I spent half the day yesterday searching for my social security card. After ransacking every possible place in my house that I could think of, I found myself sitting on the floor of my closet in front of my last box of hope. Mind you, it’s been at least 10 years since I’ve even seen my social security, let alone needed it, and it had easily been longer since I had seen the contents of the box in front of me. So out of final desperation, I opened the container. And lo and behold, what I found was so much more “me” than my missing nine digit ID card.
The box was a plethora of memorabilia. The main box contained several other smaller boxes, and inside each one I had packed away years of birthday cards, class notes from high school, year books, and journals. I skimmed through everything, trying to avoid getting distracted, focused on the task at hand, looking for what I had initially set out to find. But the more I searched and the deeper I dug, I couldn’t help but be reminded of what I was like at the age of 17, 20, even 25. And seeing who I was then made me think about who I am now over a decade later.
There were constants I came across. My sense of humor, smart-ass mouth, empathy for others, courage to stand up for what I believe in, and irrepressible wanderlust to see the world, haven’t wavered. My best friend is still my best friend and the guy I was in love with at 21 is still the man I’m in love with today. But I’ve changed in so many other ways, mostly for the better. I’m less judgmental, less critical of myself and others. I’ve outgrown friendships that I once held so close but are no longer constructive, and I’ve gained the maturity to understand that it’s okay to let go of those relationships.
My birthday cards allowed me to see and feel how much I’m loved and reminded me of how fortunate I am to have the parents and siblings I have, and how special my life-long friends are. The notes reminded me of the dramas of my youth, of crushes and broken hearts, rebellions and angst, of the time spent wishing for things to be different, not realizing that it was a time to be enjoyed.
The journals (and I mean years of journals), however, were the most telling. They allowed me to remember what I wanted for myself and out of life. I felt a bit awkward at first, not sure if I’d be opening a can of worms. I didn’t want to feel disappointed about how I wanted my life to turn out. I didn’t want the naivete of youth to overshadow the reality of experience.
But curiosity always gets the better of me, so I prepared myself and I started to look through them. Some pages that caught my eye, I read beginning to end; others I skimmed and moved on. It turns out I wasn’t as far off from my ambitions and goals as I had thought I’d be. Turns out more than anything, I wanted to be a writer, and I’m doing that. I wanted to live a quiet life, in a cozy house, creating things, and I do. I wanted to travel and see the world and I’ve done that too. Kids and marriage were never part of the package that I saw for myself back then, and considering I don’t have either, which isn’t really the norm at my age, I was ever so thankful for that insight from my younger self reminding me that it’s more choice than circumstance.
I promised myself back then to always choose the things that make me happiest, to hold onto my dreams and believe in my ideas. I promised myself to make my life anything and everything I wanted it to be. And I’ve tried to adhere to those things since. Being able to look back at my teens and early twenties made me thankful for the adult (yikes!) that I’ve grown up to be. There are days when I question myself and the decisions I’ve made, playing the should have, would have, could have game. But finding those memories reinforced to myself that I’m where I’m suppose to be. All the struggles and achievements, all the good and bad decisions, helped me find my way and while I may have strayed off course occasionally and taken an alternate road to get to where I am now, I arrived safely and on time.
Also by Danielle: How I Left the City and Moved into a House in the Woods
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Photo: Hope via Flickr