My current self and my 19 year old self 

Last week my mom stayed with a us a few days, and one night she came up in to my room to talk to me about something and asked me about the pictures on my wall.

From left to right: overlooking a canal in Venice, looking up in the Roman Pantheon, the Coliseum, and the Eiffel Tower.

Let me back up a little and give some context: these pictures have special meaning to me. I took them myself 9 years ago on an overseas adventure with one of my friends from high school. We had planned this trip for months (maybe a few years?), and I even blogged about it. (You can find it {here} if you’re interested in reading the ramblings of my 19 year old self as we traveled through Germany, Paris, Italy, and Croatia.)

When I came home John got a few of my pictures framed as a memento; they hung in various places of prominence for a few years until they eventually got pushed into storage in favor of baby and family photos. As I was unpacking from our recent move I was hit with a wave of nostalgia and decided that I NEEDED to have these picture back in my life. So I hung them in our bedroom. (Hope you don’t mind, John!)

And then my mom asked, while looking up at them, “If you could sum up those pictures in just one word or phrase, what would you say? What do they mean to you now, and what do they make you think of?” Oh mom, you sure have a knack for asking the questions that pierce me through and make me think.

My answer: every time I look at those pictures they bring to mind not only the specifics of the time and place they were taken and the fun memories of that summer, but even more so they remind me of who I was at that time. They remind me of all the ideals I held, the hopes and ambitions I dreamed up for myself, and the things I used to be passionate about.

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A night in Rome, 2008

Let me paint that picture for you. When I was 19 I was single (though John and I had met and would start dating that fall when I returned), attending college at Grant MacEwan, and working part-time at Chapters, a bookstore that I could walk to from the house I shared with 5 other girls. I loved being in school, I loved the atmosphere of learning, and I wanted to be a Speech-Language Pathologist or study art history.  But I also wanted to travel and teach English overseas for a while before I settled down, and I desperately wanted to go to New York City and to Greece. I loved my job at the bookstore because I loved being around books and bookish people all day. I wanted to learn how to play the cello, so even though I was poor I worked, budgeted, and sacrificed so I could rent an instrument and then lugged that things several blocks through the city and on the bus to my lessons. I had some great friends that I had a lot of fun with. I loved going to the farmers market and exploring my city and neighborhood. I was happy and felt that life was full of promise, I was so excited about all the opportunities and experiences life was sure bring.

Sometimes its hard not to feel the disconnect between the life I thought I’d live and the life I’m living right now. I didn’t get to do very many of things I so wanted- I never finished my degree, never taught English overseas, never went to NYC. As life filled with other commitments and jobs and a different set of dreams I stopped working at the bookstore, stopped going to the farmers market, forgot how much I loved art history, I dropped my cello lessons, and lost touch with friends. Dreams of travel fell to the wayside as things like financial stability, home, and family, took priority. I’m a completely different person now than I was then.

And that’s not a bad thing.  I’m not upset about it, not really. Maybe I used to be, but I’m not anymore. I love my life now- I love the relationship I have with John and my boys and would never trade that for all the degrees and international flights in the world. Sometimes I miss the person I used to be, and the dreams and ideals I held; but I think that’s just because this person that I’m becoming now, this adult, is still new. I only recently got a foothold on this whole motherhood thing, and so only recently have I  been able to look up and see what lies ahead and around me. My future is just as bright, even if it only comes in small glimpses- the light of understanding in a child’s eye, the laughter and conversation on late nights with close friends, the quiet confidence that only comes with age, the adventures of a family holiday, the long and sustaining love a marriage tried and tested. Its all there, all that hope and promise, just a little less defined. We’ll figure it out, my 19 year old self and I.

Because when I look at those photos of Europe on my wall they remind me of who I used to be, of all the dreams and ideals and hopes that made me who I was. I need to honor her, remember her.  I can do this by re-igniting the passion for pursuing my interests, the insatiable appetite for learning, and by letting myself dream of a life of travel. I honor myself by loving the life that I’m living out, inhabiting each moment, feeling the overflowing gratitude for all the beauty and love that surrounds me. And not forgetting that 19 year old girl- I am who I am because of her, and she’s still there inside.

I can almost imagine my 19 year old self saying, if she could see me now: don’t worry, I’ve had you’re back. While you’ve been struggling to find yourself within motherhood, I’ve kept all the old ideals, our hopes and dreams, and safeguarded them until you were ready to be reminded of them, and embrace them once again.

And now: you’re ready.

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