Sometimes I am amazed when I catch a glimpse of a man passing by a mirror. He stands taller and heavier than I do, his eyes creased with the effects of the sun, his face shaded in with the speckled black of a five o’clock shadow. This man has a slightly higher hair line, though our coloring is the same. He dresses professionally, wearing collared shirts and dress pants, button downs, polos, and fancy looking shoes. He wears a ring on the fourth finger of his left hand but no watch, preferring to keep his mildly tanned arm unencumbered from the fetters of time.
I see this man frequently. Sometimes, he leaps from the reflective pane, startling me with his presence. Other times only a glimpse of his figure strides past the corner of my eye, fleeing before my attention is fully drawn. He is a specter, a figment of my imagination, a golem formed from the soil of my past.
He is me.
I am sure many of you have gone through the same experience when catching sight of yourself unexpectedly. We have come to be familiar with the who we see in the mirror, though many times we surprise ourselves with what is there. For me, I am surprised to see a man. I don’t say this with any sense of hubris, as in MAN, rather, I mean I see an adult.
Captured in my mind is the youth I used to be. I am still the same young boy who used to treasure his He-Man action figures, who used to ride his bike to school, who was scared to talk to girls at dances, who played baseball, soccer, basketball, ran track, and swam competitively, who lived in a dorm, who cherished the freedom of his first apartment, who asked the love of his life to marry him, who interviewed for his first job, and who sits here typing this blog. I am all of these at the same time and it feels like yesterday that I did all of it. Seeing the man in the mirror reminds me that it was not.
The person we are inside, the voice in your mind, the revealer of our thoughts and memories, is timeless. This person never seems to age, remaining immutable throughout our entire life. This is why I find myself surprised at my own reflection. I don’t feel like I should be standing there in my dress pants and button down shirt. I feel like I should be wearing jams and a hyper-color shirt. I look at my face and wonder why I need to shave - I didn’t use to. I wonder at how the inside of me feels young and energetic, but the outside looks aged and experienced.
It makes me wonder where that skinny kid has run off to, where is he hiding. Is he still around, or is he gone? How did he sneak away right under my nose? How did he turn into the man that follows me in mirrors?