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Reflecting On Who I Was To Determine Who I Can Become

Sunday morning. I open my laptop and log into my Dropbox. I don’t know what it is that makes me want to browse through my archived school projects from middle school and high school. It’s been a long time. I land on a Creative Writing folder from senior year. 2015 to be exact. There I find a collection of short stories and suddenly I’m back to being a quiet, eighteen-year-old full of hopes and dreams who sits in the classroom of a school she cannot wait to leave. The stories are good, better than I remember. I used to love writing, even considered it as a career path. Books have always been a huge part of my life. My grandma was a very passionate elementary school teacher who taught me how to read, and my grandpa is a poet. I wrote for school papers, attended writing camps and even won a little writing contest when I was a kid. Yet, I haven’t written in years. Not unless you consider the numerous research papers, essays or assignments I did in college. I can’t remember the last time I sat down and voluntarily wrote a short story. I strayed away from this creative outlet without even knowing it.

Along with writing, another thing comes to mind; I used to draw and paint. A lot. In Italy, I took classes outside of school. Every Saturday I spent hours in an art studio painting. Before leaving Croatia, I passed the entrance exam and was accepted to a well-known art school. Yet, I haven’t painted in years. Haven’t touched a paint brush since high school. What happened? How did I stray from another art form, another piece of me. On one hand, I justified this by saying that I didn’t have time, that I had to put all my energy and focus into my priority; dance. On the other, I think my love for visual arts morphed into photography and film, but I never intended to neglect its origins completely.

Working on a painting in my room, circa 2014.

Now I think there’s a part of me that’s afraid. Maybe I can’t draw anymore, not like I used to. Maybe I can no longer write, or come up with interesting stories and characters. The reality is that while I was blindly chasing my dream of dancing professionally, a dream that I am still chasing, I lost sight of the other components that made me an artist. Since getting to college and transitioning into “being an adult,” I have tried so hard to prove my creativity within the world of movement, trying to fit the mold of what being a dancer and choreographer means, that I forgot about the other pieces that completed my artistry puzzle. Who says I have to pick and label what kind of artist I want to be? Who says that trying to remember who I was as a teenager can’t help me find who I am as an adult?

Two of my best friends and I at our high school graduation.

They say that in high school you’re trying to discover who you are, and in college you find who that is. Well, a year post grad and I still don’t really know who I am, or what I want to do. I thought I did when I walked across the stage at commencement, but I was wrong. I’ve always had many aspirations. My mom used to joke that I used to love too many things, which is why deciding what to do and what path to take, has always been so hard. Even today I am constantly discovering new things I’m passionate about. Not a bad problem to have, but the truth is what to make of my future is not as simple as just choosing a path. It’s more about building one. 

My portrait, age 5.

While I was going down the rabbit hole of my past, I found my college essay. As I read it, I couldn't help but smile. I was naive, inexperienced but so determined. In some ways I still am. I also like to believe that I’m now smarter, more logical and cynical. 

"I think any recent college graduate’s goal is to get a job as soon as possible, so that’s the biggest aspiration for me. I hope to have a stable job for a while, working with a company but I also hope to work on Broadway, or in any other musical theatre company. Furthermore, I would also want to work on television—maybe using my dance skills, or maybe just acting. Finally, writing has always been a huge part of my creative outlet, so I want to find a way to incorporate that into my future as well (screenwriting especially seems like a great option)."

An excerpt from my college essay talking about my hopes

for life after college. While some of these goals still apply,

I had no idea of the obstacles that would lay ahead.

Adults often talk about regret, how life happens and causes them to lose sight of their goals and themselves. I never quite understood that. I’m a firm believer of being in control of one’s destiny, of being in charge of one’s happiness. Yet I find myself in this weird moment, re-evaluating who I have become because much to my disbelief, life happened, I changed, and I lost parts of myself that made me who I was. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t imagine being where I am were it not for my personal growth and I am proud of who I have become. I’m certainly so much stronger and outspoken than I’ve ever been, but I can’t help but wonder if it was necessary to sacrifice one thing for the other. Without being dramatic, since after all I’m only twenty-three and have time to find my way back to “the right path,” this realization is a bit frightening. Now more than ever I see how important it is to reminisce and go down memory lane. No wonder as a society we’ve turned so nostalgic; it is because we have become so fixated with superficial ideals of success, that the only way to feel a glimpse of happiness is to indulge in our past, in our roots and in “simpler times”. But what if the key to finding our true selves and who we are meant to be, is to take that past, and use it to propel us forward?

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