Ten Years

Ten years ago today, I graduated high school.

Ten years since I donned a slinky black dress under a red graduation robe. Ten years since I paraded down a football field in a cap and gown to achieve the milestone that is high school graduation.

I was excited and terrified. I was not ready to leave the comforts of a life I had always known but had grown uncomfortable there. I was ready to spread my wings but was too scared to jump out of the nest.

The world was too big for me to navigate but the town where I grew up had grown too small.

It’s been ten years since I was the girl with so much potential and so many dreams.

It’s been ten years since I was sure about who I was.

My 18-year-old self was smart, pretty, and talented. (And tiny. I only weighed 100 pounds when I graduated high school.) This girl was going to go to Broadway. With an all-A GPA after a course load of honors and AP classes, a music scholarship and a two page long list of various honors and accomplishments under her belt, this girl was going to be somebody. This girl was going to be the perfect mom to four children. She would always look pretty and have a clean house. Beside small teenage dramas, this girl’s childhood had been pretty idealistic and she expected nothing less as she leapt out into the world.

A lot happens in ten years.

This woman may still be smart, but no one really recognizes that now. This woman may still be pretty, but not in the head turning way she was at 18. The weight she’s gained over the past ten years and the way having a baby changed her body will never allow her reflection to be the same in the mirror.

This woman stopped trying to pursue her singing talent after life starting throwing her curve balls that she couldn’t get away from. This woman never went to Broadway. This woman experienced the loss of her father and depression. This woman excelled in college but became a teacher instead of a performer. This woman became a mother through a very difficult pregnancy and delivery, and struggled through another bout of foggy depression. This woman sometimes flounders just to hold it all together with one baby, and the thought of having another one terrifies her. This woman’s dreams of being extraordinary washed away over the past decade and this woman struggles with the fact that despite all of her potential of ten years ago, she really grew up to be quite ordinary.

The ten year highschool reunion will be held in August. I had a wonderful high school experience, but as I reflect on these past ten years, I can not convince myself to go. So much has changed since then. As I look back into my highschool past I realize how much of who I was is not who I am. Sometimes I grieve that. I am reluctant to go to the reunion because I feel that somehow I have failed; failed at becoming who I could have been.

In October, it will also be ten years since my dad died. Ten years in which my world shifted and my experiences grew and my understanding of life changed, because my life irreparably changed. I never figured out how to build a sand castle when part of my foundation washed away with the waves.

I once read a quote that said, “When something tragic happens in your youth, you tend to feel that age for the rest of your life.”  I have often felt this way. I feel like I spent the past decade kind of lost. I have made grown up decisions without feeling grown up. Time and life have moved forward without my permission and sometimes I feel like I am digging my feet in the sand and resisting with all my might, but no matter how hard I try, I am pulled into the future anyway.

I will turn 29 this fall and officially be in the last year of my twenties. And I’m oh so glad. I’m so ready not to be in this lost place anymore. I am so ready not to feel like I am still 18 holding on to dreams that will never come true. I am so ready not to spend the next ten years of my life in a blanket of fog, stuck in the middle of who I was and who I am. I am so ready to embrace myself as a woman.

Sometimes I miss the 18-year-old girl. Almost all of the time, I miss her dreams of grandeur. But as much as I may want to,  I will never be that girl again. I think it’s time to let her go. I think it’s time to stop holding on to her standards of beauty and dreams and perfection. I will never be a size zero again, or be famous, or look at the world through the innocence tinted glasses I wore at 18.

If you google my full maiden name, you get a lot of links. She was important. But she’s not here anymore.

If you google my name now, you will not find me. I am lost among laundry and dishes and toddler tantrums. I am buried under bouts of depression. As it turns out, I never turned into anything special.

It took me 18 years to become the person that had so much going for her before. It will take time to create myself again.

It’s not too late to start, is it?

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12 thoughts on “Ten Years

  1. Just to follow up; the most telling thing to me? When I was responding to comments on this post my son saw these two pictures. He pointed to the most recent one and said, “That’s Mommy!” I asked him who the other person was (the picture from when I was 18) and he said, “Um, I just don’t know.”
    Hmmm. I guess a lot really has changed in ten years.

  2. This is heartbreaking, you have me in tears and it’s only 6 am!
    Your struggle sounds so familiar to me… – I am 40 and I still feel that way sometimes.

    All the feelings and experiences you’ve had made you who you are today and it seems to me that you are one strong woman!
    I think it’s normal to mourn the loss of a dream, but it takes courage and determination to form new dreams and pursue those – and you are on the best way to doing that. I have to agree with Julie, your 30s are going to be better! Actually, you can start right now!

    10 year High School Reunions are also overrated 😉
    Best wishes to you, you will be fine!

    • Thank you so very much for these endearing words. I’m so sorry for the 6 am tears! But also very honored.
      You have captured it perfectly; “it is normal to mourn the loss of a dream.” I definitely think the 30s will be better. And it definitely helps to know 10 year reunions are over rated. 🙂
      Thank you so much for your sweet encouragement!

  3. It’s never ever too late.

    I have so many thoughts swirling in my mind about yesterdays and tomorrows and how very ready you are for tomorrow and how proud of you I am for that.

    (I’m ready, too.)

    I think there’s a way to honor your past while you comfortably step into your future. And if anyone can do it gracefully? It’s you.

    xo

    • Swoon. You always know the right thing to say. Thank you so much for reading and for gently reminding me to continue to move forward.
      Truly, thank you.
      xoxo

  4. Pingback: Who’s Embarrassed? | Elated Exhaustion

  5. Oh my goodness, Julia.
    I did not know about the early loss of your father; and I am so sorry.

    I can absolutely understand your desire to move forward from that part of your past and I can almost guarantee you your thirties will be better (you young thing, you!)

    As for the reunion, I admit that my ten-year reunion was an event I approached with mixed emotions; I felt like I had changed but not enough. I worried that we were all still a little too close to high school and the games, politics, insecurities of the time.

    I went anyway. And although I don’t regret it, I will say that after an hour or two of small talk (quick catch-ups, how are yous, sometimes phony conversations) I looked at my new husband (at the time) and said, “Let’s get out of here!” We took off, headed to McDonald’s for some super-sized fries and I never looked back.

    He was my present. He was my future. The past was fun for about an hour.
    But I had moved on.

    (My twenty-year reunion was a completely different story – much better – but now I’m feeling really old so I’ll stop here and save that for another time.)

    Whatever you decide, it will be right for you. You are right. Just as you are.

    • Oh, Julie you have made my day. Thank you so very much for your kind words and sharing a part of your story. I love that you skipped out of the reunion for some McDonalds. 🙂
      Hehe, I guess I am still pretty young. I just can not wait to be in my thirties and just finally feel comfortable in my own skin. I’m ready to be a grown up. (I mean, I guess I kind of am since I’m married with a kid and all, but you know what I mean.)
      Your words mean so very much to me. Thank you, truly. 🙂

  6. I don’t know you and only recently found your blog. But I can tell you this…you did not fail. You are not failing. I’m well into my 30s and I know this — I am not, at age 37, the same person I was at 18, nor am I supposed to be. I have had life experiences that have been hard, and experiences that have been wonderful, and they have shaped me into who I am today. I think at 18 we all have these dreams full of potential & wonder & unlimited possibilities, and that’s the wonderful thing about being 18. But at 37, I am grounded and have the wisdom of what I have learned since then. Being successful isn’t about being famous or having name recognition. It’s about doing something that you love — whether that’s in an office or at home with your kids or where you volunteer — and its about making a meaningful difference in the life of those around you. And I promise that you do that. You are not a failure. You are a success.

    When I was 18, I had dreams of being a world famous journalist, traveling the globe, helping to tell the “important stories.” The work I do now is very different. I write things for other people to get credit for. I play a background role. But the people who know the work I do for them — they value me. And that is more than enough. Because I am helping them do their job better. And if I had pursued that Ivy League journalism education, instead of choosing a college closer to home, I wouldn’t be married to my husband. And I wouldn’t have R, my beautiful son. And now when I reflect back on my choices, instead of feeling resentful or think about what could have been, I thank my lucky stars that I made the choices that I did. Because R is my greatest success. Everything else is just sprinkles on the cupcake.

    • I can not thank you enough for all of these kind words. They truly mean so much to me. You are absolutely right. If all of the things that I had envisioned when I was 18 had really happened, I would not be where I am now. I wouldn’t trade my son and this life for the world. Thank you for sharing a part of your story and helping my put my own views back into perspective.
      I am so glad that you have found my blog and so honored you’ve taken the time to read and comment.
      I also love that you mentioned cupcakes. I have a slight cupcake obsession. I hope to hear from you again and look forward to getting to know you more in this blogging world!

  7. My silly best friend–you did not fail at becoming who you could have been, you EXCELLED at becoming who you are. I would not dream of having you any.other.way. than the beautiful, inspirational, articulate, intelligent, spirited, amusing, wonderful woman that you are right this very moment. I am such a lucky duck to have been around with you these last 10 years. Love you to the moon.

    • Balling crying over here. Thank you so much, love. I don’t know why this milestone is hitting me so hard. Thanks for sticking around to find out what these ten years would bring. 🙂

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