When I was a kid, I was in a long-distance relationship with my best friend, Maria. I lived in South County San Diego and she lived in East County. I was only able to see Maria when my dad picked me up to go visit my cousin, Angelo, because she lived down the street from him. This was probably the most difficult relationship of my life because all I wanted to do was see Maria to go on our “adventure.” When I was in town, we would text each other: Hey! Wanna go on our adventure? And we were off. Our adventure consisted of walking to the local neighborhood creek where a stream flowed, plants sprouted, dirt trails consisted of rocks, mud, and twigs, and the backyards of neighboring people. Maybe it wasn’t so glamorous, but this was our place. Our secret getaway. A place for us to really get away from the struggles of being a ten-year-old kid (chores, younger siblings, having to take a shower, etc.).
Our adventures were small but felt so big at the time. Now that we’re older, we actually have the means to do something big; hop on a plane, leave the country and just journey the hell out of life. But sometimes, the big things do not compare to the small things because of the responsibilities that come with it. Now, whenever I do see Maria, we have to travel an even longer distance to see each other (she’s in Southern California and I’m a little north of Central California), but at least we have cars now. Cars that require maintenance and gas. Sure, we can just stay in, but we’re older now and have some money to spend – the commute and activities we decide to do with age cost money (e.g. responsibilities).
My prime time was when I was between the ages of eight to fifteen because I had zero worries and no major responsibilities besides homework. I miss having to wash the dishes before I was allowed to go to my friend’s house. I miss having sleepovers with my cousin. I miss dying my hair loud colors. I miss passing notes in class. And damnit, I miss picking out my outfit for the first day of school. Nowadays, I’m responsible for acting like I have all my shit together. I have bills to pay, relationships to maintain, people to please, deadlines to meet, calls to make, etc. Being an adult is fucking exhausting. I know we’re all destined to grow up and with age comes more responsibilities, but damn I wish “Adulting 101” was a subject in high school. In order for myself to not completely lose my shit, it is important for me to reconnect with younger versions of myself.
Nostalgia tends to overpower me a lot. The feeling does bring me sadness, but I allow it to because it lets me reminisce about past moments in my life. I’m constantly thinking about childhood memories, looking at old pictures, watching shows and movies that made me happy as a child or even a teenager, and I like listening to music that takes me to simpler times. It’s imperative for me to remember where I came from and how I felt in other periods of time because these moments help me make sense of my present feelings and actions. As you know, I’m passionate about exploring, but where did this stem from? I believe it came from the freedom I had as a child to be able to go on these small, but relevant adventures. These adventures will always be dear to me because they gave me a time and place to feel uninhibited, honest, and myself.
Even though these adventures don’t happen as much – I am thankful for my past, my upbringing, the little things that made me happy, and I hope to never let go of the humble things that still bring me bliss. Staying connected with the Ashley that just wanted to have a sleepover with her best friend and cousin, the Ashley that was so afraid to speak up for herself, the Ashley that was obsessed with Jonas Brothers, the Ashley that got a little too drunk at that one party, the Ashley that took salsa dancing lessons, the Ashley that never joined a club in college, and the current Ashley that is still learning, but doing just fine will always be essential for me to do because it allows me to stay truly united with myself.
Every Ashley I’ve been has resulted in me feeling naïve, somber, pleasure, anger, happy, broke, crazy, and ecstasy. To this day, I am happy to say I still try to hold on to as many memories as possible because I want to remember today. In the end, I don’t want to live my life to attract other people. I want to live my life to attract my future self. When I’m fifty I’m going to remember writing this and I’m going to feel so thankful because the 25-year-old in me will come back to life, just as the 10-year-old in me is now alive as I’m writing this.