The Difference Four Years Makes

The first of these pictures was taken in January 2024. The second in January 2020. What’s the difference between the two?
The second photo is of a girl just starting in the finance industry, with no idea who she was or what she was capable of. She showed up the way she thought she was expected to: in business clothes with a professional smile and a firm handshake. She held her tongue and conducted herself in a manner fitting the industry (the best she could, at least).
The first photo is a different girl. She shows up exactly as she is: messy, in bright colors, with a smile that reaches her eyes. She speaks her mind, laughs at herself, and refuses to be anyone but herself.
I am proud to be both of these girls. The second one got me to where I am. She met mentors who guided her through tough times and formed relationships that would last. She learned how to find her voice and how to use it. She built the girl in the first photo.
The first photo is the girl I looked up to when I was a kid struggling to find myself. She is unapologetic about who she is, even if she isn’t always sure of exactly what that means. She has learned how to be authentic and how to leave the room that makes her feel like she needs to be the second girl.
No matter what industry you’re in or what your role is, always remember to show up as yourself. If who you are isn’t accepted in the room you find yourself in or at the table you’re sitting at, it’s time to find another room with another table.
Be the person the younger you needed.