Came across this picture over the weekend, sorting through boxes of old photos:
It's my high school graduation.
My clearest memory of that day is the ache of my cheeks from smiling that much - as broadly as you can see in the photo - for the entire day. Every single waking moment of it.
Don't get me wrong: my high school years were pretty happy years - reasonably straightforward, filled with a lot of sports, a group of truly amazing friends (see you Thursday ladies!!), and a couple of great boyfriends. I had nothing to complain about.
But on a deep, depths-of-the-soul level was always the feeling that there would be more - that I would be more. I never felt that I wholly fit the skin of a perky suburban cheerleader, and I lived through those years with the vague sense that there was so much more Kirsten yet to discover.
This was not the dark emo-angst that leads one to carve in bathroom stall doors, or start wearing Sex Pistols t-shirts. (In fact, when I flirted briefly with an all-black goth look my mother just laughed and said it was cute.) Rather, it was as if I'd been let in on part of a Big Secret, and that all I had to do was bide my time until all would be revealed.
The day I graduated, the thought that ran through my head on a constant loop was this: "Now is when my story starts. Today is when everything starts."
I was headed out into the world, and I was so ready to make it mine. I wanted to travel - and in fact had booked a EuRail Pass to depart a week later. I wanted to expand every horizon, to live in ways I'd only read about in books. I knew with total clarity that I was on course to meet the person I'd always wanted to be - that the coming years would be challenging, maybe scary, but they would be MINE.
There is a point to all this reminiscing (beyond it being June, and graduations happening all around me.)
My oldest had a rough time at school this year - the social dynamics of first grade these days are as complex as anything I ran up against as a 10th grader. I have watched her transform, as a result, into a very different version of my Cecilie-girl - more introspective, more cautious, much more sensitive to the judgement of others.
Part of my heart breaks that she's learned some of these lessons so early. But part of me wants to tell her about my graduation day - to tell her that there is so much living yet to come. SO MUCH that she will learn, so much in which she'll triumph AND fail, so many areas in which she'll grow.
What I would tell my 18-year old self that long-ago day in June is pretty much what I would tell my 8-year old now: every day is when your story starts. Every day can be yours, on your terms. All I had done, that June day, was reach the point where I was ready to see, and ready to grow. I hope Cecilie is ready for that sooner than I was.