“In ten years, she sees herself working as a physical therapist and married, with two children.” Those words preceded by the list of accolades and activities border the selected senior picture chosen for my highschool yearbook in 1996. Looking at the picture, I remember the details of the day. I selected a black flowy jumpsuit with a small pearl necklace and earrings to compliment. Long perfectly curled hair rested across one of my shoulders and slightly curled bangs were held in place by hairspray, just enough to hold the style. Looking directly at the camera, my big brown eyes and somewhat forced smile show my beauty along with the tension that a formal photo shoot created within me.
Studying the picture and the words brings a knowing smile to my face. Eighteen year old me had unrealistically hopeful goals. Attend college, then graduate school, get married and birth two children all in ten years time? By the time my ten year reunion rolled around, I had graduated from school, was working as a physical therapist, and was a newlywed. No children yet but after all, that was an awful lot to accomplish in ten years.
Ten more years have passed and as I prepare to attend my twenty-year reunion, I find myself sitting more often with thoughts of what I thought would be. In the last ten years, the two children I had hoped for arrived. The life I envisioned that day stretched to expand twenty years instead of ten but it happened as planned, nonetheless. Life looks different than I imagined, and yet I didn’t realize what I had imagined until faced with a visit to connect with my past.
What did I imagine? Some element of perfection I guess.
I dreamed of falling in love with someone I had known in high school and starting a family. Our kids would be well groomed, always playful and definitely compliant. After having said children, I would lose all my baby weight and be fit and healthy. My student loans would be paid off so I felt the freedom to work part-time while my husband provided all the remaining needs that our family would ever experience. Friendships would last forever, and family would have minimal drama.
Writing those words honestly surprises me. The reality of ‘what is’ stands nearly in complete opposition to what is true today. Interestingly, over time, peace has settled my heart as I have begun to embrace all that is different within me. Different from the girl I was once upon a time. Still, my heart and my mind spin as I prepare to return home, and curiosity continues to invite me into my spinning ambivalence.
Recent conversations with friends in the weeks preceding this reunion have invited me to put words to the spinning inside of me. Why am I going back? I loved high school. I loved the people. I loved my friends. Much of who I am today was shaped and formed by the moments and memories that were made during the thirteen years from kindergarten through high school. I have been looking forward to this reunion for quite some time, and there is not much that would keep me from attending.
Truth is, I know that in twenty years time we have all changed. Becoming who we are today has come through laughter, tears, heartache, and mistakes. Each story, part of the greater story, making us who we are today. When anxiety begins to rise within me about where my life may be “less than” I am becoming more aware that it is my own voice, insecurity, and doubt that wants to squash all the goodness that my life holds today. As a good friend reminded me, there is a lot to smile about in where the last twenty years have led. Yes, there is.
When I choose to listen to the voice that leaves me feeling “less than,” I am welcoming toxicity into my life. The last five months has been about working tirelessly to remove potentially toxic and harmful substances from mine and my family’s body and world, and yet when it comes to my mind and my heart I struggle to leave the lies about my worth outside. I have a choice to listen to the unkind voice that tells me all the things that I am not or that I am not doing well and I have a choice to bravely name what is truth and accept that truth.
Being brave means remembering that I am much more than my body. It requires me to name that I am a blessing to the world around me and more importantly to my little corner of the world. Bravery requires me to look at this gloriously messy life I am living as the life I am called to live and a beautiful life at that. Bravery begs me to continue to sit in the grief and sadness that surrounds my world, which also allows me experience the depth of joy that resides on the other side. Bravery is choosing to say that I am amazing and necessary. Bravery allows me to simply show up, just as I am.
Bethany Cabell is a Texas transplant, residing in Michigan with her husband and their two young boys. A lover of beauty, she lives life chasing after wide-open spaces: sharing her heart with others, in relationship with Jesus, and through music and photography. She tells her story here.