Portrait of a Chef #1 Typical Family Photo – 1992 One day, as per usual, I was scrolling through Instagram and stopped at this post by @briannamadia (by far my favorite person on IG.) I’ve always loved her writing but this particular caption struck a chord. In fact, one line stood out from the rest. “Not only do we grow up and in to who we are…we grow up and in to who we’ve always been.” When I think back to being a little girl, I was fearless and uninhibited. I loved to be the life of the party and refused to conform to social norms. I grew up as the only girl in my family and so I received a lot of attention, which was fine by me. Countless family photos show everyone smiling for the camera with me jumping into the shot making funny faces, throwing my hands up and being silly. At four years old, when my brother and cousin were playing video games, typically shirtless, in the living room, I’d go and join them until my mom came in and reminded me, as she’d done a million times that I had to keep my shirt on because I was a lady. I’d stand up to boys on the playground who wanted to steal my toys and share my young opinions with little thought as to what people might think about them. Of course, as is often the case with kids, everything changed around adolescence. I became a shadow of who I was, really only showing my true self to those closest to me, which was mostly family. I’d grown shy and deeply self-conscious, scared to speak to people I didn’t know, scared to say what I really thought for fear of rejection. I conformed to those around me so I wouldn’t be labeled different or weird. Never once stopping to remember the little girl who was so unabashedly herself. I spent a ridiculous amount of my young adult life questioning myself, living in a state of perpetual self-consciousness and eventually placing my self-worth in the hands of whoever I was in a relationship with at the time. In short, I had forgotten who I was. Furthermore, I always had a vague picture of the woman I wanted to be, but it felt unattainable. It felt like I could never change, like I’d be stuck in a spiral of insecurity for the rest of my life. Big Sur Adventures 2016 Fortunately that turned out not to be the case. I didn’t realize it then, but it had less to do with becoming something I actually wasn’t and more to do with letting go of the limiting beliefs and doubts I had placed on myself. Thankfully, at 32 years old, I am happy with who I am. Though of course, that’s not to say this is it, since I continue to reflect on who I am, who I used to be and where I’m going from here. Change isn’t always something happy or easy to go through, but I would always rather evolve than remain stagnant. I am no longer in that shell I lived in for so long, hiding behind a mask of what I thought I should be. What’s more is that I hadn’t really considered my experience as a shared experience at all until I read that line. “We grow up and in to who we’ve always been.” It made me think of that little girl in the family photos, and I couldn’t help but smile. I’ve done a lot of growing, especially over the last decade (that’s a longer story for a later time) but those words made me realize something extremely important. I am becoming who I always was. — Issue #3 Q&Co.