You then, you now: asking my friends about who they have grown up to be

Qezz shows friends their school photos and discuss where they are now

Recently, I went through my parents’ memory box and found my old school pictures. A mixture of horror, nostalgia and an odd relief washed over me.  ‘Picture day’ used to terrify me at school. The entire act of a ‘line up’ to get a capture taken of yourself by a snobby headshot photographer was always a fear. Seeing those old photos also now comes with a feeling of relief – I’m so glad that I never have to queue with 24 other classmates one by one to have my picture taken ever again. Maybe that fear came from my impressionable age, or the anxiety of knowing your parents will frame that exact image of 12-year-old me and hang it in the house for the rest of eternity. Yikes. I wondered if any of my friends held similar emotions about their own school photos. I thought about who I was then, and who I am now.

As a  visual person i have constant images in my head; often reminiscing  in mirages and memories. I took this fascination with my old self and who I have become to few interesting people in my life that I feel have had an incredible self-growth journey. I asked them three questions which will help me understand their journey better and also give them a chance to reflect upon their own timeline.

Adibah Iqbal – DJ and mentor

How does it make you feel when you look at the old photo of yourself?

It so strange because it looks like a different person. It doesn’t feel like me; I never thought of myself as an actual child when I was that young. I grew up really fast; I remember having to learn being incredibly independent and learn quickly.

What differs between you then and you now?

I don’t think I have actually radically changed! I think the fundamentals of me are still there. I was always performative, attention-seeking. I love putting on a show, being extra. Although I am matured and an actual woman now, the fundamentals of who I was as a child are still there. Something I try to tell other people around me is ‘when you see yourself as a child, don’t think of that as being another person’. You still have that inner child with your personality traits, feelings. I look at that picture and say, “yeah that’s me, I am that person.”

What would your younger self say to you?

I think she’d have a bunch of questions about lots of things. I was always very curious and inquisitive! I don’t think it would be a very deep and emotional conversation. She’d just ask, ‘what’s sex? And how does it work?’ I had a conservative upbringing so I had nowhere to project my curiosity and it stayed brewing in my body. But my younger self can ask me anything she wants to know because it’s me – there’s no judgement. My younger self also understood humans really well, so she wouldn’t ask questions about human emotion or human experience. She was very emotionally mature at that age. Which is why she’d want to ask silly questions, dance around the house to Britney Spears, say thank you, and leave.

Ella Spriggs- student

How does it make you feel when you look at the old photo of yourself?

Nostalgic would probably be the biggest thing – not in a way where I wish I was 14 again, but seeing the Ella in this photo makes me think of everything that’s happened in the past eight years. It’s strange to me thinking about how much I’ll experience between now and when I turn thirty which is somewhat terrifying but in equal measure exciting.

What differs between you then and you now?

I think confidence mainly. Growing up in a small town makes the world seem like an even bigger place and I was definitely wanting to find my place in that world when the first photo was taken. I still am now, but I’m also comfortable in the fact that that place doesn’t need to be so rigid. I have learnt my value comes from so many different places rather than being rooted in one.

What would younger self say to you?

‘Don’t doubt yourself, you’re so sexy haha,’ whilst also I think she would be so proud. I think she would still want me to be checking myself and making sure I’m not holding myself back via self-doubt, especially seeing how I have gotten to places I didn’t think I belonged in and done things I never believed I could. She would say, ‘ban imposter syndrome sweetheart’. She’d also tell me to keep surrounding myself with people who inspire me with their motivation, kindness and joy as I owe so much to them.

Parys Gardner – artist

How does it make you feel when you look at the old photo of yourself?

It’s a super nostalgic feeling, it’s like seeing a real mixture of awkwardness, joy and innocence.

What differs between you then and you now?

Confidence is probably the main thing, I’ve never been shy but I’ve grown into having confidence in my voice and knowledge to trust my instinct. Trusting in the decisions that I made for myself when it came to things like school and job choices.

What would your younger self say to you?

Not to be so hard on myself. That is probably something I’m still learning. Like many girls like me, I found myself caught between the high expectations of success at home and the lack of any real expectation to succeed from a lot of teachers at school, which I think led me to continuously work hard and try my best. Now I’m learning to take time to enjoy and celebrate little wins along the way and to take the pressure off myself from time to time. I would have loved to learn this sooner but I’m grateful for it now.

Olamiposi Ayorinde – artist

How does it feel when you see an old photo of yourself?

I get a flurry of different emotions: anger, grief, euphoria, joy. I’m reminded off all the dumb stuff I’ve done, but also the great friends I still have today and the moments we’ve shared. Family circumstances and situations at specific times… love, relationships. Each photo is a snapshot into a whirlwind of reminiscence. I’m just constantly amazed at how life changes, what we learn along the way, moments we never expected or could ever predict and the potential for what the future holds. My school days were a very confusing, yet enlightening time.

What differs between you then and you now?

I’d like to think I’ve got a stronger grasp of my confidence. I really feel like I just belong, even when I go back home to Mullingar. I trust my own ability to go after what I want. I’ve lost a huge proportion of my naivety towards the world. I have a deeper understanding of empathy and compassion towards my parents and family, as well as a deeper understanding of social structures and the political landscape. Overall, I really feel that somewhere down the line I consciously made the choice to accept the social constructs present in life and operate in a way that they don’t hold me back. And I’m bougier maybe…


What would you say to your younger self?

I’d say to my younger self that your word is one of the most powerful things you’ll ever have. Use it wisely and be honest with yourself always. I’d say that life is going to be a flurry of emotions and experiences, so through it all be kind to yourself and to others. It’s too easy to blame others and ourselves for things not happening the way we would have wished, rather than seeing the bigger picture and structures that have us all cramped into this weird but wonderful human hullabaloo. I’d say that you are loved and cared for a lot more than you think, but it’s hard to see that when we become so caught up in our environments. When you feel lonely and uncared for, the greatest love you can ever show is to yourself. Because that will always make its way back out into the world.

Have you seen a picture of your young self recently? Let us know your reflection on our social media!

Support more young people to have their voices heard

Rife is Watershed‘s online magazine created for young people, by young people.

We offer paid internships and publish work by young writers, photographers, illustrators, and filmmakers from all sorts of backgrounds, helping them get into creative careers. Rife has reached over 8,000 young people through our workshops, over 220 young people have made stuff for Rife on topics ranging from mental health to identity to baked beans, and last year, over 200,000 people visited our website.

In these complex and uncertain times hearing from and supporting young people who are advocating for social change and contributing fresh perspectives has never been so important. 

Through supporting Rife you can ensure that this important work continues and that more young people have their voices heard.