I came across this picture of myself today while searching for another image to post on the blog.

This was an important time for me, and I’m grateful to have had it captured. I was 23 years old at the time, living in Harlem. A single, recent college graduate working my first official job as an editorial assistant for an online magazine. It was a beautiful time, yet I didn’t quite realize it then. I remember feeling both unfulfilled and optimistic. I had a tough time adjusting to full-time office life, and spent my free time exploring the city. Bookstores, cafes, movies, concerts, parks. I went everywhere–usually by myself. I filled up pages and pages of journals with questions about life, wondering what the hell it all meant for me, and took out library books to feed my imagination.

The summer before this picture was taken, I’d spent time in Brazil with my best friends from college. I was obsessed with life outside the U.S., and often researched study abroad programs. This picture was taken during the early stages of my most recent relationship (he brought his camera every time we hung out). I remember telling him back then, “Don’t get too attached to me. I’m leaving the country soon.” But then I fell in love, and never did.

I burned incense and worshiped Bob Marley. I wore big earrings, big hair, and bright colors. I referred to myself as a “Free Bird” and my MySpace handle (remember MySpace?) was “Freedom Personified.”

And now here I am, five years later. Full circle. Except this time, I’m living in Brooklyn for the first time, exploring a new section of the city. I still have big travel dreams, and still fill up journal pages. My room in Brooklyn looks almost exactly the same as my room in Harlem. (The piece of fabric wrapped around me in this picture is now my window curtain.)

My life took a bit of a detour in the last few years, but there were important lessons I needed to learn. I feel like I’ve returned to the time when this picture was taken–except now, I’m a wiser version of that young woman. I have a second chance to pick up where I left off and finish what I started. To revisit the dreams of my 23-year-old self, and finally make them a reality.