I recently stumbled on an old post from about 15 years ago, and in it a make a solid effort to describe my life experience. This post gave me pause, because although so much has changed, and I can barely relate to my ~23 year old self, so many other things haven’t. It’s an attestation to the fact that people truly do change over the years, but often not in ways that we expect. Since it’s a Sunday (and I’m putting off recording a talk) I want to reflect on it here.
The third decade of my life (my 20s) were very dark times. If you read old posts, you’ll find a lot of my younger self realizing she is different, and struggling to find understanding or explanation for what she sees in the world. Yes, I’m writing in 3rd person, because I almost see this person as an entirely different person. I don’t relate to a lot of what my previous self is saying, although the words take me back to this time.
The opening statement about the “energy level” … “in my head” largely has not changed. What has changed is my ability to control and funnel it. I no longer allow my internal intensity to dictate my day to day life, but rather I turn it on and off when I need to. When I’m working, running, or dancing? I turn it on! When I want to relax, which I’ve learned how to do, I switch it off. It has evolved from an unfocused, intense sadness into a source of joy and compassion for people and things that I care about. It has gone from a weakness to a superpower.
My 23 year old self also had not broken through some glass ceiling when it comes to understanding how life works, and realizing that nobody knows what they are doing. I am referring to these statements:
My days are scheduled around lists of tasks that I tackle with relentless energy and intensity… I live my life by rules…. The way that I sleep, work, eat, is completely scheduled and planned, and that’s the way that I like it.
I absolutely cannot relate to that anymore. I sound like a robot. I still have mental lists of the things I want to do, but they don’t control me. At the beginning of my 30s is when something must have popped and I realized the real “rules” were that there were no rules, and nobody really knew what they were doing, and it was up to me to decide how I wanted to live my life, and do exactly that. I rebelled in a way against structures that attempted to control my time (time and meetings, anyone?) and expectations that are placed on someone of my age and gender. I (finally) in my fourth decade embraced being different, and that alone has allowed me to thrive.
One thing that hasn’t changed, and is hard to change, is that I set incredibly high expectations for myself. I’m happy to report that I don’t set this kind of expectation on others anymore. This is absolutely not something I agree with:
This is the mindset from which I conduct my life, and consequently I don’t have patience or a high tolerance for laziness, arrogance, or a large deviation from a standard of excellence.
Now when I look at other people I see life stories, and I see adversity. I see people that have survived things that I couldn’t possibly know, and I believe that they do the best they can do for the time they need to do it. I also see that people vary in the degree to which they prioritize different things. If someone places family or a social outing first, who am I to judge them?
This is largely the same - I can’t have much control over changing how I physically perceive the world. The main difference is that I have much more control now, being fully remote, than I ever did before. Before the pandemic when I traveled, I would still plan it very carefully to make sure I wouldn’t find myself overwhelmed with too many people or too much commotion at once. Would it be neat to revisit this in 10 years, and not have these sensory issues anymore? Sure! B
These old posts are really interesting to read. Life was really hard for me as a young person, and if I could go back in time, I’d want to give myself a hug, and tell her that she would get through it. It’s a validating thing to see that when you work hard and don’t give up on yourself, things can get better. If you don’t have a personal journal or blog, even private, I recommend that you take the time to write. It’s really interesting to see changes in ourselves, and introspect.
Sochat, Vanessa. "What it was like to be me... 15 years ago." @vsoch (blog), 30 Apr 2023, https://vsoch.github.io/2023/what-its-like-to-be-me/ (accessed 04 Feb 24).