These pictures were taken in the exact same location, Ripley’s Aquarium in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, but 18 years apart. The first picture is from our honeymoon; the second on a surprise trip we had given to the kids as a Christmas present. Our eleven year old took the second picture. I’m sure a random stranger took the first picture.
Between these two pictures is a small white space. This space represents 18 years. Much went into that small space over the course of almost two decades. There has been good and bad, and so many experiences along the way.
I often ponder about going back to tell my younger self things about the future. I wonder what my reactions would be. Little of life has been what I actually thought and planned out — but isn’t that really life anyway?
Looking back at me in the first picture I see the young and inexperienced versions of ourselves and chuckle. The second photo shows age and some wisdom, but also a difference in our eyes; a depth that goes far beyond the surface. The knowledge that life is tough, but so are we.
I imagine telling our younger selves some of the obstacles we’d face: miscarriage, an adoption that fell through, loved ones who are no longer with us. I imagine the surprise, shock, (I never intended on having children), and overwhelming sadness I’d feel.
However, I would then share about the joys. The memorable experiences and the immeasurable love that was to come. I imagine the naiveness, disbelief and misunderstanding my younger self would have. No comprehension of the flood of emotion you feel when your child is placed in your arms for the first time. There would be no true understanding of how special some experiences, and people, would become. I would not completely embrace the idea of using the bad to make us stronger, better, and appreciate the good more.
Portraying the positive experiences without the wisdom of the experiences leaves a void. We must experience it, good and bad, in order to feel it fully, and connect with it.
Those years of space between the two pictures made me who I am today and made me a better mother for it.