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 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.