I see him every morning when I step out of the shower.
We stare at one another again while I’m brushing my teeth before bed.
The guy in the mirror.
I used to wonder what he would look like in his mid-thirties. Back when he had his entire life ahead of him.
That kid was alright. Balanced. Unsure what he wanted to do with his life, but totally sure of himself.
That kid got pretty good grades in school. Got along pretty well socially. Loved by his parents. Confident with girls. Hopeful and optimistic about his future.
You could see it in his eyes. Good things were coming.
And he knew it.
What if You Couldn’t Wake From That Dream?
If you never woke from a very realistic, lucid dream, how would you ever know the dream world from the real world?
That makes me think about self-identity. How we view ourselves. And just how in tune with reality that image really is.
When you’re a confident kid growing up, and you start hearing about girls with eating disorders and whatnot in high school and college because they have an unhealthy and distorted self-image, or worse, the suicidal kids who feel completely unloved and useless, it’s not something you can understand.
At least it wasn’t for me.
I could never make sense of the beautiful people who didn’t know they were beautiful and would engage in self-destructive behavior chasing something that wasn’t real.
And I don’t just mean people with physical beauty. Because as we age and become less superficial, we discover beauty isn’t always packaged like cover girls and diamonds and sunsets.
We find it in a mother holding her newborn. In an elderly couple holding hands in the park. In a story about a college basketball player and his relationship with a gorgeous young cancer patient.
Somehow, as I aged, I lost confidence.
You watch your best friends go on to have beautiful marriages.
Highly successful careers.
Embark on ambitious adventure.
And you start reflecting on your life and comparing it to others or to what you thought it would look like when you were young and hopeful and optimistic.
But your life doesn’t look like that at all.
Your marriage doesn’t feel happy.
The bills pile up.
There are no vacations to exotic locations.
You don’t have fun with friends all the time like you used to because everyone’s busy.
You lose your job.
Family members die.
The downward spiral depresses you.
You’re not strong enough.
You’re a disappointment.
Everything falls apart.
You lose yourself.
Two Decades Later
Sometimes I’ll just stand there and stare. Letting the eye contact linger between me and the man in the mirror.
Who are you?
The hazel eyes have more green flecks than I remember.
There are signs of aging around them. Every glance at a clock or calendar sounds just a little bit louder than it used to.
Tick, tick, tick.
The gray hair is really coming in. A daily reminder that the kid I remember is, in a lot of ways, gone forever.
I miss seeing the self-assured smile. The eye twinkle that only hope can provide. A face free from the rigors of life’s occasionally cruel twists.
One of the girls I met recently calls me “gorgeous.”
She says it all the time. About that same face I see in the mirror. About that same body that can and should be so much more than it is.
I don’t see gorgeous. I still see the guy my wife left.
But I’m working to look past that. I’m working every day.
This morning, one of my co-workers—a guy who’s been married a long time and has a somewhat warped sense of what my life is really like—said casually in conversation that I was “awesome at meeting women.”
Maybe I should let him read some old posts.
What is he seeing that I’m not?
He’s seeing something. My social life is inching its way back toward vibrancy. My dating life is light years ahead of where it was throughout every second of 2013.
Maybe there’s a lesson here. About perspective. About relativism. About what it means to be an adult.
We have two possible outcomes every day and most of the time, it’s a choice: Live or die.
If we’re going to be alive, we’re going to have mountains of shit pile up on us. And I choose life.
I think being an adult is a little like being a muscle.
I think once we’ve matured and stopped growing, we need to be broken down and put back together bigger and stronger.
To grow. To be tough enough. To be tall enough to ride.
I’m not gorgeous. However, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
I’m not awesome at meeting women. But I met some. And they like me.
And maybe I waste too much time worrying about what I’m not, or what I used to be.
And maybe you do, too.
And maybe the people we see in the mirror aren’t who we think they are.
Maybe they’re something more.
Maybe they’re tough enough.
Maybe they’re tall enough.