Nostalgia is no stranger to me. This could be from overthinking, or from my personality type, or perhaps my Enneagram number I’m still learning about. But I think it’s also just part of being in your twenties. The joys, heartaches, and even aimlessness of budding adulthood provide ample opportunity for reflection. And a recent social media trend caused me to be even more aware of the way in which things once were—and aware of some things I couldn’t possibly have seen coming.
If younger me could see me now…
Seven-year-old me would be in awe that I’m a writer. I think my second-grade teacher was the first to put the idea in my head. She complimented my word choice and encouraged my creativity, planting the seeds that would later blossom into my passion. That year, as our class dabbled in poetry and short stories, I fell in love with crafting sentences. And now I get to do it on a regular basis—for work and for fun. I like to believe that seven-year-old me would find that pretty cool.
Eleven-year-old me wouldn’t believe they’re not here. Yes, younger me knew her grandparents and great-grandparents weren’t going to live forever. I was lucky to have them in my life for as long as I did. But the passing of time is rather unforgiving. No more summer days spent watching cartoons and playing checkers with grandpa. No more phone calls with sweet great-grandparents. No more nursing home visits. Five funerals in five years. And I might’ve seen some of it coming, but it doesn’t ease the pain. And then one day my mom’s dearest friend wasn’t there either, though she had so much more life to live. And I think all the days in earthly existence will go by before it seems fair.
Thirteen-year-old me would be surprised at how little those problems matter. Yes, it really is true. If I could tell my middle-school self or even my high-school self that the worries over clothes and friends and popularity and fitting in wouldn’t matter the moment the tassel turned, she might not believe it at first. But eventually, younger me would breathe an immense sigh of relief.
Seventeen-year-old me would be so relieved that my college decision was the right one. I still struggle with decision paralysis. But for all the stress and sleepless nights during senior year, the trade-off was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Here’s to younger me for ignoring the community college stigma, deciding to pursue my passion for writing, and transferring to a college that brought lifelong friendships, a transformed faith, and memories that eighty-year-old me will still cherish.
Nineteen-year-old me would be shocked that I’m not friends with her anymore. To this day, I still avoid the term “best friend.” They say it’s okay—normal, even—to outgrow friendships. But that makes it sound like a conscious choice. What happens when it’s out of your control? What happens when the drift gradually increases until one day it’s too far? One day you hang out together for the last time. One day your phone buzzes with her text for the last time. Before you know it, weeks turn into months with radio silence. I never imagined we’d get to that point. And to be honest, I still don’t know how it happened.
Twenty-one-year-old me wouldn’t believe he’s going to be my husband. Yes, the cute, outgoing guy on the college trip. The trip I almost didn’t take. Not to mention the prayer of contentment in my singleness that I prayed about a month before we met. Now our wedding is mere months away. I think God does indeed find some humor in our expectations or best-laid plans. I’m especially glad for this time.
Twenty-three-year-old me wouldn’t believe how different the world is. To be sure, I’m not the only one who grappled with change, uncertainty, or despair in the last two years. But that was my “normal” before the “new normal.” Pre-COVID, I was underemployed and feeling pretty hopeless. Then the whole world stopped. I wasn’t the only one at home in the middle of the afternoon on a Tuesday, feeling like I was missing out on something more. We all missed out. It’s still an unsettling feeling.
Twenty-five-year-old me is so proud of the hope I have. I’m still twenty-five, but so much has happened in the last nine months. This last year has delighted, crushed, challenged, and redefined me. Little by little, though, I’m watching graves turn into gardens. Choosing hope seems radical sometimes. But despite it all, I’ll keep searching for ways to make younger me proud.
Kayleigh (Fongers) Van Wyk (’18) graduated with a degree in writing and resides in West Michigan. She works as a reporter for the Grand Rapids Business Journal and Grand Rapids Magazine while also making time for freelance writing. When she’s not behind a screen, she enjoys going for walks, eating ice cream, and buying more books than she’ll ever read.
Love how you’ve turned a TikTok trend into this beautiful reflection on growing into the people we hoped to be–and the people we never expected to be.