Ariane de Gennaro
Recently, I found myself worrying that my personal growth was nearing its apex. Thinking that my identity was starting to solidify scared me. I worried that my writing was growing boring, that I was out of fresh ideas. I’m too young to be washed up, I told myself. But I just couldn’t shake the feeling.
My friend coerced me into looking through old photos the other day. As painful and embarrassing as it was — very — it made me notice something strange. In every image, I looked essentially the same. Except suddenly, we were looking at stuff from 2015, and we saw a geeky middle schooler: bowl cut, braces and all. Oddly enough, however, there didn’t seem to be any photos of the stages between that young, scrawny, middle-schooler and the Hulk of a man I am now.
That obviously can’t be true. I didn’t just abruptly go from a seventh-grade boy to a college sophomore. But the changes were so small that you couldn’t differentiate from picture to picture. It triggered the mindset shift I didn’t realize I needed.
The changes in my life are almost always imperceptible on a day-to-day basis. The only way to notice them is to zoom all the way back out.
Returning to my current crisis of stagnation, I tried to compare my present to my past. It’s easier said than done, considering how difficult it can be to truly separate different versions of self. The lines are blurry. That’s why we need time capsules. And I realized I’m lucky enough to have built two more in addition to those photos: writing and Snapchat.
On Nov. 15, 2021, I published the first game recap of my sports beat reporting career: “Bulldogs prevail against Northeastern in second consecutive overtime thriller.” Exactly one year ago to the day, I wrote my third article for WKND. I couldn’t have imagined then that I would be editing for sports and writing weekly personal essays today.
Beyond the difference in the amount of content I’ve produced at the News, however, I found myself actually reading those old pieces and thinking to myself, “Wow, these are not as well written as I thought they were.” I remember thinking the same thing as an eighth-grader reading my seventh-grade personal essays, or as a high school senior reading my junior year reflections or even as a first year rereading my Common App essays.
Every time I look back on my old personal writing, I scoff at how smart younger Andrew used to think he was. Current me would never be so dumb. Except, in a year, I know I will laugh at this article, too. Instead of being as embarrassed as I probably should be, I find that knowledge comforting. Because as stuck as I feel now, I know that I’m still growing, and I just can’t notice it.
The other way I remind myself of change is perhaps less poetic: Snapchat’s “One year ago, today” feature. It reminds me that the things that seem like the biggest deal today will in fact fade.
Last November, I was letting people know that I was stressed about my first college exam in Math 115 — not stressed enough, as it turned out. Last November, I was wondering if I was going to get blown up by 40 bombs scattered across the Yale theaters — too stressed, it turns out. And last November, I had to frantically call my best friend’s parents to pick him up from a Thanksgiving party I hosted while my parents weren’t home — I would say I was appropriately stressed about that one.
Two Novembers ago, I couldn’t stop watching Election 2020 coverage. Three Novembers ago, I scored my first points on varsity basketball. Four Novembers ago, I was worried that I was going to mess up in our jazz band performance. Five years ago, my Snapchat content was not very good at recording the biggest happenings in my life.
In the moment, those dramas all seemed like the most important thing that was ever going to happen to me. Now, they’re ancient history. They belong to the old Andrew. They’re stories to tell while reminiscing. They were moments that mattered in my life but ultimately seem relatively insignificant to who I am today.
So I don’t think I’m stagnating as much as I thought was. The dramatic changes this year are few and far between compared to starting college last year. But I’m still growing, still changing, one incremental day at a time.
Future Andrew, cheers to your laughter at my current naïveté, cheers to how far you’ve come and cheers to our continued growth.
Cheers to one year from now, today.