Use your cursor to drag the line... old and new, almost 17 years apart!
There's something surreal about recreating a photo from 17 years ago. It shows that I once was that small, that my immediate universe extended across the street and maybe a couple blocks away to school. It shows that people in my life who knew me as a six year old still know me as a 23 year old. It's surreal, really, to see myself and how far I've come from who I was back then.
Six year old Kate didn't go by Kate – she was Katlin, or Katy, or Katie (depending on which grandmother was spelling her name). She hated mud and anything dirty, and spent more hours than she could fathom running across the front yard of her best friend's house "racing" the cars driving down the street. Six year old Kate knew she wanted to be a writer and already loved to read, but little did she know her job would one day entail writing blog posts and producing videos, and that her ultimate dream would take a pretty sharp turn about halfway through college. Her biggest concern used to be whether or not she could do the splits and if she could have ice cream after dinner. She didn't know what a passport was or where the countries that 23 year old Kate has traveled to even were on a map. Six year old Kate was oblivious to the pain and horror in the world around her, as six year olds ought to be. She dreamed of the day when she would compete in the summer olympics and win a gold medal, so she practiced hard on backbends and cartwheels until those turned into much more complicated tumbling passes.
Twenty-three year old Kate is almost an entirely different person. She isn't completely sure about what she wants, and she knows about tragedy and sorrow. She never made it to the summer olympics, though her passport is filling up trip by trip. She still loves to write (you are reading this blog), but she doesn't want to be a journalist. She tells stories in a new way now, and types her hopes and dreams out on a Macbook. She has had her heart broken, and her concerns range from paying for groceries to the ever-looming future. Kate, now 23, still hates mud but loves the outdoors despite her seasonal allergies. She is interested in history and identity, and is making a mark on the world – her mark on the world, so that someday, someone may say "oh, Kate was here" or "oh, Kate did this" and be inspired. But she's not quite there yet.
Twenty-three year old Kate would tell six year old Kate that change is not only okay, but can be wonderful; that the things in life that seem terrible as a teenager are, for the most part, incredibly insignificant; that some of the most fun she'll have is doing certain things she thought she would hate, but that she did anyway because the timing was right.
I'm currently working as a social media coordinator for the National Student Leadership Conference. Students started arriving at Rice University in Houston yesterday, and I'm so excited to work with them. During staff training, we talked about the goals of the NSLC and of these conferences, and something that stuck with me was just one word: impact. We, as a staff, will have an impact on these high school students. We can share our experiences, tell them about our foibles and triumphs, and lead them in what we currently perceive as the right direction. Someday, they will look back on the photos from their time here and think "oh my goodness, we were so young and naïve, we barely had a clue how our lives would turn out!" – as will we. These young adults, I'm sure, will teach us more than we realize at the time.
In the last year, I have simultaneously let people fade out of my life, have added new friends to my arsenal of "chosen family," and have reconnected with a few people I didn't necessarily expect to connect with but am so glad I am getting to know again and in a new context. Though I don't "race" cars down the street anymore, I'm still friends with the person who used to be right next to me. He's one of the few people who has stuck by my side (hopefully now by choice, though spending Christmas together for the last decade + and the fact that our moms are BFFs has certainly helped). The people who have touched my life in one way or another are so unbelievably incredible that I can't even fathom where or who I would be without their influence.
Even though I'm writing this with more or less five hours of sleep in my system, according to my FitBit knock-off, I can say with absolute certainty that this summer will be one for the ages. So, cheers to the memories we're all about to make and the lessons we're all about to learn.
SIDEBAR: If you haven't already, please follow @NSLCinHouston on Twitter, keep up with more photos on our Flickr page, watch fun videos produced by yours truly on our YouTube channel, and read a bit about what the students here are experiencing on our blog. I promise you won't regret it :)