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It’s Women’s History Month, and I want to ask: have you thought about your own history, how you’ve become the woman you are? The world comes at us so quickly now that we rarely take time to revisit the past and examine why we made the choices we did at certain intersections in life. I’m not one to dwell on the past, but sometimes, our memories can put life in perspective and help us see ourselves as a whole person—not just a reflection of the problems we have today.

A few months ago, I ran across this sketch at the bottom of a box of photos my mother asked me to sort for her. I had given it to her my sophomore year of college. It was drawn in 1979, the year of the Iran hostage crisis. The artist was an Iranian MFA student I met through mutual friends. (In a pre-Facebook world, we only wondered what happened to such people, sure that we would never see them again. Now, they pop up in our Facebook feeds as friend requests, prompted by the mysterious world of algorithms. My portrait artist is now a curator at an art museum on the East Coast.)

When I removed the drawing from the box, I had such an immediate rush of long-forgotten memories that I burst into tears. I can’t explain why. Maybe I felt sorry for the poor girl portrayed there. At 19, I knew so little of life and myself. Maybe I felt compassion for the woman I’ve become.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad for the knowledge that has come in the almost 38 years that have passed since this portrait was drawn. But I’m sorry for knowing so many things I’d rather not and sorry for the loss of this girl’s innocence. I wouldn’t mind reclaiming that.

When I saw my former self, I wanted to protect her as I would a child—only she doesn’t need that anymore. That 19-year-old grew up. I protect myself as well as others who depend on my strength. My exterior is different, but that interior girl still resides inside a wiser, more capable me.

One thing I distinctly remember about being a young adult was the hope that my inner character and spirit would so improve with age that it would far outstrip the loss of physical youth, that I would have something to show for having lived and learned. My friends are having their faces rejuvenated, and bully for them, if it makes them happy. For now, I think I’ll keep the face I’ve earned.

Listen to the gorgeous I Close My Eyes, a song by Madison Cunningham, capturing the bittersweet feelings that come with looking back. (It’s performed here with Nathan Alef.)

I love the fact that there’s a whole month devoted to women’s history. Why not use it to look back and celebrate your own? Only you and God can fully appreciate how you’ve become who you are thus far. Remember this: nobody loves and understands you like he does. I give thanks for the protection he has given me all through life and the guidance he will give me going forward.

What about you? Do you appreciate yourself for all the experience you’ve gained more than you miss your younger physical self? I hope so! P.S. On a sidenote: I remember that I made the pale pink dress I wore in the portrait above.

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.