I think a lot about transformation. Aging is a really weird thing that we don’t seem to notice as much we should notice it. There’s this person, this small person, in my past, that had such a narrower idea of what the world was and how big it was and what her place in it was. She was tiny for her age with a Shirley Temple haircut and big eyeglasses that were the brand with the Basset Hound mascot. And she thought the world was flawless, almost, perfect, almost. She thought she knew nostalgia for a place she could barely remember. She liked Star Wars and she liked pink and she liked adventures, and adventures took her around the neighborhood, maybe somewhere in a car if she was lucky. Friends were constant, school was easy, the world smelled like sunshine and the worst thing that could happen was a grounding. That person can’t be me, can it? That small person . . . I don’t recognize her and her memories, my memories, they feel like another lifetime. A place of green humidity and childish laughter and Beanie Babies on a clean hardwood floor.

I think a lot about transformation, about the person I thought I’d be versus the person I am now. What are the constants? My family, writing, a love of Star Wars and Disney? That small person wanted to grow up to be — well, she was never sure, beyond a writer. I think the list included rancher, nurse, and veterinarian at various times. She pictured this older, prettier, tomboyish person, not someone that puts on makeup most days and a skirt or dress more often than that small person ever would have stood for. She envisioned living in Kansas forever, maybe New York City eventually. When her parents spoke about California she nodded but ignored it, because she thought she’d found the place on Earth she’d be happiest.

I think a lot about transformation. The girl that would sit in a bathroom stall and cry because she had no friends, or someone had been mean to her that day, or because she felt an overwhelming sense of loneliness that toppled her fifth grade heart. She wore Transitions lenses and dowdy Old Navy sweatshirts and baggy jeans. She thought she was the smartest person to walk the earth and made sure other people were aware of that. And she could be annoying, so annoying. That person is more with me than the carefree third grader, ever with me, dragging down my self-esteem, placing me in all my warmth and acceptance back in that bathroom stall with a small reminder of Hey, you’re never really gonna leave here.

I think a lot about transformation. The eighth grader that tried so very hard to wear cute clothes and fit in, to have a solid friend group and be loved and admired by everyone. Yeah right. Back to the bathroom stall with her, so fickle were the friends she made. She was the butt of every joke and the most expendable when people decided to be in a bad mood, but was she much better? She talked about people behind their backs and did bitchy things to people in what she thought were preemptive strikes. She wasn’t the innocent victim that she thought she was, so great was her hurt and her anger. She could be cruel like the rest of them.

I think a lot about transformation. The whiny attention-seeker, the self-absorbed freshman, even sophomore, who had yet to grow out of being what she considered to be the youth group darling. She was exclusive and wanted everyone to care about her problems and love her to the point of being just annoying. She had her redeeming moments, but her low moments too. She surrounded herself with shallow, awful people she thought were her best friends forever. She backstabbed and she did low, immature things like cry over sand in her eyes while another girl cried over what could have been a broken arm. And when the shallow people left she clung to them out of desperation, driving away her own happiness in the process.

I think a lot about transformation. The junior, senior, who wore stupid clothes and called them fashion, who struggled to discover herself, and still acted pretty annoying. She found friends in new places and tried to rework herself to please those new people, losing herself in the process. A lot of people still hated her, but it didn’t destroy her as much as before, because now she knew why. She could be awful, say awful things, do awful things out of a place of wretched insecurity. She began to see her faults, see all the times the victim routine had really been someone that lashed out trying to reel friends back in. She was faulted, and had strayed from being someone that was kind for the sake of being kind. She was bitter and mean and it showed. She worked at a summer camp and tried again to befriend the wrong people. She found a new group at school and did her best to impress them and for a time felt overwhelming acceptance. She still didn’t like herself and didn’t trust anything and clung to the idea that she was an extra, and started to mature in who she was meant to be. Someone that loved and accepted and forgave, even herself.

I think a lot about transformation. The girl that lived through her freshman year of college, and she hopes, has finally become the person she was striving to be all along. Someone that loves even when it’s hard. Makes the right choice even if it’s the less attractive one. The one who messes up sometimes and it’s ok because she’s human and humans make mistakes. I make mistakes and I’ve made some whoppers. But I am learning to forgive myself, because that’s growing up. I like who I am. I like the friends I’ve made and I trust them. I like the relationships I’m rebuilding and I needn’t rely on them entirely to enjoy them. I have faith, and I have love.

I think a lot about transformation. I’m glad it’s brought me here.

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