When these little blasts from the past first started popping up, I really liked them.
I would be scrolling through my news feed and a nice photo of me and some friends would pop up. The little "time-hop" photo would inform me of what I was doing three years ago on this very day, as well as who I was with. It was nice, really.
It was nice until it wasn't anymore.
A photo popped up a few days ago that was from my NYC days. The girl in the picture (above) looked so full of hope sitting among that beautiful city's street lights. She looked lighter in spirit (and in the physical sense—I was a twig!) and brave and ready to take on a city where she had no roots to claim.
And I thought to myself: What happened to that girl?
That girl had spunk. That girl had dreams. That girl was really going places.
So, where in the hell did that girl go?
The weight of failure and regret came over me something strong. I loved living in the city. I loved how busy it was and how inspiration could be found just by looking outside your tiny apartment window. I loved how creative everyone was and how it wasn't uncommon to hear someone speak about following their dreams.
New York City was alive—and it made me feel that way, too.
After I had come to the conclusion that my life completely sucked in its current state, I decided to go ahead and dwell on it by pulling out some of my old journals that I kept while living in NYC.
I was ready to crack open dusty pages of goals and aspirations and dreams. I was ready to read about how happy I was and how everything made more sense now that I was living in the city. I was ready to unveil that girl in the picture.
That girl in the picture was definitely there. But her thoughts did not match the description of that girl I had in my mind.
Instead of finding pages filled with tales of success, fulfillment, and happiness, I discovered rants of confusion, depression, and frustration.
But, wait—I thought I was happy when I lived in the city. I was! Wasn't I?
The answer to that is yes—and no.
It's funny how we can trick ourselves into believing that our past selves are more worthy than who we currently are. I guess when I wrote that blog on comparison (read The Social Thief of Joy here) I forgot to add a really important person to the list of people we shouldn't compare our lives with—ourselves!
That's exactly what I was doing, after all. I was comparing myself with, well, my damned self! I was justifying stealing joy that I had already experienced. I was acting as the thief of my OWN joy.
Don't get me wrong—there were plenty of pages of how much I enjoyed living in the city too.
I still miss walking the streets, the incredible and diverse food and culture, and I especially miss the active creative communities that reside there. (Most people here look at me like I might need some help when I tell them my blog is my job.) But, even with all of those amazing things surrounding me, I was STILL lost—in many ways!
So, if you find yourself face-to-face with an old photo or status update that makes you want to do the idiotic thing of comparing yourself with yourself, take a step back. Don't just look at the moment that was captured or described without remembering the moments that led up to that particular one. They count—they matter—too!
You may have looked thinner or seemed happier or more motivated or inspired when you look back but, guess what? YOU ARE STILL THOSE THINGS.
We like to forget that we are still made up of the very same things that made us who we used to be. Those thoughts still came from you. That bravery was found inside of you. That kind of happiness is still yours for the taking. It is, and always will be, up to YOU.
Do you want to know where that girl in the picture really went?
She went home.
I remember when I first came back from NYC, I felt like a complete failure. I tucked my tail between my legs and licked my wounds the entire car ride home. I was convinced that I would never be able to reach my full potential if I wasn't living in a place that was pulsing with it.
I thought I needed the Big City to chase my Big dreams.
I could not have been more wrong.
What I needed to chase those big dreams was a big dose of reality. Limiting my level of success based on my current city limits only showed the great distance I had left to learn—not to travel.
While I was working in a bookstore in NYC, I opened up a book that I was restocking and found a handwritten quote. It read:
Wherever you are is the starting point. -Kabir
I kept it. I knew that someday it would mean more to me than it already did—even in that sweet moment of its discovery. We were meant for each other, me and that note. It is still pinned on my corkboard and it continues to be one of my favorite reminders.
I came home from that big city with my big dreams and, eventually, learned to appreciate my roots—even love them.
I'm not sure if I will ever live in that great city again, but I do know that not living there will never keep me from becoming great. I also am not going to get where I want to be any faster by comparing myself with where I was or who I used to be.
I guess the best starting point really is where you are—even if it is exactly where you've always been.