I don’t know about you, but I’m never quite enough. I’ve never done quite as much as I’d like. The end products are never quite as perfect as I originally pictured them in my mind. I’m never fully satisfied with myself.

I am – as most of us are – my own worst critic.

That’s because I’m usually comparing myself to other people: more daring people, more successful people, more confident people. And because I worry incessantly about what other people will think. (Maybe you do, too?)

But one day a year or so ago, I did something that made me look at myself with new eyes. I considered what 18-yo Autumn would think about 42-yo Autumn. I realized with a thrill that my teen self would be flipping out about where I am right now. I imagine the dialogue might look something like this:

18-yo old me: You wrote a novel?!?!?!? And you live on a boat?!?!?!? Are. You. Serious. Right. Now.

42-yo me: I KNOW RIGHT?!?!?!?!

Teen Autumn (LEFT) was a total hippie, so she’d dig me.

And as I went back down the line to check in with all of the earlier iterations of Autumn, I realized that from their perspectives, I’m not too shabby either.

8-yo old me: Are you telling me you get to do what you want to do and play outside whenever you feel like it?!?!?!? Shut up!!!!

28-yo me: Seriously? You work for yourself? OMG. When does that happen? Please tell me it’s soon.

Twenties Autumn (FAR LEFT) would scoff at my aversion to hangovers. Don’t judge me, bish.

So here’s the thing: that wouldn’t always have been the case. If 8-yo old Autumn had been in touch with 28-yo old Autumn, she’d have been a little depressed. I spent way too much time in cubicles and dingy bars. And 18-yo old Autumn would’ve been thoroughly disgusted by 34-yo Autumn, living back in a small town, pinching my self in to feel like I belonged.

Hey, look! Thirties Autumn gave up on life and any pretense at fashion!

But checking in during those times might still have been a good idea. I might have realized sooner that I wasn’t becoming the person I wanted to be. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, and I wouldn’t really change the rotten years because who I am today is an emergent property of all those other Autumns who came before me.

Forties Autumn is still a little bit hippie, still a little bit trouble, and still a little bit nervous, but overall, the kid’s alright.

I try to remember that now when I feel not enough. I may not be as much as I’d like to be, but I’m more than I’ve ever been before. And I’ll be even more tomorrow.