If you’re reading this on its publish date, my 26th birthday is tomorrow. My birthday last year was exciting because so many people consider 25 to be the prime of your life. But what about 26? I think the only thing that most of us associate with turning 26 (in the US at least) is that it’s the age when you get kicked off your parents’ insurance.
Truly exciting. So what else can we say about 26? I’m now closer to 30 than to 20. Honestly, I get little waves of nervousness thinking about 30, but then I remember that a lot can change in 4 years. I mean, 4 years ago I was 22. I’m certainly very different than I was in my last semester of college, so I’m sure I’ll be ready for 30 when I get there (fingers crossed).
Maybe it’s because I feel like I’m really starting to settle into my life, but I’ve been reflecting on my identity a lot. I want to make this year about self-care, self-empowerment, and self-formation. I think I’ve gotten the hang of self-care and self-empowerment, but how do I know where to start for self-formation? I think back to when I was a kid.
Kids Are Unapologetically Themselves
I know a lot of people think of childhood as a time when you struggle to fit in. I’m not sure about that. I think that childhood is challenging because you both want to fit in but you’re also so aware of who you instinctually are. By the time you reach young adulthood, the desire to fit in muffles your sense of identity and the struggle gets even harder. But when you’re a kid, you know what you like and you do what you want because you haven’t felt all of life’s pressures yet.
I was so creative as a child. I remember saying for most of elementary school that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. I looked forward to art class more than any other time in school because I excelled and my teachers were so encouraging. In the summertime, my brother and I attended an art camp where we created all day, 5 days a week for nearly the entire summer. Lordy, what I wouldn’t do for that overflow of creative inspiration now.
For a long time, I sort of forgot that I was a creative person. Especially in college. While I was involved in some “artsy” groups on campus, I didn’t feel connected to my creative self at all. It was like I had become a different person, and graduating from high school had built some sort of barrier between two selves.
Around the time that I went back to therapy in 2017, I started to realize how much I had lost myself in college and the two years afterwards. I had genuinely forgotten how to be pre-high school graduation Christine. Because I felt that this was a more “authentic” version of myself, I wanted to take some steps towards revisiting who I used to be.
How I Channeled My Younger Self
We can all agree that as you age, there are some things you should probably grow out of. My point is not to suggest that anyone revert back to immature behaviors or mindsets that they’ve been fortunate enough to leave behind. But I do think that there are some pieces of self-realization that dangle in front of us when we’re young, and we’re just too inexperienced to take them on.
The first thing I wanted to work on was my physical appearance. In high school, I had a pretty distinctive style. I wore tons of bright colors and I rarely met a floral print that I didn’t like. My hair was carefree with my natural curls, and I loved feeling like I was just a bit memorable.
In college, on the other hand, my appearance became more basic. I think this is largely because my college didn’t have the most diverse student body. Going to a high school with a students of all sorts of backgrounds, I felt much more at ease looking different. But in college–nope. I participated in most of the college fashion trends, which I’m realizing mostly revolve around dressing as lazily as possible. Why were spirit jerseys, baseball caps, leggings, and moccasins considered fashionable? Because they were “comfy cute,” emphasis on the “comfy.”
I took a look at my post-college wardrobe and I realized that I had pretty much nothing but basics. Nothing was special, not much was bright, and I had very few florals (shocking).
Once I started to revisit some of teenage Christine’s preferences for personal style, things started to snowball. I started making bolder decisions. I started creating more. I felt more comfortable in my body. I felt more comfortable in my self.
High school Christine didn’t have many specific aspirations for mid-20s Christine, but I know that she would not have wanted to see her future self compromising her uniqueness. So that’s what I’m going after these days. I’m leaning into my individuality and it’s been so much fun to explore and feel like I’m paying homage to what I wanted when I was young.
I think that if I somehow could’ve seen the person I am today when I was younger, I would’ve been excited and proud to be living this life. That feels pretty fulfilling.
What did you imagine for yourself when you were young? Do you think any of your past aspirations would make good fuel for your future?