Monday, September 10, 2007

Turn and Face the Strange

by Lara David of Life: The Ongoing Education

I was 19, and he was 20. We were dating casually for the summer while I was home from college – having fun, but nothing serious. But he had known me for years, from before the death of my father. And so one night, in a particularly pensive mood, I asked him: “Have I changed very much since then?”

He thought quietly for a moment. “You don’t smile as much now,” he said. “But when you do, it’s real.” I asked what he meant, and he said, “You used to be happy all the time, but it was always superficial. Now, when you’re happy, it’s more genuine.” He shrugged, not sure how else to explain. “It’s more real.”

I was surprised by the depth of his attention, to have noticed something so small. And I was even more surprised to realize that it was something that I actually hadn’t noticed. How could this boy, who knew so little of me in most ways, see that when I couldn’t?

I’ve come to realize, in the years since that night, that the most important changes in my life are the ones that happen slowly over time, day by day, until one day I’m a new person, with new dreams and new problems, with new hopes and new fears. I see myself every morning, in the bathroom mirror spotted with toothpaste, and I miss the tiny differences that happen every night. I miss all the small things that add up to a big change.

I wonder, in my more whimsical moments, if this is what caterpillars feel. For months they wait in their cocoons, changing moment by moment, without notice. And in the end, they emerge, a beautiful butterfly, with bright colors and patterns and powerful wings. And the world gasps with wonder, to see such splendor, while the caterpillar merely cocks his head and tries to understand what’s happened.

Recently I looked at myself closely for the first time and was surprised to find a stranger. When did I become this woman I see, and where is the girl that I was? I am stronger than I used to be – tried by fire with freedom on the other side. I am beautiful now, in a way I could never be before, if only for my own acceptance of it. I live more in the world and less in myself, and I see other things and other people in a way I never could before.

And I find that the greatest surprise of all is that, just as it did once before, my smile has again settled into something deeper, softer, and more real.











Lara David is a twenty-something California girl, writing and photographing her way through life – and its changes! – one day at a time. Depending on the hat of the day, she is a preschool teacher, a dancer, a nanny, an artist, and a drama queen. She loves new friends, so follow along with the ups and downs of her life lessons at Life: The Ongoing Education. You never know – if you stick around long enough, you just might learn something.

7 comments:

nutmeg said...

Beautiful, as usual, Lara. Once we can't measure growth with a mark on the door jam, with a series of photos on the den wall, we assume it stops. Not true. I do believe you've hit upon one of the ways we continually grow as adults, hopefully; we define true happiness more accurately as we age. Our smiles become more genuine as we learn to become what we want and need to become instead of what we perceive others to want and need of us. That's when we find room for altruism. Nirvana is only around the corner...

Pawhealer said...

That was a very "pretty" post...Nice

flutter said...

This is gorgeous.

Tori said...

You are an amazing writer Lara and I sure hope that everyone in your day to day presence knows what an amazing person you are!!

The Farmers Wife said...

A beautiful thought provoking post. I loved the analogy of the caterpillar.

yh said...

Great post! And very reflective.. :)

Jen E said...

Wonderful post!! So true! Definitely makes me think.

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