We become what we least wish.
Scanning through photos from other places, people I knew in a time I can hardly remember now. They’ve all grown-mostly rounder, as I have, some balder, some with more tension around the eyes. Some carry obvious signs of bad marriages, sick children, secrets. Little over 10 years have passed by, and we’re caricatures of ourselves, of who we’d thought we’d be.
Did you imagine you’d be balding, children on the way, too much weight gathered between you, the subtle sigh and smell of settling casting a pall over you?
Did you imagine you’d still be in Korea, somewhere I never imagined you’d be brave enough to sit still in, my awe shivering?
Did you imagine you’d have a home, smothered in country kitsch, like your mother’s. The very thing you swore you’d never do, the clothes you’d never wear, the haircut you’d never had. All in the palm of your hand.
I stare in a mirror, in the lens of my camera, and I don’t recognize myself. In the eyes at least-the loose skin of my face hasn’t changed much, aside from a few more wrinkles. My hair, uncontrollable and wiry, looses it’s grip on itself more each year. My body becomes stagnant and yet stronger, built up in places my hands forget to remind itself about. My eyes have darkened and turned inside, faithful to only me.
Old friends find me, and the same story stumbles out of each-that I inspired them, that I was braver than they could be, that I was always so funny, so dear, so fabulous.
My memories don’t match. My memories are all of a scared little girl running for her life, playing some act better than she ever could on stage. A friend tells me that she wished she could be like me through high school, and I nearly cry, knowing what my seeming strength cost me.
Are these hideous kitchens in photos much the same? Something we put on, for who we think we are, who we think the adult versions of ourselves are meant to look? Do we like what we’ve become, the men and women we’ve grown into?
I’ve grown into my strength. Where once was smoke and mirrors now sits true power, my knuckles white around my heart, grasping and guarding. But so much still feels like a 17 year old-my inability to keep my side of the bed neat, not knowing how to put myself together, that constant feeling that I’m the child in the room. I never feel like the adult-hell, most of the time I wonder who the freak is who let me have children.
I can’t help but step back sometimes thinking, “Fuck me…I’m over 30.” Like a rushing car in a dream, it hovered, but it still hits and you hang in the air staring at it, wondering how it happened. It’s like 18 to 29 just…wafted away into the sky, and I wonder if I really held it after all. Then I look at the people I knew, and how they’ve turned into their parents, and not necessarily in all the good ways, and I wonder what happened to that desire to do something new, be it where they grew up, or thousands of miles away.
What happened? Why do we give up, or in?
I don’t feel this old, as old as I am. I’ll look down and see myself and wonder if I’m too old to dress the way I’m dressed, too old to listen to what I might listen to. I’ll realize that inside, I’ll never feel as old as my parents always seemed, I’ll never have the “adults” house. But I’m ok with that.
I just wish I knew when it all changed.