As the final few days of Our Year of Hell 2017 come and go and we look ahead to whatever fresh new hell 2018 brings us, it feels like a good time to reflect back on the last ten years. My life, now, is completely different than what I ever thought it would or could be as 2007 Amelia looked ahead to 2008.
I think about this a lot, usually while I’m running or showering, sometimes when I’m walking home from work. If I could go back in time, to the end of 2007, how could I possibly explain what my life is like now to my past self. I can’t even comprehend what that conversation would be like.
I think it’s hard enough to imagine trying to explain to our 2007 selves that we were on the verge of electing our first black president who would serve two terms and then be followed by Donald fucking Trump, of all people. Or trying to explain how ubiquitous smartphones and social media would become. Or that there’d be more Star Wars movies and they’d actually be good.
But all of that seems so much easier to explain myself in 2007 than it would be to explain who I would be at the end of 2017 and what my life would be like.
In 2007, I was years away from transitioning, which means right off the bat, I’d have to explain to myself why it is there’s a woman in front of her saying she is her future self. It’s not that I didn’t know I was trans back then or think about transitioning. I totally did. I’ve dealt with it my whole life and very seriously thought about transitioning a few times. However, I never thought I’d actually end up going through with it. At the time, I was 100% sure I never would and that it wouldn’t be the right decision.
So that’d be a whole thing to work through. “Yes, I…you…we…”
Wait, how would you refer to yourself when talking to yourself from the past? Would it be first or second person singular? Or fist person plural? Weird.
“Yes, you’ll end up transitioning in a few years. Yes, you change your name to Amelia. No, that name means nothing to you yet. Yes, you’ll be happy.”
That conversation would probably go on a while. A lot of talking about how much of a fucking idiot I was about all things too.
“No, you’re not as progressive as you think you are. Yes, you say some really dumb and offensive things sometimes, even though you don’t mean to or want to.”
Moving on from there, I guess I’d probably have to explain that I hadn’t yet met the person I was going to marry—despite having just started dating someone I’d had a huge crush on for a while—but she’d show up soon and I wouldn’t expect it at all. I’d have to explain that, when I first meet her, there’d be all these things I thought would be dealbreakers for a potential partner that turn out to not even matter at all.
Oh, and…I’d have to explain that I have four cats to a version of me who hated cats and thought they were the worst. How do you explain to an anti-cat, living-as-a-man version of yourself you’re a cat lady now?
Career stuff would be really interesting conversation, as well.
At the end of 2007, I was working for a corporate computer reseller. They resell hardware, software, and services to other businesses. I started in sales support and then moved to Apple Product Champion, where I helped our sales people sell Apple products. That’s what I started doing after college because I really didn’t know what the hell I was going to do with my life. My plans for after college weren’t really motivating and all the things I thought I’d end up doing for a career hadn’t really turned out to be directions I wanted my life to go.
Explaining to myself at the end of 2007 that in six weeks I’d leave that job and start a job as a software engineer would likely blow my past self’s mind. Granted, growing up, I always thought this is the career path I would take and it was what I wanted to do until 12th grade. At the time, the end of 2007, I had been working on some software as a side project for two years. I taught myself how to program to create it and I was fairly passionate about it. I wanted to turn it into a career, somehow, but I had no idea how I could possibly do that. I don’t know that 2007 Amelia would have believed I found a way to pull that off without any academic background in software development—I was a sociology and psychology double major!
While explaining what it was like to work for a time & attendance and payroll company and for Bitly would be easy after getting past the whole writing code for a living thing, trying to explain what it was like to work at Tumblr would have been a bit more difficult. Besides the fact that Tumblr had only just barely come into existence at the time, it’d be wild to explain what the experience was like there.
Along with explaining working at Tumblr, I’d have to explain that I moved to Jersey City for the job. In 2007 and, honestly, right up until I accepted the offer at Tumblr in 2014, I was very anti NYC. I mean, I thought NYC was fine for some things, but I had zero interest in living here. Even in 2014 when I was job hunting, I wasn’t applying anywhere in NYC. But, just like everything else in the last ten years, the unexpected happened. I moved up here—it wasn’t a far move, I lived in Central Jersey at the time—and fell in love with this stupid city.
In 2007, I hadn’t started running yet. I hated running. Just mentioning the idea to 2007 Amelia would have instantly brought up memories of utter misery running the mile in gym class growing up. Even beyond running, in 2007, I was pretty against sports altogether. This was an about-face I took at 16 when I decided all sports were dumb after loving playing and watching sports up until then. It was a weird 180 at the time, but it stuck with me until my mid-20s.
I can only imagine how 2007 Amelia would have balked at the idea that not only would I start running regularly, but I’d fall completely in love with it. Before even explaining that I’ve run 12 marathons so far to her, I’d have to explain what a marathon even is. As far as she was concerned, it was just some really long race, probably like five miles or something!!
That’d be a hoot.
There’s zero chance 2007 Amelia would even begin to believe such a concept.
“Your life pretty much revolves around running and has for years now.”
“That’s dumb and you’re a liar. Who are you, anyway? There’s no way you’re me from the future. Leave me alone!”
To be honest, out of everything, this would be the part 2007 Amelia would have the hardest time with.
Aside from those huge things, there’d also be the fun little, more insignificant things too. Things like the fact that I really like tomatoes and onions now, whereas I used to refuse to eat either of them.
It’s just a bit wild for me to think about how my life now would unfathomable ten years ago. Things change and that’s a good thing. I’m incredibly happy with all of these things and I’m glad the last ten years turned out like they have.
This all ties into advice I’ve found myself giving a lot over the last couple of years to people younger than me. Sometimes it’s been while being on panels for women or queer people in tech or interview-type things or even just directly to people who have asked for advice.
Having a “ten-year plan” is silly. I mean, if you really want to have one, go for it, but…
Having some direction in your life is a good and necessary thing, but firm life plans get in the way of the twists and turns that make life fun and worth living. If I had had some firm ten-year plan, or any length plan, for that matter, none of this would have been possible. What made these things happen was that I was willing to let them happen. I was willing to try things out and not close myself off from the unexpected.
You have to be flexible and keep plans loose. Don’t be firmer than you have to be. Pursue the things you want to pursue without fear you may fail or want something different later on. Try things out. Throw everything you thought you wanted in the trash if you want without feeling guilty that you’re letting your past self down.
Ending 2017, I’m a person living a life that I could have never even imagined ten years ago at the end of 2007.