In the soon-to-be nursery, I’ve been replacing provocative art with illustrations of a cheery raccoon riding a tricycle and woodland creatures on a hot air balloon adventure. My collection of spooky vintage dolls currently share a space with an alphabet growth chart. In the closet, soft newborn onesies hang alongside my studded leather jacket with leopard print trim; I’m in the midst of a drastic life transition. Visually, it’s quite bizarre.

My past and future share little resemblance, but each world is, in fact, mine. While packing boxes and quietly folding hand-me-down baby clothes, I remind myself that just because I’m about to be a mommy doesn’t mean I lose my identity.

That said, I have been mourning my youth.

Several times over the past week, I’ve caught myself gazing at old photographs, completely absorbed. The pictures document my “wild” twenties with accuracy: dancing on bars, late night house parties, backyard gatherings that stretched until dawn. Mini skirt, bare midriff, tongue out, cigarette in hand, drunk eyes: looking back, I’m both amused and disgusted.

I don’t want my life to look like that—it hasn’t for years—but I can’t help staring into the eyes of my younger self and wondering: will I ever feel like that again? That rush of excitement on a Friday night when you have no idea where the evening will take you, or when it will end. That carefree feeling of answering to no one but yourself. Making snap decisions because why the hell not? Those were reckless days. Most of them were fun.

But it’s not just the late nights and partying that I see in the photos, there’s also a young woman struggling to figure life out. She’s frustrated with being talked to like a girl and desperately wants to advance her career in a sexist, male-dominated industry. There’s a young woman who has no idea what her future holds, but she’s driven by the feeling that she’s not satisfied, not yet. She’s often frustrated to tears (many shed within the confines of a toilet stall at work,) but when change did happen, when a new job was secured, when hard work was recognized, it was EXHILARATING. I stare at my younger self, and as much as I don’t want to return, part of me craves that energy. Will I feel that again?

In approximately eight weeks, my life will change forever. I keep looking at the best-before dates on milk and egg containers to check if the shelf life of my groceries extends past my due date. Will life as I know it, expire soon too? 

We watch our sisters, cousins and friends make this transition and digest as much literature as we can, but we still have no idea what it will feel like until we’re there. Like any major change, the unexpected is both thrilling and scary.

While I pack away my treasured artifacts of yesteryear with some dismay, I look forward to years ahead filled with story-time rituals, pillow forts, sand castles and puppet shows. The milestones may not be celebrated with late night revelry but they will be marked on the alphabet growth chart that hangs on the wall. The excitement doesn’t fade, it just looks completely different.