It has happened several times. I’m mindlessly scrolling through Facebook (with a full sink and inbox) when I come across a girl that looks vaguely familiar. Like an actor I once saw in a movie but cannot place. Occasionally I even look at her name before I realize what I’m seeing: the Facebook memory of a mom friend – a friend I’ve only known during her momhood. And she apparently looked quite different eight years ago.
Stumbling upon these gems is the best. As mothers of young children, we are constantly meeting other mothers – all of us with bags over our shoulders and under our eyes. We swap stories of sleepless months, diaper rash, meltdowns in Target and our kids’ meltdowns in Target. Our lives are dull to anyone not with us in the trenches. And we recognize that as we text each other sleep training articles that never work. We know and accept each other as exhausted, disheveled, over-extended moms.
And then we see her – our mom friend 10 years ago. At a college party. Red solo cup in hand. Hair freshly washed, flat ironed to oblivion with the flash from someone’s Canon Powershot reflecting off the shine. She is fun and beautiful and her only care is whether or not she’ll bother waking up for her 9am lecture the next morning. Or maybe she’s backpacking through Thailand with amazing friends. Or presenting her thesis on T cell regulation in her PhD program we didn’t even know she completed, looking polished and brilliant. Whatever she’s doing, she looks nothing like the woman with dried yogurt smeared across her fleece that we sit next to every Tuesday in story time.
These relics of the past are delightful and significant. Telling glimpses into the person our friend once was – and more importantly still is. And just because that point in our lives is hard to remember and now seems inconsequential (why were we all wearing tiny vests?) – the girls in those photos are important. They are reminders that our friends are interesting humans with a lot to offer the world and so are we.
And as for the physical changes since bringing life into the world? Bring them on. It is not a tragedy that she is no longer a size 4 (or let’s be real, in my case a size 10). Women are supposed to look different. We have given ourselves over to small creatures who demand our body, brain and soul all day every day. Does that mean that occasionally our eyes, which were once vibrant and inquisitive, now look like dead shark eyes before our second cup of coffee? Maybe! Are our jaw lines a little less Ariel and a little more Ursula these days? Might be! We look different because we are different. And we owe zero apologies.
Back to the girl in the Facebook memories. Should she be overlooked because she’s carefree and looks good in ridiculously low cut jeans? No. The journey she’s on in those photos led her to the place she is today. Maybe back then she’d already found her future partner. Or maybe she’s having a wild time playing the field. (Tinder wasn’t on the scene yet, but we still managed.) Either way, she’s figuring out how to be loved and how to love. She is young, but she is making decisions that will shape the marriage and/or relationships her kids now depend on.
And the professional goals she was striving for all those years ago still can exist amid a sea of goldfish crackers and crayons. Maybe she actually has to leave the office at five or put her career on hold completely – either way, her ambition and knowledge are still there. Even if some days she herself can’t access it.
So do not disregard these beautiful young versions of our friends and ourselves who pop up on social media. They are amazing. Those girls rocking velour track suits and sticky lip gloss became the women we lean on and look to today. However, don’t look at them too longingly. Simply let them remind us who we were and who we still are.