But I'm thinking of other milestones in my life and just how much my whole outlook changed in the process: pre-drivers' license and post-drivers' license. College student and college grad. Hopeful home-body and exhausted world-traveler. Single and married.
Once the transition happened, it was hard to remember exactly what life was like before the change. I take all the "after" scenarios for granted now. Driving doesn't seem like the privilege or adventure it did at age 16. Commuting to and from school, studying for mid-terms and finals, attending classes five days a week all seems unimaginable now. I can still picture what I thought Africa would be like before I'd been there but the images that stand out are of the things I experienced while there: the view from Table Mountain overlooking Cape Town, eating Tilapia from Lake Victoria, seeing fireflies for the first time on a moonlit night in Uganda. No amount of conversation or study could have prepared me for the complexity and joy of being married, and I know we're still at the tip of the ice burg of understanding and appreciating each other. In each case, my perspective changed everything.
So I wrote a letter to my future self, Emily-when-she-is-a-parent, capturing this frame of mind in real time. I remember as a kid asking Mom and Dad what life was like before I was born. I don't know if they were just protecting me from fond reminiscing, or if they couldn't remember life before parenting, but those pre-kids years sounded boring. They were formative years for my parents' relationship and every one of the 33 years since then. But I've always thought of that brief span of time as a bland prologue. Just in case the same thing happens when we start a family, I want to remember what life was like from this side: happy and full.