I've been working on a personal project that involves digging through my old notebooks and cracking open cabinets and boxes at my parents' house that I haven't looked into in years. In all those old journals and boxes, I'm finding bits and pieces of my childhood self—a self I, quite frankly, haven't thought too much about in years. It's hard to think back to the years of my childhood and not have tainted memories. Memories are always so subjective. I do, however, have the journals I kept back then and, paging through them, I found some interest tidbits to give me insight into what I was like back then. Take this entry for example:
July 21, 1996
“I guess it was always my dream, even back [when I was five and wrote my first story], to be a writer. But who knows? I don’t like to dwell on the future too much. I prefer the past— and, of course, the present.”
Clearly, some of my twelve-year-old interests (writing! the present!) aren't so far from what I focus on these days (and, truth be told, I'm still focusing more than I should on the past, something I'm constantly working on). Back when I was a kid, I don't think I would have been too surprised to hear I would grow up to be a writer. After all, it's the only thing I ever really wanted to be. The writer thing might not have surprised the kid me, but my younger self may have been surprised to see how much my 1996 New Year's Resolutions were mirrored by my 29 Things To Do Before I Turn 30 list (the bold text is from the list I made in August 2012):
January 1, 1996
Here are some of my resolutions to create a new me this year:
- Spend at least 1 hour with [my dog, Pooky] a week.
Enjoy my time with [my dog] Bella.
- Write to each of my pen pals at least once a month.
Send more snail mail.
- Be more organized.
Scan + file my old photos.
Rid my life of useless items.
- Spend more time writing (maybe take a writing class).
Publish + sell my books.
Reading those resolutions all these years later (and seeing how similar my current goals are) got me thinking: What would the kid version of me think of me now? Am I measuring up to what I thought I would become?
Looking back, I'm surprised at how much I'm like the person I was back then. Looking around me, I'm startled to see so many remnants of my childhood self—a magnetic board beside my desk with clippings and photos that matter to me is so similar to the bulletin board I had as a kid; the bookshelves lined with Sweet Valley High and Mary Downing Hahn books could have been transported from the early '90s; the white Wii console encases the vintage Mario video games I still find myself indulging in from time to time; orange, a color that's always held my heart, can be found splashed about the room, most notably on the pumpkin-hued couch; and the Halloween-themed blanket I received in 1996 is draped across my bed, a constant reminder of the holiday I've loved for as long as I can recall.
All around me, bits of my childhood have been sprinkled on my adult life. I wonder if my kid self would have expected this, or perhaps she would have expected a somewhat more grown-up existence by the time I was nearly thirty. It seems my generation is inexplicably drawn backward toward childhood. '80s and '90s clothing and memorabilia has had a resurgence in popularity in recent years. What's old is new again—and though that always seems to happen, it seems so powerful in this generation. It feels less like nostalgia and more like a desire to get back there to that carefree time of childhood.
And it's no wonder that people want to go back to (what seemed like) a simpler time. But reading my old journals, I realize childhood wasn't quite as carefree as adults romanticize it to be. There was stress and strife. Yes, it was a different type of discomfort, but in the moment (and isn't that what matters most?), those childhood worries seem as monumental as the concerns weighing heavy on an adult mind. For me, being an adult is actually much easier than being a child. I craved autonomy and independence; I loved spending time within the confines of my own mind, something that's much more acceptable in the adult world.
Being an adult might be easier for me, but my childhood clearly is still a big part of who I am—and I'm pretty sure it always will be. The books and activities and thoughts that shaped me into the person I am today cannot be let go of, even if I wanted to set them free. When I reflect more on the question What would the kid you think of you now? I like to think she'd be pleased. As an adult, I now spend my days doing what I love, surrounded by things that make me smile—a loving boyfriend, lovely canine pals, a few close and wonderful friends, rows and rows of books. My kid self might be surprised by some things—I don't live in a house as "grown ups" often do; I still read some of the same childhood books over and over again; I got rid of my LipSmackers collection, ha!—but overall I think she would be pleased by the person I've become. Adult life is far from perfect, but I think it's surprisingly close to what my kid self would have wanted.
By now, I'm sure you've pondered the question yourself—What would my kid self think of me now?—and perhaps it seems silly to spend so much time reflecting on a question that can never be answered, a question that doesn't seem to serve a real purpose. But the more I ponder it, the more I realize there's value in comparing our childhood selves to who we have become as adults. When we think back on what we loved then—and notice how much of it we still love now—we have a better understanding of what really inspires us, what makes us feel excited about life.
When we think back on who we once were—and the ways we are still the same—we reconnect with our childhood selves. We reclaim a bit of our muchness. And when we do that, we bring a fresh perspective to the present moment. As kids, we're so lucky to have a lifetime of plans and dreams ahead of us. Anything could happen. We could be anything, do anything. We still can, of course, but as a kid the possibilities seem endless. When we reflect on what we once were, and on what we thought we would be, we reconnect with the part of ourselves that is endlessly hopeful, the part that believes we can create the life we want to live. Connecting with that part of yourself, however briefly, serves as a reminder that you are, in fact, in control of your destiny. Pondering what the younger you would think of you serves as a way to reconnect to the essense of who you truly are, to consider if the present is as positive as you once thought it would be.