It might seem odd that I’m writing to you about sunglasses today, but there are things in this life that serve as markers which measure how much we’ve grown and changed and shifted as time passes.
Sunglasses, believe it or not, are one of those things for me.
I remember when I was still in school, hanging at the mall with my then best friend. We were waiting for my mom to pick us up outside the department store she always parked at. Standing in front of the mirror trying on a variety of frames and modeling them for each other, she suddenly spoke up with envy. “You can pull off any look you want,” she said as I swapped between the many styles.
And I could, because I was blessed and cursed with the gift of being a chameleon, able to blend with anyone or anything that surrounded me. It served my shy, introverted self well as I grew up, blending seamlessly into my surroundings and going completely unnoticed if I wanted.
When I was 21 I started dating a very extroverted and opinionated man who was also very “with it” when it came to fashion and trends. Suddenly the simple act of finding shade for my eyes became incredibly stressful. There was an opinion or comment on every pair and how it did or didn’t fit my face or style or personality. It took me months to find a pair “I liked,” which really meant a stylish pair he thought I looked good in. My gift of being a chameleon had begun to become a curse, because I could no longer connect with who I was or what I wanted. I simply blended, or depended on someone else to tell me what I should do.
Nine years later, driving through the vast emptiness that is the middle of Kansas, another boyfriend and I stopped for gas. We were literally at the only truck stop that existed between miles of nothing and fields of windmills. The sun was setting right in our eyes and I desperately needed some shades.
I walked in and over to the shopping area, spun the display mindlessly, and stopped it as the zebra pair flew to the front. “Ooooh,” I thought. “These are cute.” My zebra stripes became a signature style for me, as literally everyone stopped me to comment on them. “You always have the coolest sunglasses,” my sister expressed as I returned with a pair of pink camo shades on a family camping trip and shared an extra pair of zebra stripes with her. It made me laugh, thinking back to the time it would take me months to find a pair that “looked good.”
This isn’t really about sunglasses though. It’s not a story about how I become “cool” or “stylish” over the years.
This is a story about a marker that tells the tale of a girl losing herself, only to one day reclaim her identity, own her preferences, and find a kind of confidence in herself that makes a cheap pair of zebra striped sunglasses “cool.”
We all have these markers in our life.
It might be a date on the calendar where something significant or insignificant happened, and you’re reminded of where you began. It might be every time you drive through that one part of town and remember the person you once were. It might be a favorite shirt or shoes or that candle on your side table.
Whatever it is that symbolizes growth for you, it’s there to remind you how far you’ve come, how much you’ve grown, and what you’ve walked through.
These moments that we’re reminded, they come up so that we can honor who we were and where we’ve been… as well as celebrate who we’ve become and where we’re going. Comparison is a powerful tool when we use it with ourselves. When we can look back and say, “yep, that was me” with love and compassion. All while embracing the truth of who we are in this moment.
The nine years that passed between losing myself and reclaiming all that I am, those were some challenging years. They felt long and hard and confusing. It took me learning to fight like hell to reclaim the parts of myself I gave away, the aspects of my personality I tucked away. I’m still fighting this fight.
Which is why every time I see my well worn and loved zebra stripes, my heart swells with love for who I was, who I am, and who I continue to become.
I hope your markers prompt you to do the same.