October 31, 2004

Mirror, Mirror

I am tired tonight. It’s a good tired, not a depressed tired—even though I have a feeling this is going to be a slightly depressing post.

As I was getting ready for bed tonight, I stopped in front of the bathroom mirror and took a long look at myself. Basically, I stared at my face for about 2 minutes solid.

It sounds kind of vain, I know, but more than anything, I was trying to figure out something.

You see, sometimes, when I look into the mirror, the face I see is familiar and expected. But other times, when I glance up, the person glancing back is a stranger.

Do you ever feel that? Do you ever see yourself in a mirror in an unexpected place and not recognize yourself? Like you’re walking through a store and all of a sudden you realize that you are looking into a mirror and that person coming towards you is, in fact, you?

Tonight, when I looked up, I didn’t know the person staring back. So, I took a minute to look at her. Her hair caught my eye first. It looked good. Healthy. Shiny.

I cut my hair drastically for the first time in 4 years right before I came here and I still get surprised by it. So, that noted, I understood why the hair looked unfamiliar. But, still, something wasn’t right. So I kept looking.

The next thing I noticed is that this girl looked young. She looked innocent and tired and maybe a little wary of life. I’m going to attribute this look as the by-product of moving the small town girl to the big city.

The people who are a part of my world right now have done a good job instilling a (healthy, necessary) fear of the city into me. It was hard to listen to all the warnings and cautions, but I know why they were doing it—partly, because it’s better to be aware than naïve, and partly because they wanted to cover their behinds. If something did happen to me while I was here, they don’t want the stain on their conscience that they didn’t tell me all the risks and scary stories.

This week I was finally able to buy a car, and I’ve begun to venture out into this huge, scary city by myself for the first time. The first night I drove home from youth, I was honestly petrified and prayed for safety and a good memory from the moment I started the car, until the moment the guard let me into the street. I was scared I would get lost. I was scared I’d bought a piece of junk car, or that the guy had ripped me off and it was going to break down even before I had the chance to get home.

Lord, I hope those noises ricocheting over my roof right now are fireworks, and not gunshots. This has to be the craziest place I’ve ever lived in my life. They shoot fireworks all the time. They don’t even celebrate Halloween here, but I really wouldn’t be surprised if they shot of some fireworks in honor of it.

Anyway, so fireworks and new cars and traffic and adjusting to big city life have taken away my sense of security. I haven’t yet come to the point where my fear doesn’t cripple me. Most of the people I interact with on a daily basis have managed to reconcile the fear and the reality that they have to still live their lives. I’m hoping this is the next big transition I go through; because I’m tired of the nervous knot my stomach turns into every time I step outside the house or the church. I know it’s smart to be aware and even to have a little healthy fear, but I can’t let it stop me from living the next 8 months of my life. If I don’t figure out how to balance this, then I’m afraid it will ruin my time here.

So beyond the hair and beyond the fear that is written in my eyes, I still couldn’t put my finger on what was the matter with the face looking back at me. Even after thinking about it for the last half hour, I can’t figure it out.

I wish I was more in touch with myself. Half the time, I am so deep into denial that it takes me weeks to understand why I react to things the way I do. Maybe I’ll understand this mystery by next week.


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