I have a scar on the top of my left foot.
It's a pretty big scar. One time I slathered it with tinted moisturizer to try and conceal it. My futile effort fell flat; in fact - it made the scar even more obvious. My scar is the ghastly remnant of a battle wound, so to speak...one that I've learned to live with, having given up on it ever becoming inconspicuous months ago.
I have a surprisingly vivid recollection of how it all happened.
It was an early Saturday morning last August in San Francisco. Life hadn't seemed to be going my way that summer and I was struggling to cope with the implications of that by living a life of reckless abandon. I was leaving a late night party that had turned into an early morning party. I decided it would be a good idea to walk home instead of Ubering so I could get some air and clear my head.
Disheveled and despondent, I trudged up a steep San Francisco hill toward my apartment. As I struggled to maintain my composure amid cars whizzing by I fell. My heel had gotten stuck in a sidewalk crevice causing my foot to hit the uneven pavement hard. Hard.
I began to cry softly as I looked down and noticed blood gushing from the arch of my foot.
"DAMNIT." I muttered to myself, as I scoured the street to make sure no one had seen me.
I carefully picked myself up, collected the contents of my purse strewn about the sidewalk and continued my walk home alone barefoot, bloodied and mortified.
I got home and cleaned up my wound, drunkenly dabbing it with unnecessary amounts of Neosporin in between helpless wails as I sat on my bathroom floor in my wrinkled dress someone had accidentally spilled red wine on hours before.
That night marked the pinnacle of a low point in my life - you know, the kind of low that becomes lower with each deep breath taken? It was the kind of low that made me realize my mom was, in fact telling the truth when she told me life wouldn't always be easy...the kind of low that made me wish my 32-year-old self could sit my 15-year-old self down and say "Stop rushing to be an adult. Seriously, stop it right now, it's not what you think!"
I wore my old, weathered Rainbows and put thick bandages on my foot every day over the next few weeks. I doused my wound in Mederma every chance I got in desperate hopes of preventing scarring.
My hopes were dashed with each passing day as I dodged questions from friends and coworkers:
"WTF happened to your foot?!" they'd exclaim.
I couldn't wait for it all to go away; but instead of everything going away my foot got swollen, as if to say to me "Haha, you had a horrible night, you got your heart broken, your job sucks and I'm going to make you acutely aware of all of this every time you look down at me." Then I reminded myself that my foot can't talk because it's an inanimate object, doesn't have vocal chords and OH MY GOD THAT'S NOT THE POINT.
Now, on this day, I'm left with a scar shaped like New Jersey covering the top center of my left foot.
I see it in the morning when I wake up and walk to the shower.
I see it as I'm putting my pants on.
I see it when I try on shoes.
I see it when I get a pedicure and have to force a smile at the Asian pedicurist who looks up at me inquisitively.
I see it every time I go to cross my legs whenever I'm on the bus or have a meeting with my new boss.
I see it when I put my feet up on the coffee table as I sit down to watch a new Dateline episode.
It's always there and will be until the day I expire.
For a long time I'd look down at my scar and I'd think of the guy who'd hurt me when he asserted "it's 80% there, but it's not 100% there. I need it to be 100% there. I wanted it to be there. You're great. I'm sorry."
I'd think of how his obligatory, hollow, handle-with-care letdown speech made me feel remarkably less than 100%, even though I know that wasn't his intention.
It just wasn't there.
Nothing personal, as they say...even though nothing in the world could ever feel more personal than the sting that accompanies unrequited love.
Sometimes I'd look at my scar and remember my unfulfilling job that summer; the one that made me feel irrelevant, careless and dim. I'd think of how much it sucked and how it made me feel like my brain was turning to mush.
Sometimes I'd look at it and think of how I hadn't been a good, stand-up friend that summer.
"You have a choice," I can remember my friend telling me one day as I complained to her about things that had happened in the past. "You always have a choice. Be more careful about how you choose to look at things."
I can't find the words to express how much her words resonated with me.
It was such a simple concept, but one I hadn't explored too much: we all have the freedom to choose to look at things any way we want.
I can look at my scar and choose to think of how on that horrible morning, I picked myself up off the ground, collected myself, found my way home and took care of myself.
No one else cleaned me up, put me to bed and tucked me in.
I can think of the guy who made me so sad, acknowledge that pain, realize that he wasn't my person and know that there's someone out there who is.
I can look down at my scar and choose to think about how much better of a friend I have tried to be since last summer.
I can look down at my scar and choose to think of the shit job I had when I fell as a blessing; it got me one step closer to knowing what it is I do want to be doing.
I can look down at my scar and relive the past over and over and wallow in the cesspool of mistakes and terrible choices I made that summer until I lose my fucking mind.
Or I can look at it, realize how destructive negative thoughts can be, know that what's done cannot be undone and choose to be present.
I can look down at my scar and be reminded of how much I felt that summer and as a result how much I wrote...and wrote...and wrote...for months and months until I almost couldn't write anymore. I can think of how the events of that summer were catalysts; they forced me to look inwardly, and inspired to me to write perhaps the most important thing I've ever written. They also inspired me to write this, this and this. I found unparalleled companionship in writing; and reached new depths as a writer as a direct result of those rough months.
I can look down at my scar every day when I get dressed, ride the bus, try on shoes, walk up the steps to my apartment and choose to see failure, sadness, helplessness and shame.
Or I can look at my scar every day and choose to see resilience, humility, inspiration, hope and life.
Today and always, I choose the latter.
That is my final choice.