I watch her, a blue-eyed eighteen-year-old, speak directly into the microphone. Her eyes sparkle as she addresses the congregation. Her posture is impeccable.
She is me twelve years ago. I was the blue-eyed girl who felt like 18 was so much older than 17. Eighteen just sounds like you’re on the brink of something, and I knew I was.
I was weeks away from high school graduation, months away from moving to an out-of-state school.
My posture was impeccable.
At 18, I walked around with a confidence born of a supportive family, mercifully competent social skills, and a belief in who I was. The excitement of being 18—of being on the cusp of my whole life—lived and breathed around me. It filled the room when I walked in.
Now, though, I’m standing on the other side. It took seeing that blue-eyed me speaking in church last week to realize that I’m now—inexplicably—past all the milestones I dreamed of and longed for when I was 18.
Things that seemed so foreign to me then are as familiar to me now as my own reflection. My husband’s face—
My children’s profiles, from every angle—
My dishwasher full of sippy cups and my diaper bag full of goldfish crumbs.
It’s so blessedly normal now that it’s hard to remember ever not knowing this life.
Dan Gilbert says we reinvent ourselves every ten years. (And we always think we’re finished, even though we never really are.)
I’ve been re-made in the last decade, and sometimes I miss that youthful confidence (typical teenage insecurities aside :) that I came by easily. It was a confidence that life would give me what I sought.
Now, I’ve been humbled. I’ve struggled to reconcile my expectations for my life as a mom and a wife to my reality. I’ve mothered two tiny boys while my husband worked late into the night and left early each morning. I’ve experienced periods of depression right in the middle of some of the most joyful days of my life. (It makes no sense, I know.) And I’ve watched people I care about go through the same (and sometimes much more).
I no longer trust that life will give me what I seek. But on my best days, I can trust that whatever paths I’m led to are the paths I’m meant to tread. Any confidence I walk with now, though it may not feel as shiny or as loud as it did when I was 18, has more staying power, because it’s been tossed around, scuffed, and tested.
To borrow some beautiful words from Katrina Kenison—
When the going gets tough…
May I remember that my life is what it is, not what I ask for.
May I practice with what I’m given, rather than wish for something else.
May I assume nothing.
May I turn my gaze up to the sky above my head, rather than down to the mess at my feet.
When the going gets tough may I choose love over fear. Every time.
And may we always love the latest versions of ourselves.
I write a lot about growing up. It seems to be a thread that I just can’t help but tug at again and again. :)
Can you relate to that contrast between your sense of self at age 18 and your sense of self now? I’d love to hear how your experiences have paralleled or differed from mine. As always, thanks so much for being here! Your sweet words make it so much easier to open up and keep writing. Much love!