Friday, September 7, 2012

Dear Myself As a Child: It's Not Going to Go According to Plan

I recently came upon a shoebox full of old pictures when my sister was in town, which ultimately led to a good hour of what was equal parts reminiscing and embarrassment.  Mainly, we made fun of our hair. (Note that 1. we both once had real live bowl cuts, and 2. I still have essentially the same hair style that I had in my 2nd grade class picture.)  But looking through them also made us both think.  I mean, isn't that weird to see pictures of yourself as this tiny person, and to think of how much has happened in your life since that time, and to realize that you just had absolutely no idea that it would turn out the way it has?  I was so young in most of these shots that I don't remember them being taken or even where I was, but I wonder what I was thinking, or if I had any comprehension of the path in front of me. 

I do know that once I was old enough to talk, I was certain that by the age I am now, I'd have already been a famous actress, Olympic athlete, prima ballerina and President of the United States.  Well child Melissa, I'm sorry to break the news that none of those things are going to pan out.  You're actually going to lose interest in those particular aspirations all together (except the acting one; you'll lose interest in that one only after you spend 4 years at a university to get a degree in it that you'll never use. Oops.)  In fact, you'll come to find out not much of anything is going to go according to plan.

You're going to go on to change your mind about what you want to be when you grow up many times, even after you're an adult.  You're going to travel the world and move all over the country in an attempt to "find yourself."  And you're going to have both amazing and soul-crushing experiences, none of which you could have ever predicted. 

You're going to establish a career, and you're going to spend years working way too much, because somewhere along the way you'll convince yourself that success is everything and that you must be defined by your career.  This is wrong, but it's going to be a good lesson.  

You're going to fall in love several times, but ultimately it will be with the one with whom you were meant to be.  (So when you're a teenager and feel defeated by all those boys you date who don't appreciate you, just remember that you're going to become strong on your own first, and when it's time to find your life-long partner, it will be one of the good ones.)  

And eventually, you're going to hit a point where you really start to feel comfortable.  You will no longer feel like you need to define yourself by how you make a living, or where you live, or what you have, or anything else for that matter.  And those "simple things in life" that were all you needed to be content as a 3 year old are going to come full circle to be all you truly need once again.  (P.S. This will happen when you're in your 30s, once you've had ample time to wade through all the crap.)

All you really need to do is your best.  Period.  Be yourself, be kind, and be present in each day (because the future never really comes; it's always today).  And please, please, relax a little.  The overachiever-induced anxiety will get you nowhere, I promise.  Try to make the best of whatever comes your way.  Because nothing is going to turn out the way you think it's going to turn out, and that is life, and you will learn that it's kind of awesome.

On a completely different note, these pictures also made me think about how much has changed (and how quickly) in terms of the way that we capture memories from our lives.  I was a child of the 80's; I grew up using film cameras that forced you to be cautious when you took pictures and then practice (sometimes immense) patience while they were being developed.  I clearly remember getting my first digital camera, and it honestly doesn't even feel like it was that long ago. Then came using our phones to take pictures, which changed everything as well.  Looking back at these old childhood photos makes me wonder if they'd still seem as special had they been captured digitally.  Something about film always feels a little more real than digital to me - a little less perfect, you know?

Lots of deep thoughts today you guys.  Thank goodness it's almost the weekend. :)

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  1. i just love everything about this. i'm a sucker for old pictures AND introspection. perfect, girl. it really is true that we have no idea what's in store. i wanted to be an olympic skier and fighter pilot :) and i don't use my degree yet...

  2. Sigh. Is it dorky that this made me tear up a little? My life is also very different from how I thought it would be. When I was a kid, I was going to be a scientist AND an actress simultaneously. I believe my plan was to win a Nobel Prize and an Oscar, haha.

    Even in just the last few years, things have taken quite a turn. When I was still in college I was convinced that I would work in radio for the rest of my life. I never imagined I would start a small business or go back to school for something else. It's kind of weird to think back on how quickly things can change.

  3. I think this is my favorite post of all time!! I know exactly what you mean, it just doesn't end up the way you think it will and even though I feel down sometimes like I failed really it's ok!! I need to look through some old pictures and remind myself of this stuff. Thank you!!!!!

  4. I love everything about this post so much. The photos are beautiful (love how perfectly vintage they look), and your story was so fun to read. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be an artist/singer/dancer/actress/journalist/chef. I ended up being all of those my head. ;)
    xo Mandy

  5. This is a great post, I enjoyed reading it :) And I also agree that the pictures taken on a film have something more to them than pics that you can just print out any time you want on any piece of rubbish paper. We do not value them so much (I mean - I use blu-tack and PINS to put them in places, for goodness sake!!!).
    Sometimes I would like to live in the older times, but then, I am probably better now :)
    Still, it is a shame that some things changed.

  6. melissa, this is one of my ultimate blog posts by you! that's saying a lot, because you know i've been reading your blog for a long time, & i like so much of what you share. :)

  7. ahhh, this is so so so great! i love all of the adorable pictures of you and everything you said to your little self is so true and wise. and great reminders to myself too. =)

  8. ...I so needed to hear that last part today...Thank YOU! =) Great post!!

  9. These pictures are so cute! My sister and I also had bowl cuts for a couple years...why did our moms do that to us? Haha. I honestly have no idea what I thought my life would turn out like when I was little, and I guess I still don't know where it's going. ;)

  10. Great post Melissa...Your words ring true...

  11. Dear present-day Melissa,
    OMG this is the BEST post EVER!!! (And I MUST mention that you are not the only one that has basically the same hair as when you were in 2nd grade - I'm guilty of that too!) I wonder what my thoughts would be if I were to just whip out my old photos today? =0)
    LOVE this!!!
    from Blogging Buddies

  12. Such a lovely post : ] I liked reading all the things you had to tell little Melissa and at the same time told us. I feel like I know you just a little bit better. And as for the pictures--I can totally tell it's you! Especially the one where you're in a tutu. So very very cute : ]

    I really liked your last paragraph too. I honestly think that our children won't hold their childhood pictures in a place as special as we do. For us, there are only so many pictures right? Nowadays people take pictures of their kids anywhere and everywhere, and when the kids grow up how will these pictures be special to them? It's like "Oh yeah, more pictures of me. Oh look! $ more exactly like the first one!" ya know? There's definitely something to being able to look through photos when they're first developed and then years down the line when they're in albums. Maybe it would still be special to print the best ones and put those in albums, but I don't know. You made a good point in saying that the film ones are a little less perfect. In old film photos you just care that the people are in focus and are making the "proper" faces. Nowadays everything needs to be perfect. I don't know. I don't know where I'm going with this! And I'm going to stop because I've already written enough, but basically, you're right! Haha ; ]

  13. Omg! This post is so cute and sweet so I just can't <3 <3 Well done! :)

  14. Such a lovely post! I also love looking at photos of myself as a child and thinking about how I had no idea where my life would lead. Then I wonder what I will think when I look back at today's photos in 20 years' time.


  15. Ah, so very, very true. I wonder how much of that is a universal experience?

    My brother and I were just chatting about those differences in capturing memories. We're so used to digital photos now, and storing them digitally, that the concept of a tangible photo album is almost obsolete. I'm fine with that, as I very rarely go back and look through my photo albums (and then only because of my youth, not because they were great pictures), but my parents really struggle with it.

    Anyway, I'm curious as to how to stumbled upon what makes you happy as a living, as opposed to your earlier rat race that was clearly stressing you out. Inquiring minds (who have figured out they are unhappy in the rat race but don't know how to change things) want to know! :)

    1. I've actually owned my own business since I was 24. For the two years before that, after graduating college, I traveled and also managed a clothing boutique. So for me, it was quitting a job to focus on my career - it was learning that I didn't have to CONSTANTLY work. Up until recently, I had a hard time enjoying myself because I felt guilty any time I wasn't working on one of my businesses. I started forcing myself to take weekends off and to enjoy my time off. I'd always been an overachiever and I defined myself by my career success. Now I don't put pressure on myself to feel like I have to be "the best," and I no longer feel defined by how I make my living. I'm much happier! :)

    2. Oops - that's supposed to say it WASN'T quitting a job to focus on my career.

  16. I absolutely love this post! Nothing every turns out the way we plan, but it sure does turn out nicely, doesn't it?
    xo Heather

  17. wow melissa. i loved everything about this post. every single thing. you are so wise beyond your years, and so many of these things I am realizing now. <3

  18. i love these old photos so much. i was reminiscing through old photos the other night too. its so true, being able to look back on all the old thoughts of what you 'thought' you were going to do or be, or be married to... etc. but life has its way of carving out a path for you, so different than what you might of expected...

    and i think your so right about the photos being more special when they were not digital. there is such a nostalgia to them now, that just a few years ago it seems we didnt even think would be there. crazy. imagine what is to come next?


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