Age Up

I recently hopped on Facebook and saw a flurry of “How hard did aging it you?” posts.  Though I am not someone to post that kind of thing on my Facebook page, I like the space this now-popular prompt provides for self-reflection. 

First Facebook profile picture, circa April 2010

I started my Facebook page in 2010.  I was 13 years old, and was most likely in eighth grade.  It’s kind of wild to think back to the girl I was, and remember that I am the same soul, then and now.

I remember being in middle school, settling into a comfortableness with myself towards the end of eighth grade.  I remember, quite vividly actually, hearing my first swear word at lunch in seventh grade.  I performed in two plays while in middle school, and both times I had to sing (which was a very uncomfortable adventure for me).  I had viewed myself as on the social fringes of my classes, and I remember being in seventh grade, totally shocked to my core when my peers had collectively elected me to act as a peer mentor.  Middle school was also when I had my first (and last) run-ins with the principal.  In seventh grade, though a total lapse of judgement on my part, an eighth grade girl threw yogurt at me and my friends.  In eighth grade, without thinking, I let a peer copy my homework, and a teacher saw. 

In middle school, I also experienced my first “relationship”. I never held his hand or even hug him, I think. But I do vaguely remember slow dancing with him at a school dance. I also, very clearly, remember his (female) friends trying to convince him to place his hands lower on my back, and I remember how uncomfortable that suggestion made me feel.

Girls’ retreat at my church, circa 2010

I was awkward when it came to relationships. Having a crush on a guy made me act very weird around them, and hearing a guy had a crush on me made it even worse. I think I dubbed myself a “hopeless romantic” at the time, and I think I preferred to admire from a far.

You probably could have also called me a “Bible thumper”. I had never really been exposed to people of other religions, most notably atheists. When I encountered these different views, my gut reaction was to condemn those that believed them as ignorant and were doomed to Hell. My notebooks were littered with cross-infused sketches and verses of worship songs.

Spring, circa 2011

Freshman year of high school was a wild experience for me. I was nervous for high school, and I had joined the marching band. I have deep scars from my section leader, during my freshman and sophomore year of band. I later came to find out that she was diagnosed bipolar, but apart from that diagnosis, she was horribly toxic.

 

Through marching band, I created a group of steadfast friends. We hung out a lot together, and took care of each other. But looking back, I recognize that I most likely struggled with social anxiety. I wasn’t very talkative, and when I did have to say something, I stumbled over my words and second guessed everything I said. I was worried that people thought I wasn’t smart. This was particularly strong when participating in class discussions. It was in band, however, that I felt most comfortable. I eventually got dubbed the “mom” of the friend group in band, because of my tendency to *gently* monitor language and keep everyone in check. They say marching band becomes like a family, and at least to me in regards to my friends, this was very true.

When sophomore year rolled around, I started my first serious relationship.  It was with a guy in the marching band, which both complicated and simplified many band experiences. It was a powerful learning experience for me, and as I am prepping to get married in September, I’ve found myself reflecting on the lessons I learned a lot.

Homecoming, October 12, 2013

It was also in sophomore year that my friend group experienced many fractures. At the end of the school year, my best friend and I both tried out for the section leader position. In the summer between freshman and sophomore year, I traveled across Europe playing my flute. I had been placed as second chair flute in the traveling orchestra, and though I tried to be really humble about it, I knew my skills were superior to the other flute players in my section. Playing has always come really naturally to me, and I knew others struggled with it. Remember how I mentioned my section leader was toxic? She had favored my best friend (who also played flute) over me in almost everything, in very blatant ways. (There are things this section leader did, and said to me, that took a long time to heal from.) I felt constantly stuck between knowing who I was and what I was capable, and the way I was treated by my section leader. I tried out for the section leader position in a attempt to make myself heard and seen, for who I was
and what I was capable of.

I was given the position, and my best friend and I didn’t speak for four years. (Spoiler alert: She’s now a maid of honor for my wedding!)

Our friend group in band, though it was obvious they did, they tried not to be blatant about picking sides. I felt further disconnected than before, and  any social anxiety I may have had was suddenly multiplied.

Junior year started, and I devoted myself to my leadership position and my studies. My religious ideas were also shifting, but I can’t remember in what degree. I also remember, very clearly, having very definitive ideas about what I wanted to do after high school, and trying to be dissuaded to do something else. I think the plans included a gap year, or a year of missions, and I remember being told by my guidance counselor that I shouldn’t waste a year, and that I’d have time later in my life to do those things.

Summer of junior year rolled around, and I broke up with my boyfriend. I was on a spiritual high, and though I felt unsure about my future, I felt a confidence and a peace from God.

Trip to Bahamas, August 2014

Senior year started and boy, it was rough. The splintering that had started in my friend group in band was now made worse by the split with my boyfriend. That friend group is actually no longer together, as far as I know. I was section leader again, and though I still loved what I was doing, I felt a discomfort growing in my section. I also had to address a student in my section, in regards to missing a required practice and not being able to participate in a performance. I knew that caused tension and discomfort towards me, among the students in my section.

I think it was also in senior year that I felt my independence from my peers quite strongly. I began to be comfortable in my desire to do my own thing, regardless of what everyone else was doing. I didn’t care about going to the college everyone else was going to. I didn’t care about getting involved with everyone else. For example, I went to school for senior skip day, and then skipped the class trip to go to the spa.

Linlithgow Palace, Scotland, Summer 2015

I had experienced, for I think the first time, a confidence and a comfortableness in my own decisions as a person.

I also went on to graduate in the top ten percent of my class, with a 4.01 GPA and a member of Tri-M National Music Honors Society.

That summer, my family and I went to Scotland. I think that trip, and the prospect of going to college, of my own planning and choice, completely separate from anyone in high school, allowed me to feel free and happy.

College started, and is now almost finished. It has been a wild ride, one full of adventures. Heck, I studied in Italy for five weeks, a country I have always wanted to visit! I have been challenged in my religious ideas, my ability to apply my brain to difficult assignments, and my ability to live with other people in a dorm room.  I have worked hard at jobs, and then 

Perugia, Italy, June 28, 2018 

Perugia, Italy, hardly worked for a period of time. I am currently at a position I love and am applying to full time positions for the future. I have come to be comfortable in traveling by myself through college and making my own decisions. I didn’t make many friends during college, both at my community college and at my graduating univeristy, but I am totally okay with that. I haven’t felt like I missed out on anything truly important because of my independence.

Summer between my sophomore and junior of college, I started dating my now fiance. He has been my biggest, and best, adventure.

I am set to graduate college with my Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology, May 11, 2019, at 10 o’clock in the morning. I will graduate a part of Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society, Psi Chi National Honor Society, and National Honor Society of Leadership and Success.  I have already started looked for online Master’s degrees, in Psychology, specifically in Applied Behavioral Analysis. Life is getting real.

And the most beautiful thing of all, I get to marry my best friend on September 29th at 4 o’clock in the evening.

Engagement photos, taken October 2018

This is a long post, but I guess how do you sum up ten years of living, loving, growing, and changing in a short collection of sentences? How can you accurately demonstrate how much has changed just by slapping two pictures, ten years apart, together? I have grown and changed so much, my soul feels so different and so much stronger than ever before. There has so much I experienced and has impacted my soul in profound ways; some things I’ve shared, and some I haven’t. Looking back, high school was rough and middle school feels like a wispy dream. (Elementary and earlier childhood memories feels even further distant.) But, I love who I have become and the confidence I have gained in myself, and the comfortableness I have in who I am, and the future I have crafted for myself.

Selfie, taken today, January 25, 2019

It’s a good thing to get older and wiser, and I’m really excited to look back in ten more years.

Ciao for now,
Julia

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