Throughout my college career, I’ve thought about what my high school self would think if she could see me now. I do this partly to get perspective about whether or not I’m on the right track in life, but also because I look up to her. It’s weird looking up to someone younger than me; it’s almost depressing looking up to the person I used to be. Still, I want her approval. I want her to be satisfied that her hard work and constant suffering and depression and chronic anxiety amounted to something.
I’m graduated college in less than a month with a degree in chemistry and a minor in English. I have a fantastic partner whom I’ve been with for over two years. I just accepted an offer into one of the highest ranked chemistry Ph.D. programs in the country. I’m almost entirely self-sufficient: I cook healthy, delicious meals for myself, I pay all my bills on time, and I don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink for more than 4 days. My life is going pretty great.
I’ve been under the impression that my high school self would be proud of me—in awe, even. I’m living the exact life she had hoped for me. However, today I realized that she wouldn’t be proud of me at all. I think she’d actually be disgusted. She would feel that every accomplishment I have made was a result of what she had set up in high school, and I’ve just been riding the waves. Now, my current self has resorted back to complete laziness, procrastination, self-pity, oversleeping, overeating, and constant auto-pilot. My high school self would be screaming at my current self: What are you doing??? You’re ruining everything!!!
My high school self is completely justified in thinking this. She was a machine. She read and took notes on the book for every class and reviewed them regularly. She actually paid attention in every class. She started studying for exams a week ahead of time. She ran an average of four miles a day. She wasn’t interested in relationships because she knew that preparing for her future was more important, and that she wasn’t at the right time in her life to have a healthy relationship with another person. She rarely watched TV, even on the weekends. Once, she watched Saw V on a Wednesday only because those were the days of Blockbuster, and it had to be returned in a few days. However, she prepared for the movie night by finishing everything that needed to get done ahead of time, and once the movie was over, she turned off the TV and read or something. She had a nighttime ritual of showering, doing pushups and sit-ups (increasing the number of each by one every day), stretching while listening to relaxing music, meditating, and studying either for the SATs, ACTs, or subject tests for 30 minutes before reading for pleasure and going to sleep. She balanced school, working at a department store, practicing long hours in the band (marching and concert), and being the president of the school’s literary magazine editorial team. There was nothing this girl couldn’t do because she knew what needed to get done and did it.
Now, look at me. I get done with class at 5:30ish each day, go home, eat a massive amount of dinner while watching TV, watch some more TV, and then go to sleep at, like, 10. I put minimum effort into anything that needs to get done, and I just don’t care. Granted, this is my last semester, and I’m taking a very light load, but that doesn’t mean that I can stop working on improving myself and just waste these valuable days of my life. I wish my high school self was here right now so that she could slap me in the face and shake me back into reality.
I can’t be too hard on myself, though. I have improved in a lot of other ways from the person I was back then. I hated myself back then, and I tried to fit in with the people around me. I judged other people. I was never relaxed. I wasted time on things and people that did not make me happy. I’m a much more relaxed and happy person now. I love and accept myself and make a point to accept others as they are, too. I now know how to let go of things that either I can’t change or aren’t important to me. I’m less afraid (though still significantly afraid) to step out of my comfort zone and try new things.
I think that my high school self and my current self have a lot to learn about each other, and then maybe my future grad school self can have the best of both and then find new things to improve. Still, I’m going to try to make changes in my life now so that I can get back into those habits that helped me so much in high school.
Do you ever look back at your old self and wonder what they’d think of you now? If so, how do you think they’d feel?