Maybe it’s the fact that my hair no longer looks like Medusa’s nest of snakes. Maybe it’s the fact that my trips to the gym happen more like daily than twice a year. Maybe it’s because I’ve learned what I’m good at, what I’m not good at, and that I don’t have to take on every opportunity that falls in my path. And maybe it’s because I try things I’ve never done, just to find out if I can.
For whatever reason, a subtle layer of confidence has grown just inside my skin. When you live in your day-to-day life, though, those small changes go pretty much unnoticed. Happiness, confidence, drive, ambition, opinions – these things build over time. When you step back a bit, they glow like neon against the dull background.
Over the weekend, my cousin married a guy who graduated in my high school class. We are nearing our ten-year reunion, and I have hardly been in touch with anyone from this era of my life. The groom was popular in school, and naturally, so were his groomsmen. I was not. It’s not that I was particularly unpopular. I moved to this small town at the height of junior high, when egos and cliques had already been set in stone. I wasn’t clearly related to anyone, and I was clearly different from everyone. Frustration and bitterness nagged me for a long time – I was alright with being myself, but why wasn’t anyone else alright with me being me?
It occurred to me last Thursday that I would most likely see some of these people at the wedding (especially since half the town was invited). To my surprise, I felt excitement bubble up in me, not the heavy dread I expected.
On the arm of my handsome (and extremely talented and smart) husband, I already felt a thousand times different than I did a decade ago. We navigated both the rehearsal dinner and wedding reception comfortably, and had good conversations. It was surreal to talk to people I went to school with, people whose opinions I thought were The Final Word on all things cool. Now that I know how much bigger the world is, I wondered why I ever held them in such high esteem. I also pondered the mystery of a small town’s effect on aging (not so) gracefully. They didn’t look bad, they just looked about ten years older than expected. Also to my surprise, their forever-friendships struck me as sweet and special; back in the day, I felt jealous and annoyed.
Against the background of my past, the subtle changes in me glowed obvious. For the first time in this place, I felt confident and at home in my own skin. I felt no hunger for their approval, and that freed me up to enjoy the weekend.
Whatever my expectations, among them was not the closure I ended up with this weekend. Who knew that a wedding could bring balance to years of frustration with the nuances of small-town life? Not me. It was a small reminder that bitter memories can be reversed, or at least re-balanced. I have changed – is it so surprising that the world I remember is different now, too?
Can any of you relate to these things? Bad experiences, relationships gone wrong, or other things you’d rather forget – then, one day, something happens and you feel closure about it? I’d love to hear your stories.