It’s been a while since I looked at a picture of myself and liked what I saw. Yes, it’s embarrassing to admit but, for the past couple years, I often cringed at my image. I’d think: ‘oh goodness, I’m not pretty anymore.’ Now, this may sound like self-indulgence. Let me clarify.
‘Prettiness’ is, for me and I believe many others, a multi-faceted idea. It includes not only external perceived ‘beauty,’ but all the inner trappings of one’s Self. The Quirks, Dreams, Passions, Humor, Loves, and, even, Losses. ‘Prettiness’ is built on years of experience, on relationships, on overcome obstacles. On strength. And it’s something that shines from the inside out…it’s evidenced in a gums-exposed laugh-smile and in a crinkled eye sparkle and in a relaxed shoulder tilt . ‘Prettiness’ is more symbolic of internal satisfaction, a satisfaction that is made manifest by the body.
And so, these past couple years, when I thought to myself: ‘Where did my prettiness go?’ I, rather, meant: ‘Where did my happiness go?’ I’ve been clear, both in my daily personal exchanges as well as on this blog, that I struggle with clinical depression. It’s no secret nor does it make me ‘special,’ for I’m certainly not the only one who struggles. It’s just a part of who I am and it is truly only a hamper when I allow it to be.
The strength to detain my depression, however, was a little feeble the past couple years. Namely my time during graduate school. Grad school was a period marked by questions: “Who am I?” “Is this what I want?” “Why am I so tired all the time?” “Why do I feel so alone?” I was confused, stressed, and a TERRIBLE birth control certainly didn’t help matters (SERIOUSLY- do not take Lessina, y’all. Incredible that a tiny little pill could systematically ruin my life…Did not recognize myself for the 9 months I took it and, during this time, became a weeping broken sop of a human).
And so. During this time, when I looked at pictures of myself, I saw Mariah, sure. But her features were limned in grayness. And she wasn’t pretty. She was just sad. My Quirks, Dreams, Passions, Humor, and Loves were, if not lost, at least fervently hiding. And the losses, legitimate or otherwise, felt too large and oppressive.
I graduated with my master’s May 2019. And, while I am incredibly proud of this accomplishment, as well as all the work required to achieve that degree, my most poignant emotion while crossing the stage was relief. ‘Yes, it’s over. And now I can be Mariah again.’ And, whether it was graduate school’s resolution or the fact that another new chapter in my life had now begun, my depression began to cede after graduation. I fell into my work at OrangeTheory Fitness (Hey TriSquad, if you’re reading!!) and an ~almost metaphorical~ ocean of literature (need a book recommendation? Hit me up; it seems I’ve done nothing but read since walking :p) and I haven’t been this happy in years.
My birthday was yesterday and it was magnificent…so many people convened to make it a truly special day and I cannot express how blessed I am to know the individuals I do. The celebration culminated with dinner at Opa!, a delicious Greek hotspot on South Lamar, and, surrounded by my parents, sister, boyfriend, and cousins, I snapped a flurry of pictures. I went back to peruse these photos later in the evening and, upon a cursory examination, felt a tickle of pleasure in my chest. In those snapshots my face was open, my shoulders relaxed, my smile unrestrained. Happy and pretty. Pretty and happy. One and the same.
Perhaps happiness is a transient thing. And yes, in truth, we simply can’t be happy all the time. “Shit happens” and this is just a fact. But we can cherish the moments we do feel that joy, that life, that love. For, even when the moment passes (as it’s wont to do), we can rest assured another will arrive. ‘Existence’ is peppered with dark and light and this life we have? It’s just a glorious adventure during which we are destined to trek through both.