I just had CMT playing in the background while making some food. “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” by Jake Owen came on, and I stopped to watch the video. The song itself takes me back to summer nights in Vancouver, or Spring Breaks and Rod Runs on the coast of the Pacific. Caught somewhere between the age of innocence and a reckless youth – when we all cared more about who was doing what on Friday night than where our next meal was coming from. I look back now, smack dab in the middle of the age of 27, and I marvel at how fast I have made it here – and yet I wonder… Where on earth did that time go?Having moved from my hometown many years ago, sometimes, it is difficult to recall exactly how it felt back when nothing but an underage beer and a campfire were the best ingredients to the end of a long, hot summer day. I sit here now and smile, painting a canvas in my mind of the faces I left behind… Some of the best friends I could have made in my adolescence – together we made the worst choices but created the most cherished memories I can recall from that time of my life. I think of the boys I knew – kisses in cold sand when I was much too young in my heart to allow that, yet the morals of a teenage girl were no match for her hormones. I think of surfing trips and calling in sick to work when really it was because I was paddling Short Sands an hour and a half away from Ihop. I think of sleepovers on trampolines at Jessie’s house (and all the other things we did there)… How I must have drove my mother crazy when, yet again, the screen on my bedroom window wasn’t replaced just right – the obvious evidence her daughter fled home to do things a 17 year old should not be doing.What became of those Northwest days and the people I knew then, and how have I changed? Faded photographs in frames stacked in boxes in my closet now. Sporadic telephone conversations about our kids, and a once-a-year trip back home. Sometimes, it does not feel like enough because I miss what I knew then, though I realize I could never go back. I would not want to go back, though sometimes still I think about it.

As I watched that video this morning, I recalled the physical beauty of my youth, and I was reminded of the way my body grew to resemble the shape of a woman – perhaps too early – that gave me a certain veiled confidence to believe I could do as a woman does; my brain and my heart were still very much child-like, yet my body painted a very different picture, and unfortunately that was the façade I carried most often. I think back to the days when I did not have stretch marks on my abdomen and I did not need to wear a bra. I think about and compare then to now, and I do it candidly where most women my age only think such things yet do not say them…

Though I had less visible imperfections, truth be told, it was in my youth I was most vulnerable to emotional scars – as I see the women in this video, radiant with youth – I am almost pitiful towards them, realizing how much they have to learn, how much they just do not know yet, and most of all, how susceptible they are to emotional hurts that stem from thinking their beauty is the most important asset they possess.

We make great memories from adolescence, that much is true. The exploration that takes place in this critical developmental stage can actually pave the way for future self-awareness; when one can reflect upon the trials of youth, the mistakes of youth, and know with certainty that… Life only gets better from there. Yet, if I could travel through time and talk to my 17-year-old self, she would scoff at me, not believing a single word.

I do often think about who I was then, and who I knew back then – the friends I loved so dearly, some of which are still my best friends to this day – how we all somehow made it out alive. I regret only the times I abandoned my own truths to please someone else, and thankfully these regrets are few – serving to keep me aware of what happens in a teenagers’ mind so that I am better equipped to handle it when my own daughters reach that age.Looking down at my belly, I see a life within my body. Another chapter I embrace with more passion and conviction than I have ever known in my life; another page to turn, another avenue to tread upon – choices to make, examples to set. The scars across my stomach are dear to me in the sense that I have worked to create life and wear the proof in my own flesh. Though these scars are visible, they were not as costly as the ones I wear across my heart from the days of my careless, crazy youth. What is marvelous about aging is that you learn to take stock of what truly matters. I recall my youth fondly, yes, but I am most proud and most happy with where I am right now and would not trade a single stretch mark for one moment of the life I lived back then.

I will always remember the faces of the kids of my youth when I hear anything from Sublime or Jack Johnson. I will always remember the summer nights that lasted forever and the mornings that followed when we questioned our actions in a hung over stupor. I will always smile when I see teenage girls who believe they are at the peak of their beauty and their self-awareness, knowing I was once that girl… Once convinced those days were the pinnacle – the boys were the hottest, the rivers were the coolest they would ever be, and the beers tasted sweeter than they ever would again. I will have a twinkle in my eye knowing a truth a thousand words could never justify – that these really are not the best days of your life. If I told that to the girls in Jake Owen’s video, they would see my glasses and my imperfect skin and absolutely think I was a nutcase. To a young woman, there are few things that matter more than a short skirt and long hair…

I walked away from that video and touched my belly as I looked into a picture frame on my dining room table. I saw faces of my family. Of my today…

Never in my wildest imagination did I dream I would find myself in Texas, away from my home, away from the memories of my youth – a mother with short hair, a body that has started to show gravity’s betrayal. I am not where I thought I would be, that is certain, but where I am is better than anywhere I have ever been. My “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” now consists of a sexy Accountant teaching a toddler to swim in the pool, and an unborn child kicking me in the ribs. Its bedtime prayers, mac & cheese, and studying to finish a Bachelors degree 5 years too late. I will never again be that outwardly perfect silhouette of youth, but I wear my 27 years proudly. Always thankful for what I have learned, of the dearest friends I left behind and the memories we made, and where I have been along this journey in the past 10 years. Life brought me to a place where I am happy on the inside – and that gives me a better feeling than any Country music video can ever give.

Please, I welcome your thoughts, perspective, and new ideas on anything I have written here!

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