Maybe you can help me.
Here is what I know:
I felt like an old soul before I knew the expression. I’m not sure just why.
I have never, ever been comfortable in front of a camera. It is not just that I am not of the selfie generation; the endless photographs everywhere that smack of “Me! Me! Notice ME!” I would never be comfortable sticking out my tongue and making stupid faces….but I’m no less uncomfortable simply trying to smile when asked. (And it isn’t that I won’t smile….I do, and often. But something about a camera makes me freeze.)
I am never sure anyone who knew me will remember me. And I am always surprised when they do.
I never, even when I was very young, thought I could be anything special. We used to watch beauty pageants when I was a little girl, and I loved them, but I never thought ‘that will be me when I grow up.’ And by the time I was old enough that there were such things as cheerleader tryouts and homecoming queens, I knew that would never be me, either.
I was an ordinary girl, no head turning talents, none of the confidence needed to make those things happen. I don’t even remember feeling bad about it; I just knew what I was….and was not.
I was always surprised when someone wanted to date me. (And that’s really kind of funny, because most of the guys I dated wanted to marry me. ME?)
But here’s the thing: I have had a bit more confidence with each decade of my life. A bit less apologetic for my very existence, a bit more liking what I see in the mirror, no matter the size. A little more ‘yes I am’ when it comes to trying new things–returning to college in my 40s, pitching a novel to an agent, changing a job–just because it was right for me, no matter what anyone else thought. Breaking a bad engagement and marrying someone else (definitely the best decision I made that year!)
Earlier tonight I said to an old friend that I am traditional enough to have promised to love, honor, cherish…and obey, when I got married. It felt good to say that, and it still does, even when we are a bit annoyed with each other. I believe enough in the woman I am to know that ‘she’ is not lost by that promise, not sublimated, not made lesser-than. Where once I would only have believed that I was the lucky one–HE married ME! now I know that he is lucky, too.
And a few weeks ago my daughter said that she knows I am older than some of the other moms (we were talking about her friends) but that she liked the way I look, that I don’t look like an old lady, but I don’t look like I’m still trying to be a teenager, ‘which is just gross.’ I liked hearing that. Maybe one of the reasons I am often taken for someone younger is that I am not obsessed with how young I look, or at least how young you think I look.
Maybe it’s easier, growing older, if you didn’t think you were so incredible when you were young. I don’t know. But since I never felt like any kind of beauty, time has been kind to me. Or maybe it’s just that finally I am kind–kinder, anyway–to myself. Maybe not having so many expectations about the life I would have (what I wanted or was owed, however you look at it, in all the arrogance of youth) makes it easier to be happy with what I do have. And it’s a lot. I never forget that.
So here’s what else I know:
You’ll never hear me tell a teen that these years are the happiest and most carefree ever. For some teens, that’s undoubtedly true. For others, it couldn’t be less true.
That it’s okay not to have all the answers. Okay not to know who you are and what you want. And it’s okay to take the time to find out. You’ll still be you every day, no matter how old you grow, and even if you believe, as I did, that you are nothing special–you ARE.
It’s okay to have the second half of your life be filled with what you wanted to do in a way that the first half could never have been. And it’s more than okay to enjoy it, every step of the way. More than okay, because now you know what it takes to make those dreams happen.
It’s okay to be shy. The way I figure it, my smile might actually mean a little more to the one who sees it face to face, when it hasn’t been plastered everywhere in party shots and constant poses. It’s more genuine, more….me. And it means not that I am trying to entice you, but that I trust you.
Here’s what I know best of all: I am a Christian woman, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend. I am a poet and writer and dreamer. I am a gentle heart in an old soul.
And I am still learning, still growing, still blooming.
That’s what I know.