My sister recently shared a photograph of a wood ruler I wrote my name on and dated Jan. 23, 1989, when I was in the seventh grade.
Somehow the ruler survived more than three decades of being packed around and used. My sister took the picture as my nephew, currently in the eighth grade, used the ruler to do his own math homework.
I remember hating the seventh grade. I was fitted for glasses and braces in the same year. I grew anxious and self-aware when it came to fitting in and having friends. I couldn’t figure out how or why the hierarchy of my social circles was changing. I started struggling with my weight and depression.
If I was confronted with my younger self today, I wish I could tell him all of those emotions and confusion went away as an adult, but they haven’t. I’ve found that life and feelings may ebb and flow, but who I am internally remains relatively consistent.
As an adult, I learned to name some things I experienced as an adolescent (hello, ADHD). And I learned to better manage others. Exercise does wonders for anxiety and depression — whenever I’m motivated enough to do it.
But yes, weight is still an issue, along with dark emotions and a struggle to fit into most social circles.
My younger self might be happy to know that he eventually marries someone he is over the moon in love with. I’d probably skip telling him about the journey along the bumpy road of dating to get there.
Mostly though, looking at that ruler, I think I find it harder to measure the strides and distance from childhood to adulthood today than what I thought when I was young and daydreamed about the future as a means of current escape.
While looking back, I know there’s been tremendous positive growth and change over the past 33 years of my life, but it’s not as if I entirely left the 12-year-old who wrote his name on that ruler back in 1989.
He’s still there, living inside of me, underneath all of the layers and years of experience.