The Future I Wish My 15-Year-Old Self Could See

As of today, I'm a quarter of a century old. It's a weird milestone, because I'm caught between being a child and an adult, with the time seeming to stretch further and further from either end.

I don't think I ever really imagined this time in my life. As a child, I dreamed of becoming like my cool babysitters, the 16-year-olds with their cars and binders and textbooks and lipstick and boyfriends. And then I imagined being older, a wildly successful woman, wife, mother, dog owner, homeowner -- content. But I never really thought about how I would jump from one world to the next.

Today, I want to remember what it was like to be 15. Because I don't think the 15-year-old me, when she looked into the future, could have imagined I'd be where I am now.

For all the dreams I had about being a teenager, they didn't pan out. At 15, finally so close to getting my license, I was terrified to learn how to drive. I was stressed by school -- even though I got good grades, I put so much pressure on myself and chastised myself for the slightest mistakes. In my mind, a "B" grade was cause to believe I was a failure. I was "ugly" -- or at least that's the insidious thought that pervaded my mind at that time. I look back at photos now and realize I was beautiful, just uncomfortable in my skin. Only time and understanding could heal that.

For 15-year-old me, the world was a scary place.

So I wonder what 15-year-old me would have thought of 25-year-old me, if she would even recognize herself -- a girl who lives in a big, overwhelming city and runs half marathons and cooks delicious meals and stays out late on Saturday nights with friends, content (most of the time) to return home alone. A girl who is happy with herself, even though learning to love yourself can be a lifelong battle. In the last 10 years I've moved countless times, lost and gained some amazing friends; I've learned to enjoy myself in large crowds and alone with my own thoughts.

If my 15-year-old self could see ahead through the years of therapy, heartbreaks, successes, leaps of faith, friendships, and adventures to my current self, I wonder if she would even believe the new me was possible. I don't think she would.

Because finally, I've shaken the fears that used to seep in and make it hard to go about my day. I don't think my younger self would believe that I'd blossom into an outgoing, strong person who feels really good about where she is right now. Yes, there are still ups and downs, but I know the past 10 years of growth have also helped me mature. My confidence has allowed me to accomplish so much in my life that I could not have imagined at 15.

Of course I wonder what the next 10 years will bring. I do still worry, because I have such high hopes for my immediate future. I worry that my vision for my next chapter will fall as flat as my hopes for my teens. Things that may seem guaranteed when we are younger -- marriage, children, a steady career -- are often, in fact, quite uncertain.

But as I look back on that 15-year-old girl, all I see and feel for her is hope. She is trying to grapple with who she is, her deepest fears, her greatest insecurities. Ahead of her, she has the winding but immensely gratifying road to understanding -- and one day loving -- herself.

And here I am today. I know it won't always be this easy. I devote so much of my time to myself, as a single, childless young adult, and I know (and hope) that will change in the next few decades. There will be low points, and I will question myself and my decisions a million times over. But I'm so proud of that 15-year-old girl, and the woman she's become. I owe it to both of us to trust my future self.

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