I don’t use Snapchat anymore, but occasionally, I will open up the app because I like the “Flashback from XYZ date” collection that they put together. I started using Snapchat in the 11th grade, so there are certain memories that will re-surface from six or seven years ago. While six or seven years doesn’t seem like a bewildering amount of time, I’m always shocked when I see the photos that come up. I disassociate for just a moment because it doesn’t feel like the person in that photo is me, simply because of how many life milestones have happened – high school graduation, starting university, international exchange, graduating university, starting full-time work – since that photo was taken. Julia today feels like a completely different person from Julia 6 Years Ago. Is that a normal feeling to have?
The other day, “Flashback from April 21” came up and I clicked into it. Two photos from 2 years ago came up. The first was a photo of my parent’s backyard, covered in snow, with the caption “you’re kidding”. (I don’t know why I’m still shocked when we get snowfall in April/May, considering it happens every year). The second photo was a photo of myself with the caption “Last day of undergrad and this shook selfie is all I have to show for it.” I almost forgot how underwhelming it was to officially be done with my degree, given the pandemic. On April 21st, two years ago, I wrote my last exam for Queen’s, entirely online, from the bedroom in my parent’s house. After submitting it, I don’t remember feeling any sort of relief. There certainly wasn’t any feeling of pomp, of “I did it! Let’s celebrate!” I’m pretty sure I just shut my laptop and went about my night. Like with many other things, the pandemic made it all feel uneventful and slightly disappointing.
A few photos from five years ago then came up. They were photos of my packed-up dorm room at Queen’s, with the bed fully stripped, the walls bare, packing boxes everywhere. I had captioned it “bye bye Leggett 2025” with a crying emoji. If I remember correctly, we would have just finished writing an exam that morning, and my parents were set to come to pick me (and my mountain of stuff) up and bring me back home for the summer. Leaving was bitter-sweet, for sure. Packing up my dorm room meant the end of the crazy ride that first year was. Despite knowing that I still had three years left at Queen’s, it felt like I was closing an important chapter.
Finally, photos from six years ago came up. This was the 12th grade, and it would’ve been the last few months of high school. I remember feeling very antsy – the end was so close and there was still so much left to do, but it felt like our lives had already cleaved. There was the life we were currently living, a life of 8:19AM Monday to Friday first period classes. And then there was the bold future that we were already looking ahead to and ready to claim ours. On April 21st, six years ago, the photos that came up were from a night where my friend group and I were all at one friend’s house, lounging and laughing together. I remembered that night instantly because it wasn’t just a random Friday evening. We had all gathered at my friend’s house so that they could be with me when I officially accepted my offer to go to Queen’s. I remember feeling some hesitation about it, and so we wanted it to feel like more of a “special” moment.
As I was tapping through these memories, I found it so interesting that five years ago, I was moving out of my dorm room at Queen’s, and a year before that, to the very exact day, I had just accepted my offer to go to Queen’s. I thought back to how much had happened in the 365 days between April 21st one year and April 21st the year after, and how I could have never foreseen how my full first year would have gone in that very moment I hit the “accept” button. Isn’t that the case with so many other things in life, too?
My life right now – April 21st present day – feels like it is cleaving again, which is why I have been so sentimental lately about life milestones and transitions. In two months, I will be leaving behind the familiarity of home in Toronto and moving (alone) to the US for work, where I know absolutely nobody. I am like a young bird learning to fly, perched on the edge of the branch ready to take flight, but also scared to be airborne. There is a bold future ahead of me, but right now, I am afraid to claim it.
It’s in these moments that I start thinking about April 21st one year from today, and April 21st two years from today, when I will already have been living “my new life”. One year from today will be almost a year of living in the US. Two years from today, I’ll be getting ready to move back to Canada in a few months. What will I feel and think, looking back? Will I feel like I’m looking at somebody unrecognizable in the photos? Or will I remember today, and who I am in this present moment, and be able to draw connections to understand how I have grown to become the person I will become?