30.

Some people fear age, specfically it seems when moving from one decade to the next. Of course, nothing stays the same and you couldn’t stand still even if you wanted to. So I choose to welcome moving forward. I like change, and I like to take time to see the path it took for me to get from then to now.

When I look back at myself from 10 years ago, I see someone different. She is almost like another person – She couldn’t imagine someone like me and I find it difficult to relate to her anymore. Like meeting a cousin you haven’t seen since your adolescent upbringing. Familiar but hard to place in the present reality – flickered memories of drawing pictures together, sharing a peanut butter sandwich, or trading shoes for keeps.

This past year, I re-read some of my old journals and sketchbooks. Books that I had written and drawn in from my late teens to early 20s. It helps me understand why she was, filling in the gaps from spotted memories. Memories that refine over time, smoothing out raw specifics and carving back minor roughness.

As I read through my old writing, there were times that I felt bad for how low things got. There was an excessive amount of writing about the negative times, things that needed extra thinking to work through. Try harder, I willed at my past self, you can do it. Waiting for an entry with a hopeful break-through, the ability to pull oneself back up. It was rare to come across any semblance of this.

The weight of carrying old books filled with a sense of loss. A trepidation of where to go and what to be and how to do it, snagged by various problems and setbacks. It all felt very heavy, handwriting that dug deep into the paper. Carving into the fibre, digging into the pages behind it. The days to come.

At some point, in the early 2000s, she took a break from an entry and she wrote to me, future me.

She told me not to worry, that it really wasn’t as bad as the pages made it seem. That there were also good things happening and that the time to write was rarely when things were exciting and happy and new. She started writing lists of things she loved or small bits of text based on funny experiences that happened. Brief pauses. Light hearted commas punctuating between everything else that felt heavy.

When I was a teenager, I wanted to see myself in the world around me – both physically and mentally. But I didn’t. Not in characters in novels or TV shows or in rock bands or whatever else consumed my attention. And when young people form identities there are times where if we don’t see ourselves entirely then we emulate those we aspire to be like. It ranges from physical aesthetics and the psychological. The haircut from the girl from Hackers; the privileged rebellion from Holden Caulfield; the creative output from Kathleen Hanna; the snarkyness and clothing from Enid Coleslaw… The list goes on. It’s so naive, but it’s really all young people have when they first start forming a sense of self.

And there’s also a desperate need to find yourself out there, to not feel alone. To feel a part of something, to find a pack to run with. I’ve been a part of a few. I’ve wandered with them on the hunt for kinship and the will to find a better sense of self.So many thoughts and fears and wonders of where my kinship would be found, I constantly felt like I was always drifting off to the side, never quite making it to the middle or to the front. Maybe too afraid to take my place.

As I get older, I have a greater appreciation of difference over sameness. You can choose to stay the same or you can grow – a lot of that is based on who and what you choose to surround yourself with. Your environment. That which challenges you, those who care for you… Helping you see parts of yourself you may not have realized.

I see fragments of who I want to be in the people around me. And I wonder how to build something bigger out of these pieces that may seem incongruent with one another.

Fragments and pieces. If I was to take these broken bits of things I value and appreciate from others, it’s almost like glueing together a makeshift mirror. Something to form a reflection from everything and everyone I love and aspire to be. A shard from the analytical family member with a world of experience. A sliver from the creative friend who acts fiercely on his ideas. A chip from the girl who makes everyone laugh. A jagged piece from the one who doesn’t fear failure but bounces back from a bloody knee until she reaches her goal. And all of these pieces, I’ve saved them over the years. Or I’ve grappled with them in the present.

It’s like a sloppy mosaic, bits and pieces that form together as a mirror that reflects someone that doesn’t quite look like myself. Well, it’s me in there, I think. I think it could be me.

And maybe it’s the same way that I look to my past self through journals and old writings, as a young person fragmented in writing and ideas and thoughts. A self I don’t quite relate to anymore. This broken glass that is fitted back together to form a whole is how my future looks upon me and how I look onto it. The reflection is not clear or perfect: Picasso-esque lines, blurs or missing pieces that are lost in its distorted surface.

If my future self is looking back at me then she doesn’t entirely recognize her reflection either, what she sees is fragmented – familiar but far away feeling.

And maybe the reflection won’t ever be clear; no decisive lines from here to there, no secret road map to plot a path from beginning to end. Maybe these realities, from past and future, stack and layer and interact and reach to pull oneself through to the next.

And secretly, my greatest hope is that some of these fragments from this mirror are not just from others but from myself – when I’m much older. She passes back a piece for me, a broken bit here and there. Pieces she no longer needs but what she thinks might help me get there. To where she is now. And maybe those times she reaches back, we are one and the same. Just for a moment. And that is nice to think about.

What’s next. What now. How to be. What to do. These are thoughts I think of all the time. They used to be daunting or scary but now are normalized questions i ask myself on how to move forward. Where am I going? What’s next for me? What path can I carve that helps me ensure I reach her, one day. The self i really want to be, the one who is stronger and surprises and is filled with a life that I believed impossible in my youth. Who is this person and what road will I take to find her.

But before I continue forward, I am taking a breather because, well, it’s my 30th birthday. And I really think this summit is worth the view.

And I am happy and I am thankful. Not for what is next but for what is now. For everything that was and how that became the present.

In the mirror, the makeshift mirror filled with glued pieces of shards and fragmented and splinters, I know future-me is smiling back. I don’t need to write her notes to let her know everything is okay. She already knows it. She knows I will get there. Wherever there is.

Right now, she is proud that I have gotten here.

I am, too.

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