So many people from your past know a version of you that no longer exists anymore. Growth is beautiful. (Vintage Vivids)
Our son took the photo above in Hong Kong in December of 1991. Brett was deployed to the Persian Gulf for Operation Desert Storm, and wouldn’t be home for Christmas. We had recently received all of our deposits back from our off-base rental, and not wanting to spend Christmas at home without Brett, I signed up our son (age 12) and myself on a Christmas tour to Hong Kong. He and I had a wonderful time eating, sightseeing, but mostly shopping. In the photo above I am ready to head into the old Kowloon Bird Street to purchase several bamboo bird cages while our son ogled the birds and all the live critters available for their dining (bugs, worms, etc.).
The Laura of thirty years ago mostly doesn’t exist any more. I was so very insecure then, and wanted to be someone other than who I was. I felt oppressed and frustrated by the navy’s social structure in place at the time (officer/enlisted), and under appreciated for my talents and intelligence. Relationships with my family were not solid ground either, but Brett and I had a strong, affectionate marriage and a wonderful son, and those were my comfort and where I centered myself. Some of who I am now was beginning to emerge though – I was a saver and I was frugal and looked for bargains (Hong Kong was full of them!). I loved traveling and new experiences. There were other things I didn’t understand yet, that I was an introvert and thrived on having time on my own to recharge. Back then I stayed socially active because I still thought that’s how I had to be, but outside of my marriage and a couple of close friends I was miserable.
I wish I could have told myself 30 years ago that things were going to get better, lots better, and that my dreams were all going to come true. I would earn an advanced degree, complete research, and work in my field. I would travel, to places I couldn’t imagine then, and form wonderful friendships. I was going to raise not one but four beautiful, accomplished children. Most importantly, I would become able to banish the demons from my childhood, and more importantly discover and accept that I was not the flighty, unserious person my family had labeled me. Many of these things would be learned the hard way, through work and difficult choices, but I was always a good learner. I wish I could tell the Laura of 30 years earlier that she would end up with a comfortable retirement, a loving family, and a happy life full of accomplishments and possibilities.
I am content these days. I recognize and honor what I have accomplished even though I chose a different path than others. I have done all the things I wanted to do, and more beyond. I know what I like but still remain open to new experiences and ideas, and I continue to approach much of the world with wonder. I remain positive about life and look forward to each day, and still always carry hope in my pockets.
I am aging gracefully. My hair is gray, but curlier than ever and I love it. I need glasses these days, and I weigh a bit more than I did 30 years ago but am at a good place for my age. I have surprisingly few health issues. I’ve come to like myself very much while acknowledging and accepting my limitations. I’ve become more tolerant of some things these days, less so of others (far less so in some cases).
My life has been a magnificent roller coaster ride. I slowly climbed the steep hill to adulthood, lacking confidence, and with the slowness and views during the ascent leaving me a bit unprepared for how things were going to suddenly speed up as the car headed down into the rest of life’s twists and turns. A few of those moments almost threw me right out of my car, but others, although unexpected, were exciting and had me craving more as I grew better at seeing them coming and prepared myself. A few upside down loops have rattled me now and again, but I’ve always righted myself and continued, eager for more. I’ve gone beyond the halfway point of my ride now, but there is still more left to go, and a few more twists and turns to get through before I (hopefully) slowly glide in to the final stop.
My life has been the best adventure ever and I’m looking forward to what’s yet to come. It may not always be good news, and things may not happen as hoped for or planned, but I know now I can face whatever is coming because I’ve not only been growing older, but growing better, and with grace.