Who Was I?

Andrew Valdez
4 min readOct 23, 2023
Me at my favorite restaurant (Sadies)

When you think nothing of your future, you start forgetting your past.

Lately I have been trying to think back on my childhood. What did I do? How did I think? Can I recall my personality? Some parts are very clear to me, like how I looked. I was a small, skinny kid with a buzz cut because my dad felt it was easier to take care of. I made up for my looks with my big mouth, although my parents would have told you the opposite. At home, I was a quiet kid that watched No Reservations and played basketball in the driveway until the street lights came on. I lived a dual life. At home wore one mask and I put on another for school. Both were me but now that I think about it, I can’t tell you which was more me.

My clearest memories of my youth are of the mornings before school. I didn’t have an alarm clock. My dad was my alarm clock. He had to be to work by 7 which meant I was waking up at 5:30 to be in the car by 6:15. Forty five minutes; that’s the amount of time I had to clean myself up, chug the protein smoothie next to my bed, eat a full breakfast, and make sure I had everything I needed for school. I’m not sure what being in the military is like but I imagine the mornings are a lot like my mornings before school.

Usually I had fifteen minutes to shower and change. In that time, I would reserve the last two minutes to just stare at myself in the mirror. I was aware that I looked very young for my age. No one at my school could believe that I was in the grade that I was. This was a big insecurity for me but nowadays it’s become a trait many people are jealous of.

Back then, however, I just wanted to be older. I used to look at my reflection and wonder what I would look like at 30 or 40. What would I be doing? Would I have a wife and kids? Would my job be cool? I spent so many mornings pondering and visualizing my future, probably because I didn’t love being a kid.

Growing up, I was always surrounded by people much older than me. My sister is a year plus a decade my senior and the cousins who lived near me were at least eight years older than me. I was always the baby amongst the adults which meant I was either overlooked or the center of attention, with no in between. Throughout my childhood, I was a kid amongst adults.

Not a day went by where I didn’t hear and see adult things. Both my parents worked full time and when we lived in Arizona, there was no family to baby sit me. So I went with them to things. My mom took me shopping with her and I got to see how a household is run by one person. My dad would take me to the happy hours he would fund for his employees. For hours I had to sit there while his employees flirted with waitresses, vented about their problems, and shit talk until last call. Not only was I dreaming about getting older, my mind was also maturing by the day.

Fast forward to now and I find myself teaching marketing to eleventh and twelfth graders. At their age, I was enrolled in an extremely rigorous catholic school. Within the first few weeks, I quickly established myself as the funny kid in class, which of course got me into heaps of trouble. Although it was fun though, I wouldn’t say it was a meaningful experience to me. Again, I wanted to grow up faster so I could leave my childhood behind. Before I knew it high school flew by and I got my wish. I was accepted to a school out in California where I could escape my youth and enter into the adult phase that I dreamed of for years.

One last early morning wake up. As usual my dad was already awake, packing up the last of my things. Before I went upstairs to help him load the truck, I went to my mom’s bedside to wake her up and say goodbye for now. To my surprise she was already up. A pool of tears covered her pillow case. Unlike me, she didn’t want to say goodbye to her baby boy. We walked up the stairs together and I saw the tears well up in my dad’s eyes as well. That’s when this feeling that I am now having eleven years later first revealed itself to me. Nostalgia.

It was at that moment that I recognized I had made a huge mistake. I always wanted to be older so I would no longer be seen as the baby. Meanwhile, I forgot to enjoy being a child. Despite not wanting to admit I regret my childhood, what I can admit that I don’t think I lived it to the fullest. Now I am the older man that my boyhood self always wondered about. And now that I’m here, I’m left wondering who I was before.