I went through the majority of the past six months avoiding mirrors. Seeing my eyes felt too intimate. If I ever looked, I'd have to search inside of them. And when I did, I saw sadness, fear, but most upsetting of all, I saw a stranger. I didn't know this girl and honestly, I didn't like her.
I very rarely wore makeup. But when I did, I silently cursed at my reflection the whole time I was applying it. I had always prided myself on having great skin, but the face in front of me had blemishes all over. Maybe it was the stress. Maybe it was the lack of sleep. But most likely, it was because I stopped caring about myself. I gave up on this new person I had become.
As a birthday present, my best friend bought me the book "The Bridges of Madison County". When I was in New York over Thanksgiving, I read it and highlighted some of the lines that spoke to me. One part that immediately caught my attention was when Francesca was looking at an old photograph that her lost love, Robert, had taken of her:
"She looked at the picture again, studied it. I did look good, she thought, smiling to herself at the mild self-admiration. 'I never looked that good before or after. It was him.'"
I've done the same, countless times. My smile never looked bigger, or brighter, or more genuine than in my pictures with Blake. I look at those old photographs and I see the Briana I was, the Briana I wish so desperately that I could be again. But I can't. I can never be her because she died with Blake. It's frustrating to realize that now that he's gone, I will never be the same again. I've mulled it over a million times and it never gets easier to wrap my mind around. I realized that maybe I didn't want to face myself in the mirror because I didn't know who I was without Blake.
But since coming back from New York, I caught myself looking in the mirror for the first time. As I brushed my teeth this morning, my eyes lingered on their reflection staring back at them. I wasn't ready to search them yet, so I scanned the rest of my face first. I immediately noticed that my skin had finally cleared up. I smiled. My nose was still slightly crooked, my teeth still "she definitely had braces" straight. My face was oval, just like my sister's, my cheekbones high, like my mom's. My face wasn't perfect, but it looked familiar. I liked what I saw. With a deep breath, I worked my way up to my eyes. When I fixed my stare, I poured myself into them, searching for a glimpse of the girl I used to be. But I was right, she wasn't there anymore.
What I did find, however, was something new. I had to strain my neck to get a closer look, barely an inch from the mirror to make sure. There it was. Almost completely hidden by the lower lashes of my left eye was a tiny, new freckle.
Freckles have always been important to me. I only have about ten, so I know exactly where all of them are. One of my favorite memories with Blake, which I shared in our video, was the night we discovered that he had a freckle in the exact same spot as me on his shoulder. He called them our "Twin Freckles" because they connected us and made us one. Maybe this new freckle, under my eye (I), symbolized a new journey focused on just me. To show me I'm different, but still beautiful.
This morning, the addition of the 11th freckle reminded that I am a new person. Although that feels scary and makes me want to run and hide from myself sometimes, it's the truth. I'm not sure if being a new person is good or bad, but it's reality. A reality that's mine and can't be avoided. I need to nurture this new person and learn to love her just as much as I loved the Briana from the photographs with Blake. Who knows, maybe I can grow to love her even more.