A friend of mine has been frantically searching for a phone charger for me for the last twenty minutes; I used to have one at her house, but for some reason took it home with me and now I am left with a dying phone and no charger. But, I digress. As she was searching for the unfindable charger she came across a plastic photo holder for a wallet that held two of my senior pictures from high school. She brought them over to me and I took a few minutes to gaze down at the eyes of the girl who thought she had her world figured out at 18. In reflection of this photo I realize that overall I look the same; my eyes are still green, my hair is still brown, and my boobs are large . . . although I am sad to report they were smaller in this photo than they are now. In all the similarities that can still be found, though, I realize how much younger I look. I realize I'm not that old now, but I really do look like a baby in these two pictures. As I hold the two wallet sized photos in front of my face I think about everything I know now and everything I didn't know then . . .
As an 18 year old I thought I knew where my life was going; I figured I was going to marry the boy I was dating when that photograph was snapped, I figured I would go to college and my last name would matter to people like it did at home, I figured I would go to school, write some papers, and immediately be liked for my talent. As a 24 year old I look down my nose at the audaciousness I had for thinking these things at all. Turns out I wouldn't marry that boy I was with because he was a boy and I was a girl and we had a lot to learn about life, but more importantly, we had a lot to learn about ourselves. Turns out I went to Wright State and the amount of people who recognized the name Duff and who gave a rat's ass that I was a Duff amounted to the same number: ZERO. Turns out I went to Wright State, took some composition classes and had my writing thoroughly red slashed. Turns out, at 18, I thought I knew what life was about, thought it would matter what sort of family I came from, thought it meant something that I had a poem published in a small anthology. Turns out, I was wrong.
At 18 my mom would say to me, "give yourself space to grow, Steph; you're only 18, you're gonna change and your tastes will change. You think you want things this way now, but you may not want them that way in two, three, four years." At 18 I had a fierce lack of appreciation for my mom and her wisdom; I was convinced I was smarter than her, quicker than her, knew more about life than her. Turns out, I was wrong. Again. I changed; I changed a lot. I grew out of clothes, I started to like brussel sprouts, I even found myself questioning whether the blue eyed boy would be enough for me in five years, ten years, twenty years. And through all the changing tastes and sizes, through the tears over whether I could walk away and not look back, through the vehement denial that Marilyn could have any idea what she was talking about, she stood by me, held me through the storms, helped me walk outside in order to see the sunshine after it, too. Turns out, at 18, my mom knew my heart better than I could have ever wished to know it, my mom knew what my future self was going to need long before I knew to hope for it, my mom knew me, period. Turns out, mother does, in fact, know best.
At 18 I was scared to walk off my front porch. The idea of college terrified me to the point of tears, to the point that I considered it something that may not be for me; I was wrong. College turned out to be something that forced me to grow and flourish, it caused me to push myself in ways I couldn't imagine enjoyable. At 18 I thought the world was in Casstown, that if you didn't know who my Grandpy Max was you weren't worth knowing, that if you weren't raised on or around a farm of some sort you were of an alien descent. Turns out, Casstown isn't the world, just a really nice place to grow up in. Turns out if you didn't know who my Grandpy Max was, you still might be worth knowing, but you missed out on knowing one hell of a man. Turns out, if you weren't raised on or around a farm of some sort, you weren't an alien, you just got to offer a different life perspective for me. Turns out the country girl could step off her front porch, drive 45 minutes to campus, and survive. Turns out, when she came home at night from school, her small town and lovable world were still there waiting for her.
I look down at these two pictures of myself and think about the day they were taken; I was close to graduation, it was a beautiful, crisp day at Hocking Hills and I had far less anxiety and analytical tendencies. I wonder what my 24 year old self might say to that 18 year old girl, had she the opportunity to pass down words of wisdom . . .
Don't be so worried about how you'll survive without that boy; time heals more than you could ever hope for. Try not to worry when a professor doesn't like a particular paper you write, there's always gonna be another one to build you back up, and for Pete's sake, swallow your pride and go to the writing center. Be open to new people, they just might change your life. Listen to your mom. Think before you open your mouth when talking to your dad. Pray. Pray harder. Understand and realize you don't have control, never had control, won't ever have control. Take a deep breath. Try not to think so much. Smile. With your teeth. Appreciate the people who want to be in your life. Have patience. Get more patience. Even more than that, Steph. Close your eyes, count to ten, and thank Jesus for your blessings. Your life is beautiful. Embrace it.
At 18 I thought I had it figured out. At 24 I feel a little bit wiser, but the patience needs work, I still think I'm in control, and sometimes I try to tell myself mom doesn't know what she's talking about. Turns out, I'm still changing. Turns out, there's always room to grow.
I set the pictures of my 18 year old self on the desk next to me and take a deep breath; funny how things don't work out, funny how things DO work out, funny how things start to make better sense . . . when you're busy thinking you've got it all figured out already, in the first place.