time I thought I was ready to meet him (which is, like, always), a relationship or experience imparted a new life lesson that allowed me to grow even more. And personal growth is what it’s all about.
Fundamentally, I haven’t changed much from Young Me. I’m still quirky, dorky, and optimistic. But I have also grown in so many ways. I am no longer a pushover. I’ve learned how to stand up for my beliefs, for what’s right. Though I still dislike confrontation, I don’t avoid it. I’ve become better at -expressing my emotions instead of bottling them up. I’ve learned that I can be a leader. In short, I’ve become a much stronger person. And though Young Me never expected that for me, I think she would be proud =)