Five years ago (impossible!) I was following three girls on a hike in a nature preserve in Pietermaritzberg, South Africa. Fresh off of the plane, we had no idea where the trail would lead, but we followed it in faith as it wound through jungle and clearings and hillsides.
And then the most beautiful thing happened. It began to rain.
It washed away our jet-lag and our preconceived notions of a semester abroad and our fears. At the gentle kiss of the rain, the ground came alive. Suddenly, the smell of dense, rich earth mingled with the fresh cleanliness of the rain.
The ground that carried me, the dirt that directed me, lay beneath my feet, full of stories of creatures and storms and humans. It was rough, simple, but rich.
And the rain washed away more and more of my pretensions, and eventually, my makeup with it. And when the mascara had new ideas about its duties and painted pictures on my cheeks, I lifted my face to the heavens and was washed clean.
No point in trying to preserve perfection.
No point in clinging to barriers between reality.
It was so strange, but I wanted to be like the earth. Simple, exposed, and honest.
And with abandon, I sang and danced with three new friends in the rain on the soil of South Africa, learning how to be me. Learning how to be okay with being too much or not enough.
Learning how to face the mirror in our chalets and not see the red, blotchy skin, but the evidence of life; not seeing the sunken eyes, but a wildfire dancing in those eyes; not seeing drenched hair, but seeing the heavenly rain taking its rightful place. To look beyond simply seeing, and feel the sting of the cold, watching breath escaping and dancing for a moment before fading away.
Learning how to use the mirror not to hide, pretend, protect, or primp, but to detect proof of true living.
When I face the mirror, that’s what I want to see:
a girl who feels at one with adventure and rainstorms and the dirt clinging to her shoes.