My camera roll is something I love to look through. It is full of sweet memories of the past few years of my life, but one thing it doesn’t have much of is the documentation of my internal experiences. Sometimes I’ll be scrolling through my pictures and I fall into being a victim of my own camera roll.

There is something tantalizing about nostalgia. It feels so good and so bad all at the same time. Our king Harry Styles recently dropped a song called, “As It Was” and his lyrics have sparked a trend on Tik-Tok where people put pictures of themselves over the past few years over the lyrics “You know it’s not the same as it was.” It is bittersweet to do the same when I look at old pictures of myself. Sometimes it feels like I am looking at a different person because so much has changed in my life.

Romanticizing the past is tempting because it doesn’t hold the same responsibilities, stress, and pain as the present moment. I’ll think back to my senior year of high school when I would go to youth group with my friends. I went on drives with my best friend and had no real responsibilities. Then I am met with the reality of the past. The terrible math class I took...or just the fact that I went to school from 8 in the morning until 3 in the afternoon. Or maybe the fact that my youth group was diminishing and we had nearly 10 attendants. Or that I had to work 20 hours a week teaching kids how to swim and how freezing cold my body would be after standing in the pool for 3 hours and then going outside to the thirty-degree weather to my empty gas tank. Those blissful moments with my friends on our drives around town with our sodas were our only relief from our immensely mundane, busy, and boring lives. It feels like I fall into the trap of my own highlight reel when I look through my old camera roll and see pictures of myself then. I see a girl with clearer skin and longer hair, but only I know how much she was really suffering. How unfair is it for me to compare myself now, as though I was perfect then and have suddenly reached imperfection now. As if imperfection is a destination I have recently arrived at, and not a reality I have always lived in. I suppose the past really is deceiving.

When I think of the person I was in high school, I am so proud of how far I have come. The Lord has been faithful in transforming my heart and shaping it to look like His. I am still a long way from being where I want to be, but I have come so far! It’s important to remind yourself when you are in a cycle of comparing the past and the present to the reality that God has you here now for a reason. Some seasons of life feel like they have more purpose than others, but I promise every moment is ordained by Him and He is using the seemingly stagnant parts.

So yeah, maybe my hair was prettier a few years ago, but how much kinder have I become? How much more comfortable in my skin am I now? It’s funny looking back because I remember at that time longing for all that I have now but I am looking back and all I want is what I had then. I couldn’t wait till I was in college, independent, and living on my own. While my reality isn’t perfect, it was all I wanted for years. So I am going to try my best to live fully present in it now because it was all I wanted for so long.

Remember to sit in the celebration when you have arrived somewhere you used to dream about. I know it can feel hard and confusing to celebrate when the present feels like a lot of puzzle pieces that don’t really fit together. Just like you look back on your past now with so much clarity, you will one day understand how the seemingly disconnected pieces of today fit together.