On seeing [or facial acne (or music)]

I’m sitting in passenger’s seat as my friend drives us both to Barnes and Noble, trying to strike up as many deep conversations as possible. I drove back to Columbia for the weekend for my birthday, and I suppose I’m making it a gift to myself to try and talk about the nature of the universe as much as I can while I’m around people I know will put up with that.

We’re talking about clothes, but in an esoteric kind of way, like how America assigns certain styles of dress to particular ideals of gender and how we fit into that. I tell her that sometimes I think about chopping my hair off, but I don’t because I think it’d make my head look small. That’s also why I never wear my hair up. Someone once told me my head looked small when I wore my hair up, and for some reason life likes to throw weird instances at you that you never quite get over.

It’s like my facial acne, I tell her; I always wear makeup to work because if I didn’t, I’m pretty sure everyone would think I’m 12. Those are the things I’m insecure about. My hair. And my facial acne.

You know, Allie, I’m pretty sure that when people look at you, the first thing they notice isn’t your facial acne.

I’m a little surprised and not sure what to do with her comment. Because every morning when I look in the mirror, it’s just about all I see. But maybe the things I’m most insecure about, the things I’m convinced everyone’s looking at and judging, aren’t the things they see after all.

***

Several days later, I’m sitting around with some people I’ve met since moving to Joplin. A couple of them across the room are strumming guitars, and we’re talking about our own musical abilities.

I feel like I’m the person who can do a few things musically, but isn’t that great at any of them, I say. I can play the guitar, but I’m not that good. I can sing, but I’m not all that fabulous at it.

One of the people sitting next to me looks over. I don’t know, maybe you’re better than you think you are. Maybe you’re actually pretty good, its just that you’re comparing yourself to people who have been doing it a lot longer than you have.

In my usual “Allie has to make everything into an abstract idea” fashion, her words get me thinking about the last several weeks, where just about every week is something of a roller coaster — sometimes as much as a single day feels like that. And while some of that is just because being 23 is downright weird, some of that comes from this inescapable, lingering feeling that I wish I could feel for any discernible length of time like I have my life together. Because when I look in the mirror, mostly I see someone who can’t seem to figure much out at all.

But maybe, in more ways than one, she’s right.

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