Last Thursday, a phone call in which I actually had to hear the person on the other line led me to my father's office, because a house filled with four boys all 4 years old or younger is never a quiet house. The photos behind his desk took me on a stroll down memory lane... until the one below stopped me cold.
Rockefeller Center, December 1998
It took me a second to be sure it was from 1998, but my long hair was the giveaway. The spring of my senior year of college, I chopped it at chin level. The details aren't clear -- was my best friend T visiting? Did she take the picture? What else did we do that day?
1998. Bile rose in my throat as I considered myself as an almost-22-year-old. Z and I had been dating for six months or so. We already had decided we would be getting married. I looked at that girl, that child, and felt disgust at her stupidity. Who the hell did I think I was? Where did I get off thinking I knew how to be a partner in a marriage? I didn't even know how to take care of myself.
I looked at myself and saw everything that has happened in the last 15 years: September 11th, my mental breakdown, the near loss of our marriage, clawing our way back, moving to Providence and trying to figure out an identity that didn't include living in New York, getting pregnant, moving to Syracuse, T, the miscarriage, C. I looked at myself and was repulsed by that girl who had no idea what the future held.
Then I looked at Z.
And thought, "Damn, he was hot."
I could look at him and simply feel nostalgia. Why does remembering who I used to be cause me such blinding anger? Why do I have no compassion for my former self?
I could be wrong about this, but I don't think I'm the only one. I think a lot of us are unkind to the young women we used to be. Why do we do it? What does it achieve?
Am I really angry at the girl I used to be because she did not predict a catastrophic terrorist attack that surprised the entire nation? Am I mad at her because she was unaware that she suffered from a mental illness?
Because that is ridiculous. And unhelpful. And frankly, really very unkind.
So I tried to let go of my feelings about baby me. I tried to look at the picture and remember the heady days of our early courtship. We were in love, we were having fun, we were enjoying the hell out of being young. What the hell is wrong with all that? I remembered it was Thursday. I looked at the two kids in love and I snapped a picture with my phone for instagram -- #TBT, baby.
Being kind to the memory of who we used to be? That is the kind of New Years resolution we should all get behind.
Our family 15 years later. Hopefully when I look at this in another 15 years, it will be with much more kindness.
A version of this post was first published in January of 2014 on my blog Uncomfortably Honest and Honestly Uncomfortable.