As part of my high school graduation present, my mother spent months slaving over a photo album of my first 18 years. It was mine to take with me -- a separate version from the photo albums she kept at home with all of the family memories. One for me to take 2,500 miles across the country with me, as I left for school in Washington, D.C.
With that album, she gave me a second one, blank except for the coverage page. That cover page had my name on it and it said, "Chapter Two." I was to take over from there, chronicling my life after leaving home.
That was 15 years ago. At the age of 18, I had grown up in the same town outside of San Diego and lived in the same house for 18 years. But I had no idea that when I moved to D.C. all those years ago, it would truly become the next big chunk of my life. I didn't know that I would spend nearly as much time in D.C. as I had in San Diego. Chapter Two, no kidding.
It really amazes me to look back at these pictures and try to comprehend that it has been 15 years. I can still remember how much I cried when I said goodbye to my brother the morning we left to go to the airport. He was the only one not going with us, so he was the first I had to say goodbye to. I still remember our trip to the Linens N' Things at Pentagon City, to purchase everything I needed for a dorm room but couldn't pack into a suitcase to take on a plane. And the torturous six block walk back from the Metro, dragging laundry baskets and bedding and towels. I still remember feeling guilty because I didn't spend enough time with my mom and sister that week they spent with me in D.C. -- I was too busy trying to make new friends and get invited to all the important orientation parties. And I still remember the overwhelming homesickness I felt almost immediately once they were gone and I was really on my own in the big city.
I can't believe it has been 15 years. Looking at those pictures, it feels like they have flown by and yet I know I have lived a lifetime of memories here. And while so many things have changed, there are so many things that thankfully haven't changed at all.
Although ... I do wish my skin still looked like that.