On the social medias this month, the ten-year challenge is all the rage. The challenge consists of posting photos of oneself in 2009 alongside pictures taken more recently, and I think that the only people who are doing it are the ones who really don’t look any different or the ones who finally figured out the right haircut for their face shape and have stopped wearing eyeliner around their entire eyes and looking like the guys in Good Charlotte and as a result they actually look much better now than they did ten years ago. I have not taken part in this challenge for a few reasons, such as I don’t really have many photos of myself from 2009, and because 2009 was not a good year for me hairstyle-wise, and because I do not think I have any photos of myself from 2019 whatsoever. I don’t really like pictures of myself because my eyes always look tired and squinty like I either just smoked a bowl or haven’t slept for weeks, and because when I smile my left eye forgets how to eye and it will be half-closed and weird-looking and appears much smaller than my right one and then all I can see when I look at photos is my right eye which appears freakishly big but it isn’t, the left one is just being stupid and making the right one look bad. All I can really do to mitigate this is to not smile and hope for the best (and also later be subjected to “you need to smile more” comments from people who do not know the struggle of having an eye that does not know how to eye), or better yet, just not take pictures of myself.
To me, the ten-year challenge is a reminder of just how quickly time passes, because in my mind 2009 doesn’t actually feel all that terribly long ago. For the first time in my life, this year I have found myself particularly preoccupied with my age. I think this is because I’m turning thirty-five in July, putting me much closer to mid-thirties than early-thirties, which means that all too soon I’m going to be in my LATE thirties and that shit is a little scary.
This whole worrying-about-being-old thing is new to me, because in my twenties I had an annoying coworker who would constantly remind me of how I looked so young and would exclaim not-helpful things like “How on earth did you convince them to let you work here when you’re only 12?!?” Other people in my life were more subtle about it, but enough people would tell me that I looked so much younger than I was that I felt pretty confident that by the time I was in my forties I would just look like what other people looked like in their twenties. Now though, I rarely see myself in a mirror when I don’t look sleep-deprived and squishy in places that used to be firm, and I would be lying if I said that part of my desire to lose weight this year has nothing to do with a faint hope of recapturing some of my youthful look. I had never thought that I would be using the word “haggard” to describe my appearance, and yet here we are. And this is in spite of the fact that I now a drink a ton of water every day and try to get enough sleep and wear moisturizer and sunscreen and actually take off my makeup every night before I go to bed.
Instead of posting photos of myself ten years ago and now, I would like to instead think about how much more awesome my life is now than it was in 2009. Back then, I still lived in California, I had the afore-mentioned not-great hairstyle, I was working a job I hated, I was in a relationship that didn’t make me feel safe or fulfilled, and I felt rather stuck in life. I threw myself into activities like volunteering so that I could do something to make me feel good and also to fill up my time so I did not have any free moments to contemplate the stuck feelings. If I had actually paused to think about it, I would have had to admit to myself that overall I was pretty unhappy. And so when I finally did pause, I began making major changes. I moved to Washington, got jobs at work that I liked much better, and surrounded myself with people who loved me and cheered me on and helped me feel comfortable just being me. I learned to end relationships that didn’t make me feel good, paving the way to the incredible marriage I now enjoy with my husband. My late twenties and early thirties have been all about figuring out what works for me. I may not look better than I did in 2009, but my life most certainly does.