I think it was Mulan who sang a song about reflections and not knowing the girl you see staring back.

“Don’t take this out of context, but I never thought I’d use the word ‘sweet‘ to describe you. And you are sweet.”

White concrete was cold underneath my palms; a few street lights lit the parking lot. He just stared at me waiting for me to say something.

“Tonight, looking across the room and seeing you with my sisters and my mom… I don’t know. I guess it’s just that, before, you just seemed individualistic. Like, it was never ‘There’s Jenna and so-and-so.’ It was always, ‘There’s Jenna’… It’s nice getting to know a different side to you.”

I curled my knees up underneath me on the sidewalk, and thought about a time when things had been different, a time when he would’ve seen me the other way around.

He would’ve seen a girl who was very rarely alone, but not one that was surrounded out of this fear of being left alone in her own head; he would’ve come face-to-face with the wild-eyed, unapologetically deafening aspirations of a heart that wanted to shock people about love with how much effort she put into showing them that there is such a thing as good love, and that they were deserving of it; he would’ve met a loose cannon of a person who gave of herself past the point of rationality.

But I’m really tired of wishing–trying– to give pieces of my old self to new people in hopes they’ll be dazzled by a specter of a girl who floats closely behind me whispering doubts in my ear.

“I just learned to stop depending on people,” I said, finally.

What he doesn’t know is that heroes don’t have long red capes– they have blue eyes and they break promises.

And I made gods out of all the people who shaped my world and then they taught me how to be a deist: I thought they’d stay after they set my world spinning, but it turns out that God’s the one who rotates my orbit and still answers when I call.

My spine still arches and bends and cracks under the weight of my old backbone.

She’s there, I can feel her; still wanting to shock people with how good love can be, still putting in the effort, still wanting to give. God, she’s just a little softer now. A little quieter. A little more aware, and a little less of a lose cannon. A bit sweeter.

So love, let’s stop saying, “Oh, if you had only seen me then.” Because, wow, I bet you shined and danced, and I bet you were relentless; and no it hasn’t been pretty since then, and there’s been a lot less mountaintops to walk on and the music has been a little more muffled, but don’t you hear a different tune?

Don’t you stand on mountaintops now and see different valley’s ahead than the ones you’ve come from? Doesn’t that make you hopeful to know you’ve made it out before?

I think we can get tricked into comparing ourselves to the people around us or the people on our phone screens, but I also think there’s this deadly hidden trap of convincing our selves that we were better before.

I was different then.
But I’m looking up and moving forward.
And I think that’s better.