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“Are you just looking at pictures of yourself on Facebook again?”
That’s what my roommate would say whenever she caught me in the act. Just flipping through photos of myself. Sheepish and red-cheeked, I would put my phone down. How vain could you be? Just ticking away moments looking at yourself.
But what my roommate didn’t realize is that often when I do that, it’s because I can’t believe those photos are me. The places I’ve been, the things I’ve done, the friends I’ve made.
I often wonder what my reaction would have been if we could show those photos to my 16 year old self:
“Like, hold up. Who is this girl? When did my hair get so long? Who are all these people? Is that a glacier? Do I live in the city? That must be far from my parents. Who did I steal these skydiving photos from? Do they give marathon medals for only running a mile? Because last time I checked, that’s all I can do, or will ever do. Must be a participation award. And why don’t I appear to have a boyfriend in these photos? Seriously, WHY? Better question, am I not married? I don’t see a ring. I. DON’T. SEE. A. RING. Good grief girl, what happened? And oh, hold on, I’m sorry, is that a POLE I’m hanging upside down on? Damn girl. Hanging by that one leg is amazing but, no. These photos can’t be me. This wasn’t supposed to happen. That isn’t who I am. This girl is too badass, too beautiful, too independent, and again, too single to be me.”
And yet, she is me. The most real version of me that I’ve ever known.
My younger self had no idea what was out there in the world, what she actually wanted, or just how often “supposed to happen” turns into “how did this happen”.
It’s difficult now to fathom the contrast between who I am and who I was back then. Growing up I’d never really seen a woman go off on her own and do her own thing, especially without a husband, so that wasn’t even an option I entertained. I wasn’t miss independent, I wasn’t going to travel the world, and I wasn’t particularly passionate about anything. All I remember is that I wanted to get married and have kids, and I’m not even sure that it’s because I truly wanted those things at that time, or at least not for the right reasons. That’s just what was supposed to happen.
But then it didn’t happen. In fact, at 29, it still hasn’t happened. But I often find myself in awe of what has happened.
Within the last seven years I’ve moved to Baltimore, lived with roommates I’d never met, moved four times, and now have my own apartment. I’ve been a wedding planner, a direct sales consultant, a social worker, a data analyst, a contract manager, and a project manager. I’ve been to four countries, run two marathons, went skydiving and hang gliding, competed in a pole dancing competition (Yep. My mom was there), and started two blogs. I’ve made countless new friends and reconnected with old ones. I’ve handled and pulled myself through tough situations that I didn’t even know I had it in me to manage. I got a cat and have since decided she’s enough for me to take care of without needing, or really even desiring, to have kids. And I’ve decided that now I want a husband not because I need one or its just supposed to happen, but because I want someone to share all of this with.
I’ve learned more about who I actually am and what I actually want in the last 7 years than I did in the first 22, largely because what I thought was my next step fell out from under me.
I was forced in a new direction, into possibilities that were unknown. And I’ve since found pieces of myself that I didn’t even know existed. Important ones. Pieces that have passion, that breed confidence, and that are more open-minded to what else could be. For a girl who wasn’t going to travel the world, didn’t have passions of her own, and especially wasn’t going to be independent, I’ve done a sharp 180.
And certainly, there would have been nothing wrong with my life turning out the way that I planned.
There’s nothing wrong with graduating college, getting married and having kids. And maybe a lot of what I’ve discovered about myself, I still would have found even then. But I’ve realized that for me, that life at that time was only what I wanted because it was what I thought was next. I never thought about why I really wanted it for me and who I am. I never thought about it beyond the fact that it was supposed to happen.
I say all of this not to give you an inventory of my life, but rather to tell you that if your “supposed to happen”, didn’t happen, if your next step has vanished, I promise you the world is bigger than you think, there’s more opportunity than you can fathom, and there’s more to you than you know right now.
And someday when you look back, you’ll realize there were places you didn’t know you belonged and pieces of yourself you didn’t know were missing.
Suddenly there will be a whole world beyond what you knew was possible, beyond what you thought was supposed to be.