30 Going on 13*
I found this old photo a little while ago. I was just shy of my 14th birthday when it was taken.
I had planned to share it with some mocking self-deprecating comment about how awkward I looked, but as I thought about it, I realized that those awkward preteen years weren’t all that bad.
I sometimes feel like I had a better sense of who I was at 13 than I do at 36.
It was 1999. The year of our class Toronto Trip. Coming from small town Northern Ontario, that was a BIG deal.
I was beginning to sort out my own sense of style, and I kept flip flopping back and forth between very feminine and a bit of “skater style” (which was very popular).
It never occurred to me that I should ever put my sense of style into a box, so… I wore both. Together. I remember how much I loved that soft pink shirt. I got that little dainty pink and blue necklace to go with it. I also loved that blue oversized hoodie and metal necklace. They each made me feel good, so I wore them. I didn’t care about judgement or the opinions of others. I wore what I liked, even if it didn’t “match”. I wore what made me feel good. Do you remember how good that felt? The confidence that came with it?
Somewhere along the line I lost that confidence. Yes, I’ve gotten older and my body has changed, but I have definitely put on a shirt that I liked, then changed it because something about it made me wary or nervous that I’d be somehow judged for wearing it. I now lean towards clothes that I can hide my body in. That *I* can hide in. I blend in because it feels easier than standing out.
Beyond the clothes, I knew who I was at 13. I knew who my friends were. We had grown up together, and I knew that they liked me for me. I hadn’t yet had to explain to others about why I didn’t drink. I hadn’t yet seen the expression of judgement cross another’s face as a result of it. I was who I was, and that was enough.
I knew what I loved, and I wasn’t afraid to show it. I loved music, so I shared it. Often. I sang at concerts. Played piano in public. It never occurred to me to be self conscious about not being the best at it. I loved it, and I was proud of it, so I shared it.
I knew I wanted to be a writer, so I wrote. I have a full book of poems I wrote at this age… And I shared them often with the people around me. It never occurred to me to be self conscious about the fact that someone else might be a better writer. I never wondered if I should stop sharing just in case someone didn’t like it. I didn’t let fear stop me from sharing my work. My passion. I was dang proud of it. I felt like a writer.
…so what happened?
How do we lose the confidence we had as children?
How did I lose it?
So, no, this isn’t the “best” picture of me. But you know what? There’s something about it that I kind of love.
This was taken before I started to change parts of myself to fit in.
This was before I felt like I needed to hide pieces of myself away, because I was scared it didn’t measure up to others.
This was before I began comparing who I was to the people around me.
I was just… me.
And you know what? I think I’m pretty okay.
(I think you are too.)
This old photograph was a good reminder to just be who I am. To do what I love. To share what I’m proud of, and to not worry if others don’t like it.
It was a good reminder that I don’t have to fit into a box. I can wear the pink shirt AND the oversized sweatshirt.
I’m 36, and I’m still figuring all that out.
And I think that’s okay too.
Life happens. We grow up and we change. We experience hardships and challenges, and things shift along the way. I’m obviously not the same person I was at 13.
…but parts of that girl are still here.
So, I’m going to try a little harder to just… be who I am. To do what I love. To share those things and be proud of it, even if it’s not the *best*.
I think that’s what this girl would want.