“What would the old me do?” I ask, my mouse arrow hovering over the “proceed to checkout” button on the Betsey Johnson website. I’m back on the sparkly shoe page, a moth drawn to the very expensive flame.
When I dealt with my surprise move from Los Angeles to Portland, I left so much stuff behind. The most immediately painful was the emotional stuff, but over the past two years, regrets of lost *material* things have surfaced. My Huda Beauty eyeshadow palette! The red light magic skincare wand I got for free from my old job! My treasured, though extremely worn out, little black boots with sparkly gold stars!! SPARKLY. GOLD. STARS.
They were so me. They made me feel like myself. Emotions reserved for the old me, the me I was before the move, before the pandemic, before before before.
But I’ve overdone it at Target enough times to understand that money doesn’t buy you happiness. Replacing my lost shoes with new, even sparklier ones, doesn’t make me more of a Christina. I mean, yes, I bought them, but not without totally overthinking the concept of THE OLD ME.
What would the old me do.
I blame this phrase on the women’s magazines I read growing up; the phrase “New Year, New Me,” implies there is always an old me, shoved aside by a more recent, better me. Don’t get me started on the mindfuckery that is the prevalence of before and after photos.
Old Me (disgusting, shameful, how sad).
New Me (wow, incredible, really turned THAT around). #beforeandafter #inspo
But there’s also the Old Me that I become nostalgic for: younger, dumber me. Flatter, drunker me. Me who could stand sleeping on a futon, me who could stay out all night, me who thought $700 a month was steep rent (oh honey!). Old Me with the energy, the drive, the ability to work two jobs so she could intern for free.
This version of The Old Me became a problem when I started taking medication for my depression. I wanted to wake up embodying her, a magic transformation back to Old Me. “Once this Lexapro kicks in and I don’t feel like I’m full of hot rocks, I’ll feel more like myself.”
I eventually felt lighter.
But I didn’t feel like the old me ever again.
A note from the writer:
Gentle reader, I’ve used the word “me” so many times in this piece that I honestly could not tell you what it means. Please forgive me (there she goes again!) for the repetition. I promise I have a point! A sharp point? Not sure. Let’s find out.
Last week, I went to the pool.
Portland’s public resources astound me again and again. This public pool visit cost me 50¢. The facility was immaculate: clean locker room, plenty of flippers and kickboards, NOODLES FOR ALL, organized lap lanes, not to mention a hot tub that was so hot, I couldn’t stay in it for more than a few minutes.
I swam until I got hunger cramps and had to go across the street to a gas station (sopping wet) to buy a bag of Chex Mix.
By the time I got home, the sweet, heavy exhaustion had set in. I laid on my bed, peaceful in my body, happy in the memory of smooth water, rainbows bouncing off the pool floor. In that moment, I was aware of the infinity versions of myself: ten years old jumping into the deep end, fourteen sitting in my grandma’s sunny backyard waiting to dry from a day at the beach, a twenty-two year old grad student reading Tina Fey by the olympic sized pool at USC, thinking, “this is everything I’ve ever wanted.”
There is no old me.
Surroundings change. You donate your favorite shoes to the Salvation Army. You refuse to get an Oregon driver’s license. Maybe you get tired earlier in the day; you don’t think you could run a mile, your screen time keeps going up and your phone seems worried about it. You don’t see that new scary movie because you already know you won’t like it. You have more to remember than ever before, but also you can’t fathom how much you used to remember for middle school exams.
There is no old version of you. You’re not an iPhone.
You’re you. You’re you. You’re you.
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This reads like a beautiful poem, and it made me cry. Thank you.