A few weeks ago, my good friend Beth sent me a surprise in the mail: a time machine.
sorry for the quality, folks - we still don't have a computer, much less something fancy like a scanner
This photo arrived on the same day I registered to attend my 10-year college reunion, and the double-whammy blast-from-the-past was almost more than I could take. Looking at this carefree little thing, just starting her senior year of high school, with her jaunty ponytail, her swingy vintage dress and retro shoes, dancing and strumming away on a shovel-guitar makes me feel a million miles away from the year 1998 when this was taken. How did the past 15 years go by so fast?
So I've been doing a lot of memory-dwelling lately, going through old photos, reminiscing about who I used to be, and wondering what the 17-year-old girl in this picture would think about her 32-year-old self. She was the only person at her senior awards dinner who didn't say she'd be married with kids ten years after high school - would she be happy to see herself settled down with a toddler and one on the way? Would she be disappointed that she never lived in France like she thought she would? Didn't go to grad school? Would she be surprised to know how little time she plays violin and piano anymore, considering the hours and hours she used to practice and perform? Would she think that the quiet, brilliant philosophy professor she's married to was the kind of guy she always dreamed of ending up with?
Not too long ago, at one of my monthly book club meetings, some friends and I had a chat about how we feel about being "in our thirties." For several of them, they said that their twenties were pretty unsettled and that they felt much more comfortable in their own skin and with the paths their lives are on now that they're past 30. I feel strangely opposite: I think that dancing girl up there was much more sure of herself and confident about what she wanted out of life than I feel now, and it's hard some nights - at 8:47pm when I'm picking up the last of the toys and thinking about whether I should see what's on TV or just head upstairs to read a few pages before falling asleep in my book - not to wallow in "I wasted my youth" self-pity. It's not that I want to relive that time or make different decisions; it's just a little startling to look in the mirror and realize I'm not that person anymore, because the little voice in my head still sounds just like it did back then.
So I'm off to the reunion, and then for a few days of vacation in the same spot where I went on my honeymoon 8 years ago this July. I'll let you know how much of my former self I find while I'm there, because I could use some of that spunk back in my life. (Though I'd probably settle for finding that dress again.)