The poetic, playful and prophetic musings of quintessential voices trying to keep up with life

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

On Not Being Who I Thought I'd Be By Now

Recently I've found myself thinking about my 18 year old self. 
To inspire me, I dug through some old pictures. Here is Kelsey, age 18. ------>
(Note: I look almost exactly the same today and have still never worn a baseball cap well.)

I've been questioning what 18 year old Kelsey would think of the way 24 year old Kelsey is currently living her life. Because 18 year old Kelsey had big plans for her life. She wanted to change the world and change the church and also somehow have gobs of time to spend with all of her friends who just happened to all live in her neighborhood.

But 18 year old Kelsey didn't have bills to pay. She'd never been told no. She only had to think in theory. Her biggest concern was changing her major - again and again and again.

I find myself - 24 year old Kelsey - caught in the middle of a contradiction. I want adventure, spontaneity, and to be completely uprooted, while I simultaneously desire security, groundedness, and continuity.

I want to move to a new state every year (which I've done for the last three consecutive years) and make new friends and have new, crazy adventures and I also want to own a home with a picket fence and a dog and never move again.

I want to address poverty and devote my life to 15 causes and protest bad stuff and get arrested for said protesting and I also want to curl up with my girlfriend every night and watch Modern Family or Scandal and go to bed at 10 p.m. - oh, and having a record probably wouldn't look good for finding a normal job.

I still have no idea what kind of grown up I want to be.

Eighteen year old Kelsey probably did not dream of this life but what did 18 year old Kelsey know? She didn't even know that the place I currently live (Michigan's upper peninsula) exists.

She hadn't learned yet how beautiful the world is, or that she'd find herself falling in love with mountains, oceans, and most recently, very large lakes. She had yet to discover her adventurous self, the one who - just two years later - would fly to the other side of the world and, among other highly adventurous activities, hitchhike across a mountain range.

Eighteen year old Kelsey, in all of her optimism, naivety, and youth, allowed herself be wired by the community around her into a lover of humanity (for which I will be forever thankful). Her number one fear was to settle for an unfulfilled life. Her greatest ambition was to hear the secrets of everyone she met. (That part hasn't changed at all, and I know more than she would have ever hoped.)

She was ignorant in her beliefs that change was easy, that other people would want to change too, and that people would always be around to ponder the big life questions with her. But she dared to see the potential of a better world.

She was ambitious in thought, but not always very practical. For instance, 18 year old Kelsey also once promised to never make a decision based on money, and let's be honest: that's just downright stupid.

I think she thought by now I'd have finally figured out a career (which I haven't), that I'd be finishing up grad school (which I haven't started yet), and ideally that I would have ended poverty by now, and if not today hopefully sometime next week. 

Sometimes I feel like I'm letting her down. Sometimes I feel like that wild ambition has gone to waste, that all those big ideas are sitting dormant now.
I believe she would be critical of how much of a planner I've become, that she'd think I allow too little room for life's surprises. I think she would be excited about my amazing community, but wonder why I am spending so much time sitting down, letting life happen to me instead of throwing myself head first into the chaos.

And so maybe it's okay that 24 year old Kelsey is stuck with a naive, highly idealistic, and crazily optimistic 18 year old Kelsey's voice in my head, pushing me forward just when I'm ready to sit still for awhile.

When I think about the difference between myself today and myself six years ago, the thing 18 year old Kelsey did was dream bigger. She didn't do life much differently than I do, she was just totally determined that a better world was not just possible, that she could help bring it to fruition. I think 18 year old Kelsey would like to reach through the past into today and shake out the skepticism and cynicism that has slowly crept into my being.

And I believe that every now and then it's helpful for me to look at my life through her critical eye, wondering what she would say about the life I've chosen for myself.  And I have hope that one of these days I'll make her proud.

What would your 18 year old self say about the way you're living today? Is that voice helpful to you today?

I can't wait to hear your stories,


  1. It has been wonderful watching Kelsey Jo grow up! You are an amazing person. I think you have learned that slowing down at times helps you enjoy life to its fullest! I think when you lived with your Grandma Pat you found it's great getting to know a few people really well is a good thing.
    I love this part ... 18 year old Kelsey also once promised to never make a decision based on money, and let's be honest: that's just downright stupid. I'm really glad the 24 year old Kelsey is giving it SOME thought!
    It is amazing that you have known yourself so well. Love, Mom

  2. Well, I loved 10 year old Kelsey! She always made me laugh! I thought 18 year old Kelsey did great things and I have loved watching her grow up into a pretty cool person! 24 year old Kelsey may not have it all figured out but I hope she just keeps being who she is! Mrs. K.

  3. You are wonderful. Always have been, always will be.


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