I recently took a look at a picture of me from almost a year ago.
I was in San Francisco, smiling like a lunatic over a bag of saltwater taffies labeled "Orthodox Chews," because I'm one of those people who finds things like that funny.
I'm smiling, but I look terrible, worse than I think I've ever looked in my adult life. I'm very pale and thin, having lost eight pounds in one week. My eyes are baggy, because I had been up all night worrying about someone I cared about and whether or not I was going to lose them. A month later, I would lose seven more pounds and a lot of my confidence. It was the beginning of a very tough year, some of which I don't prefer to remember.
Never in another year have I made so many mistakes. Never in another year have I taken so many risks. Never in another year have I changed so much in the way I view things, in both good ways and bad.
As they say, it's always darkest before the dawn. Here's hoping that's true. And here's why I believe it to be true. It's a very weird reason.
Yesterday was my last day at a yearlong internship, one I started right after I got back from San Francisco, right before my dark year began. This past weekend, I saw some close friends I haven't seen in months, and had a few long, amazing talks with them. A few gave me some good advice. And one of them in particular was very, very encouraging.
And then today, an old picture of that friend popped up on my newsfeed. And when I say old, I mean OLD (by Facebook standards).
It showed him years before, younger in appearance and attitude, smiling between two rabbis. He's got different hair and less experience. He's a completely different person from the one I know now. His thoughts are different. His attitude is different. His beliefs are different. That picture is a boy, a teenager. The guy I know now is grown-up. Sort of. Not really, perhaps, but in comparison.
When I told him about the picture I'd seen, he jokingly referred to the boy in the picture as "loser me." And we talked about how different the two would be if they ever met. And an idea popped into my head. What if me last year met me now?
She'd certainly be disappointed in how things turned out. But then, now me would have to explain why they weren't necessarily bad things. This year was the year I learned to trade temporary satisfaction for a shot at long-term happiness. The year I learned that they who look like they've got it all now may be doing so at a terrible future cost. And they who are honest with themselves and others, even when it's uncomfortable, usually come out alright in the end.
How would I explain to last year me what she was about to encounter? And for that matter, how would next year me talk to me now?
It's been a tough year, and I don't know if next year will get easier or harder. But very recently, I've finally felt something I hadn't dared to entertain in months. I felt hope. And apparently, it showed. Someone very close to me told me that I looked pretty. "Happy looks good on you."
I looked long and hard in the mirror when I got home. I was no longer pale and baggy-eyed. I've gained back nine of the fifteen lost pounds. I wasn't grinning like a lunatic, but I looked happier nonetheless. And though I could be as easily wrong as right, I'd like to think that what they say about the dark before the dawn is true. I'd like to think it's all uphill from here.