A woman to aspire to

a woman to aspire to

Like most girls growing up, I always imagined the kind of woman I’d eventually become.

I was an insecure kid with a lot of quirks and beauty I hadn’t yet dared to see in myself. I caught glimpses of it sometimes, but would end up too distracted by my imperfections and everything I hadn’t “figured out” yet. In my mind, the twenty-something version of me would be a woman to aspire to—she’d have it all figured out, and she’d be beautiful.

I’m going to go ahead and say something that might sound conceited: I am beautiful. How controversial of me to say so. How dare I love myself? But I do. Not always. Right now, for example, I look downright teenage in my snowflake pajamas without make-up on, and I constantly obsess over my perpetually dry skin that sometimes flakes or scars. But damnit, I am beautiful, inside and out. (Don’t dare to think otherwise of yourself, either. Somewhere in a parallel universe, my younger self is hearing this, and it’s working wonders.)

Anyway, so back to this picture my sweet, deluded child self had conjured up of the present me. If today I’m saying I’m beautiful (we’ll see how I feel tomorrow), then at least what I had in mind then is half-true. The other half? Not so much. I think I’ve made all the right moves so far (with several mistakes behind and certainly ahead of me), but that doesn’t mean I’ve got adolescent-turned-adult skin problems, let alone life, figured out.

Most twenty-somethings—myself included—obsess over where they’ll be living, or what career path they’ll end up on, or if they’ll get married, and WHO they’ll marry, and oh-my-God-do-I-even-LIKE-kids-let-alone-ever-want-to-have-any? And that’s about as far into the future as most of us bloggers (especially those on Thought Catalog) who deign to narrate such thoughts ever really go with it. For some reason, it seems as though we’re still slightly illuded that our future selves will FINALLY have it all figured out.

Rarely do we take the time to consider the kind of people we’ll be at 50. Or 60. Or 97. Why is that? Do we all just assume we’ll be wise, or do we think “old” (which is a relative term, anyway) people don’t have similar worries, or don’t matter quite as much because they’ve already contributed work and offspring to society? Of course they matter—those are our parents and grandparents we’re talking about. Is it just that old age seems too far into the distant future to even comprehend?

This would make sense, considering how different the world we live in now is compared with the world of our young grandparents. If society and technology and the population can take off so astronomically just in the past few decades, imagine how different it could be when our friends are dying.

So here’s a challenge to my fellow young (again, relative term!) people: envision yourself in the future. Not the ten-years-from-now future. The seemingly distant future. The future that anyone over 50 will likely tell you isn’t as distant as it may seem. Now that we’re all slightly wiser than our preadolescent selves, let’s try to come up with something a little more specific and a lot more realistic than “generally beautiful and all-knowing.”

Gray-haired Cassie? She still wears her hair long. She is confident, and long ago stopped worrying about what people think of her. She is kind, funny, occasionally frazzled, yes, but never more than five minutes late. Physically, spiritually, and otherwise, she remains in touch with her former young self. In fact, she works out. Daily. Still has muscles and a nice figure, even if it’s changed slightly over time. A few laugh lines are permanently etched into her face from a lifetime of belly laughs, but her skin makes her appear younger than she is because she became diligent about sunscreen in her twenties.

Gray-haired Cassie is also incredibly smart. With an impressive vocabulary (and a persisting tendency to say “y’all” a lot), she has accomplished her dream of publishing a novel a few times over. She’s still super-close with her younger sisters, and doesn’t envy them too much for being generally cuter and more youthful. She is able to look back at her life and pinpoint exactly where she made mistakes and is grateful that they led her to where she is now. She’s learned to live with only the most beautiful things she owns, even if she only has a few of them. She is a woman of self-love and satisfaction. And despite many doubts, missteps, and setbacks, her optimism—however peppered with sarcasm—has prevailed. Also? She still doesn’t have it all figured out. And accepts that.

Knowing that this is what I want and envision for myself makes clear a few things, and it raises some questions: One, what is it I should start doing now to become that woman? If I want to get to that point of self-actualization sooner, I better start acting like the woman I describe.

Two, what is it I should stop doing now to become that woman? No self-loving goddess would tell herself, No, don’t bother applying to that amazing school. The chances of you getting in are slim, and that’s a hefty application fee.

And three, what do I already share with the woman I describe? I’m smart, kind of funny sometimes, I take care of my body, and I’ve laughed a lot. 

And that? That counts for something.

 

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Comments

  1. This post makes me love you even more! I’ve written several entries like this, and you just state it so plainly, “If I want to get to that point of self-actualuzation sooner, I better start acting like the woman I describe” that, even though I’ve said this to myself, it just hits me in a new way from reading your words on it. Please tell me people will talk of us after we’re gone and say, “Oh, those two literary greats, Cassie and Lauren, used to slum it in Paris just like the Fitzgerald and Hemingway in the 20s!”

  2. This is beautiful. What a novel way to think about growing up. It’s definitely a challenge for me to accept and enjoy the present when the grass seems to “get greener” with age. I’m excited to meet gray-haired Hilary, but before I meet her I must grow up to be the gray-haired Hilary I’m excited to meet. *Twilight Zone theme here*

    • That’s a challenge for me, as well. I know it’s perfectly normal to crave getting to that “next step,” but before we know it, all those steps will have passed us by without us ever having fully experienced them. Trying so, so hard to get over that tendency.

  3. LOVE IT!!

  4. Wow, I love this so much. This sort of thing has been on my mind a lot lately since I’m officially an adult (!) and living away from home. I feel like I’m still too young to really know myself, but I have been thinking a lot about it. I have some vague idea of who I want to be (which I might just write about, in fact), and now I have to solidify that and figure out how I’m going to go about it.

    I guess the biggest thing is to not be passive. It’s so easy to think that you can work on yourself later and just put it off forever and ever and ever. It’s something to hold onto and constantly push towards, even though it’s daunting. Change comes incrementally.

    • Exactly that! Change is nearly imperceptible at times, but that doesn’t mean it’s not constant. It’s so important not to be passive, and it’s something I need to remind myself of, too.

  5. This post is really inspiring, Cassie, thank you. I think you are absolutely right – few people look past their twenties, thirties, forties, etc when they think about who they would like to become in the future. It’s like you just think about those “big moments” that you assume are ahead of you, without thinking about what time will do to you as a person – not on the outside, but on the inside. And we have to actively work on becoming that person.

    • Exactly. I want to be prepared emotionally for those “big moments” (good and bad) by having led a life that is meaningful and introspective. I don’t just want to wait for them to happen *to* me.

  6. Thank you for this post, Cassie! It’s funny; recently, I read that one way to give yourself a quick mood boost is to think of your life now and then think of all the things your teenage self would be proud of for accomplishing. But I love your idea of looking way ahead, to the person you know you’ll become, and finding inspiration and comfort there. Your words really made my day! 🙂

    • Thanks, Heather! I’m glad they made your day. 🙂 I think what you describe is a GREAT exercise, too. Personally, I don’t think my teenage self would have thought I’d be where I am now, but I do know she’d be proud to learn it. I used to look back on my teenage self and roll my eyes or shake my head, but I’ve realized she deserves some credit, too.

  7. Cassie, what a beautiful, beautiful post! I can relate to it in so many ways. Your writing is exquisite!

  8. Great piece, Cass. It got me thinking, and that’s a good thing.

  9. I really needed to read this today.

  10. Um, you’re an AMAZING writer! Seriously. I have goosebumps, and I feel like you wrote this for me. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story.

  11. Hooray for this post! My grandma has told me multiple times that she still feels like a 40-year-old (she’s 80) stuck in an old lady’s body…the difference between her and her 40-something self, though, in my opinion, is that she has it all figured out. But I have no way of knowing that. It’s always been an assumption I’ve made. And as I’ve grown up, I’ve realized that none of the adults in my life have it fully figured out. This realization half bums me out, because I was really looking forward to the day when I could be as wise and calm as my mother, and it half makes me feel a lot better, because that means I’m not crazy or inadequate.

    Also, you ARE beautiful. You go, girl.

  12. Holy hell Cassie I love this. INCREDIBLE words and thoughts. Did we just become best friends?

    x Shaunna

  13. inspiring post. i absolutely love thinking of myself as an old woman. something thrilling about it. cool to see im not the only one daydreaming about being 90.

  14. thanks for writing this and for sharing it, cassie! really made me think. oh, and i hope gray-haired shoko is as cool as gray-haired cassie – she sounds awesome! 🙂

  15. I’m super late to comment on this post, but this is really fantastic! I love the idea of living intentionally instead of letting life happen to us. This post reminds me of that quote by George Bernard Shaw: “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”

  16. I deal with these issues all the time lately. More so now that I’m in my 20s, for some reason. I have never thought of myself as beautiful, but lately, I see a different kind of beauty in me. Not just in my face, which isn’t super model gorgeous or anything. But also in my heart. I am a good person. A person I wish I could find more often elsewhere. (Ever wish more people would think/act like you? Maybe I’m just crazy.) This post was relateable on so many different levels. Keep up the positive thinking!

  17. The 1,2,3 at the end made this into a fantastic post. It’s one thing to suppose, to hope, but to truly look at yourself and go “Now how do I make this happen” is wonderful. Future Cassie is lucky to have Present Cassie.

  18. I really enjoyed this. And you included some great questions at the end that are marvelously introspective. Thank you for sharing!

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