What Would Your 16 Year Old Self Say?

Thank you Facebook, for sharing memories with us every so often.

You know what I’m talking about – when the picture shows up at the top of your feed, only for you, for you to choose to share memories from ages ago.

Well this afternoon I was scrolling through my feed I was tickled by this photo that one of my acquaintances had posted from over ten years ago.

We had just earned second place at the Regional Tennis Match.

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Take a moment, try to identify me.

I just couldn’t stop looking at this photo. We look so little- in our cozy high school cocoon of academics and after-school sports. Our biggest stresses were grades and championship matches. We were so fresh to life – protected, loved, achievers. Boy was I an achiever.

And as I stared and stared at the photo, my thoughts trickled to this blog post which my mentor Teresa Funke wrote just this last week about expectations. My coaches here were the ones who believed in me before I ever did – I still attribute much of my success during that time frame to them.

And then I asked myself, “Would 16 year old Katie pictured here be proud of me today?” Would she think she lived up to her expectations? Would these coaches think that I’ve lived up to their expectations?

It’s an uncomfortable prospect for an overachiever like me, to think that I’ve maybe let some wise leaders in my life down. When I was 16 and that photo was taken I was going to go to a private liberal arts school, go travel the world, go to grad school, get the heck out of Fort Collins and show them all!

I tried liberal arts school and I hated it – I couldn’t stop crying so I came home and went to “State” school.

I left town and came running back at break neck speed – this town, this community is my home.

I married my college sweetheart and live twenty minutes away from my childhood home.

I have had a lot of jobs and most recently am in a career spot I never would have anticipated.

I think my 16 year old self would maybe be a little shocked by how her expectations have shifted, changed, and evolved.

Yet, as I sat at my desk this afternoon, still starting at the photo, I was thinking about just how important it is to be proud of myself – despite the detours, despite the frustrations, despite life-altering loss.

Expectations are wonderful, but not when they are harming your self-esteem and your self-worth. Instead, I want to be proud of my choices that I made that have led me to this point. To bask in the feeling of permission to take risks, double-back, fail a little, and still return to the practice of loving myself that sometimes gets muddied when I play the perfectionist game.

There is so much beauty in being proud of yourself. 

There are emails floating around about a ten year high school reunion – I see these and my stomach groans a little bit. No, I’m not a doctor, and I don’t have letters behind my name, and I haven’t lived abroad or in cities, like many of my classmates, but I am running my own race.

In the last ten years I’ve worked for nonprofits, raised money, changed lives. I’ve written this blog, became a wife, been a daughter to a grieving widow. Been a sister, a friend, a baker, a puppy owner. My choices may not have led me to my original expectations, but I can still stand and be proud of where I am today.

I was talking with my mom a few weeks ago about our very strong desire to be seen – for our talents and accomplishments and contributions to go noticed in the workplace and beyond. I don’t think that desire changes as we age.

Can we combine others expectations for us with those of our own and stand and say, “Why yes, I’m pretty damn proud of the choice to keep expecting to love myself through it all!”?

I agree with Teresa when she says, “So when you see talent, call it out. You may provide just the right amount of encouragement to a fellow artist when he/she needs it most. And when someone shows faith in you, don’t dismiss it. Sometimes others know better than we do of what we are capable!”

We never know how we are influencing the lives of others.

Can you be brave enough to return to seeing these things in yourself? Can you remember to hold onto your own faith in you? Would your 16 year old self be proud?

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