I can’t help but look back on this picture with anything less than my brightest smile. My kids, a few years ago now, had decided, all on their own, to put rain boots on because their little feet didn’t like the feeling of wet grass. Instead of jumping through the sprinkler system, they approached it with all the care of scientists, much more in a method of understanding the way it worked than playing like “normal” kids. Completely unbeknownst to them, I had taken a picture of their aquatic study, and to this day, it might be one of my all-time-favorite captured moments. They hadn’t a care of my or anyone else’s judgement on their peculiar choice of wear or activity … they were being entirely themselves, and that’s what made this photograph beautiful.
Theodore Geisel, much more commonly known as “Dr. Seuss,” wrote a fabulous book called, Oh, the Places You’ll Go, in which he wrote the popular saying, “Today you are you that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you!” No one! Not a single person on the entire planet of seven billion people! That is an extraordinary number of people to be unique from, but it’s true. “Truer than true,” according to Seuss. But that doesn’t make it easy to believe does it? Not many of us feel too special, too “set-apart” from anybody else. We tend to lump ourselves into categories of normalcy, into groups of “stereotypical-ness” that strip us of all individuality and make us feel less than desirable. I know; I’ve been there.
And here comes the anecdote. For the sake of the story let’s call him Aaron (even though that wasn’t his name) and let’s say we were friends (even though that was a stretch too). To be honest, he was my sister’s friend, and had been for years. Back when I was in my freshman year of college, you see, my sister had already graduated, and gotten married, but only a few months before I started. So it was only natural that some of her friends in the five-year programs were still in school. Pretty early into the year, Aaron had made it a point to be “available” to me. He would call once in awhile, offer me a ride back home if it was near a holiday and even invite me (a lowly undergrad, I remind you) to his frat parties. And at first, I’ll admit it, I felt special, notable even. I couldn’t imagine what a super-senior guy like him, could see in a practically-nobody first year like me. Then, I figured it out.
Near Thanksgiving, I was feeling a little homesick, and I really wanted to go home for a weekend. Even though I had a car, Aaron found out I was leaving, and offered to drive back too. “I’ve been meaning to go back,” he said, though I couldn’t imagine why. He was in a busy time, near finals, with a demanding major, not to mention frat responsibilities. But, he offered, so why waste my gas? At the time I realized I’d rather talk to him than be alone, and his attention and smiles weren’t completely wasted on me. We had a decent two-hour ride, and I didn’t feel too bad about this. Sure it wasn’t what I’d originally foreseen, but maybe? Right? Ten minutes after stepping into my house I knew better … maybe NOT.
Within that short amount of time, Aaron had shaken hands with my dad, made small talk with my mom, and glanced around “knowingly” at our house. I realized, in that moment, that he had been to my house a dozen times before, and not to visit me, but my sister. Always dating someone steadily, he’d never had a shot with her, though on more than one occasion all she’d have had to do was say the word. And none of this had broken into my memory before seeing Aaron placed in my kitchen, looking around with a familiar ease. Like a smack to the forehead jarring my memory, I “got” it. I realized why he liked me … I was the poor-man’s version of her! My sister. He’d always liked my sister and I was too young to really notice or care – but I wasn’t too young now to recall. And that was the end of that.
I may not be the most confident person in the world, not by a long shot, but I do know (and have since freshman year at-least!) that I am worth, at the very least, my own character. I could not, and do not understand people who don’t believe they are too. I get it, life is tough and judgmental. We can’t all run around in bikinis and polka-dots, surfboard shorts and camouflage boots and be completely at-ease with ourselves like kids … but we can take control of our own ability to be individuals; and we can like the “yous” we’ve become.
If it has been awhile since you gave your beautiful reflection a talking to about how amazing you are, I give you permission to do so. It’s not vanity; it’s integrity. Valuing yourself is no less-important than appreciating a one-of-a-kind, never to be seen again priceless work of art. You’re a limited time attraction – here today, not to stay, moment to be admired and desired for all YOU are, not for who you might be compared to. You are a poor man’s nobody. You are you; that’s enough.