“I never would have thought I’d see you in those in a million years.”
My good friend from home is looking down at the ugliest pair of shoes either of us has seen in our adult lives. I bought them out of necessity. It was cold when I got back to Europe and I needed something other than the sandals I had been wearing all through Asia the last three months. It’s been either sandals or my Nike tennis shoes (which have holes in the sides now) since I left, and I honestly don’t even think about it anymore. I don’t think about what I’m wearing at all, let alone what’s on my feet. I no longer really care- and it hasn’t even registered how much of a symbol of change that is, until right now with Rayvin pointing it out.
She’s visiting me for her vacation and hasn’t seen me in almost a year. She’s totally entertained and enjoying calling out how I’ve “let myself go” in certain respects. It’s funny to both of us. We both look down again at my feet and crack up laughing.
This is what backpacking and long term travel looks like- and it suits me.
My shoes are what any sophisticated businesswoman would call “disgusting.” They clash with everything I own and have a weird pattern on them. That woman wouldn’t be caught dead in these things. That woman wears only designer high heels, flats or leather boots.
I used to be that woman. She’s still somewhere in here, in the backseat of the proverbial “soul vehicle” that is my body. She just doesn’t say much anymore. She’s taking a much needed break alongside my ego and “pain bank” (that place in our memory where we hold all the bad stuff from the past). They all sit quietly in the backseat now, most of the time, speaking up only when I let them- a rarity nowadays.
I’ve enjoyed having Rayvin around. She’s a piece of home- familiarity and comfort. She reminds me who I used to be, and shows me how much growth has actually taken place. Having her around helps me give myself credit for the thousand things I’ve learned, changed and developed over the course of this journey.
Sometimes she makes me miss home, and all the comforts that come with it. We both work (well past tense for me) in the cosmetic industry, which means one toiletry bag is never enough. She brought two suitcases full of great clothes, shoes and products and looks perfect everyday- reminding me how much time I used to spend getting ready.
With her around everyday for a month, I start spending more time putting myself together. I forgot how time consuming all this could be.
I sit in front of the mirror while we both get ready for a night out. I notice how grown out my hair is and how different my skin looks. (I haven’t seen my natural hair color since I was 18.)
For a brief moment I see myself 20 years ago, at 6 years old staring back at me and it sends a pain down to my gut. I am hardly recognizable, yet completely recognizable at the same time. I look as I was intended to look from birth, without any alteration. My blonde hair growing out showing my natural auburn color, my bare face uncovered and my eyes bright, carrying less pain.
This is the new/old version of me. It feels like seeing an old friend you haven’t seen in ages. I guess I hadn’t fully appreciated this physical uncovering of myself that’s occurred in the past months. It didn’t fully register how much I have physically changed since this all began last August.
I see myself and take note of what that really looks like. And for the first time in my adult life I think to myself: “It’s okay. You are still pretty and I accept you like this.” For the first time I pay attention to this since I began this journey. And for the first time (maybe ever), I acknowledge and accept the unkempt version of myself.
Within seconds I feel lighter.
When I do put on a little makeup it’s not for the same reasons that it used to be about. I do it for fun. I do it to enhance my already-there features. I use practical sunblock with a bit of color in it. I am no longer putting a mask on. I’m using cosmetics only if I feel like it- not out of necessity.
For the past few months I rarely even looked in the mirror before my friend from home came to visit. Our time together helped me bridge the gap between who I used to be and who I’ve become- helping me to accept both versions while finding a comfortable space somewhere in between. This is what great friends are for- to help you really see yourself, to help you grow and evolve. They do this while sitting beside you during the biggest chapter of your life. And those are the people I miss most, but also the people I know I am serving well by continuing down this path of growth.
I am extremely fortunate for all my experiences, gifts and mostly for the people that have supported me the whole way through. (Especially you Mom!)
These people accept me no matter what, which has helped me accept myself (ugly shoes and all).
Thank you, thank you, thank you. ❤️❤️❤️