I think most people in the West have an annual period of reflection around Christmas and New Year, thinking of years past and the future. My birthday just passed, comimg at the end of January as it always does. I expected to feel more contemplative than I do.
I am finding I no longer count my life in Januaries, starting from that cold day in Florida thirty-three years ago. Now I count my life in milestones. Ten years since my son was born. Six years next month since my abortion. Eight years of disabling physical pain.
For all that the girl I was shaped me and formed me, I am not her anymore. She feels like another person, one with a shared past but still not me. It’s hard to connect to my past so far away.
I look back on my teen self – fearless, reckless, dangerous, fun – and I wonder how I ever was her. I look back on her bravado with a mixture of awe and fear, struggling to believe I could be the quiet, hermetic, boring responsible adult I try to be now, and still have been that wild child.
My life is not what I expected or dreamed of as my past selves. It is both fuller and smaller, blending family life with public writing in a way I couldn’t have guessed would be possible in the early days of the internet.
I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t first been them – the devout and friendly child and the rebellious-as-possible teen. My compassion and my activism come from them. Who I am today was shaped by who I was. And I hope today that the ways I’m shaping myself now will make my next self even better.