In high school, it took a cute girl to convince me that I had already moved on from an awkward phase of my life. A phase that I held onto for almost three years longer than was necessary but a phase that I had wrapped my identity around and found it tough to unravel.
I got my first pair of glasses when I was starting the 1st grade. It was the 80s, so they were appropriately thick and a horrible shade of brown. By 4th grade, I’d made the move to more wire frames, but still, a little large in hindsight. Then something miraculous happened. At the end of 6th grade, my optometrist told me that my eyes had continue to correct themselves and I no longer needed to wear glasses! Who even knew that was possible? And while my parents thanked her for the great news, I sat sullen and distraught in the examination chair. When my parents asked me what was wrong, I got teary eyed and said, “No one will know who I am if I don’t have my glasses.” And so I continued to wear glasses all of 7th, 8th, and 9th grade when I didn’t need them at all.
The summer after 9th grade, I was at Six Flags Over Texas and during the course of the day and possibly just one more ride on the Texas Giant, my glasses broke. I put them in the group backpack and continued about the day without any discomfort or less precise vision. I was fine without my glasses, I just continued to liked wearing them.
The next day, before I had a chance to get my glasses fixed, I saw the love of my high school life in the hallway at church. I had forgotten I wasn’t wearing glasses until she asked me about where they were. When I told her they were broken and that I was getting them fixed soon, she said that she liked the way I looked without them.
Done. Game over. I never gave my glasses a second thought after that. I went home and threw away my unnecessary glasses and didn’t get them fixed. I would be fine. Just like that, Andy Without Glasses was born.
Over the past 18 months, a lot of parts of my identity have been challenged. Pieces of who I am known to be that have been a part of my life for years, if not decades, pushed and evaluated and considered. There have been some that have been easier to let go of and others that I’ve sat teary-eyed and wondered if people would recognize me if I didn’t carry them forward. But then I remembered how long I held onto my glasses and I decided not to be held captive by ‘the way things have always been’ any more.
I put it all on the table (actually whiteboard) and nothing was off limits. No more pocket squares? Maybe. Shave the beard? Possible. Send fewer Tweets? Ouch, don't like that thought. Leave New York City? Not likely, but it could happen. Slow down my hustle? WHAT, no, not that. Okay, maybe. And then I dove deeper than the surface level to ask the even tougher questions about the stories and the narratives about my life that I’ve told myself and others for as long as I can recall. Which ones are still useful and true? Which ones have worn out their welcome? Which ones are the weight of the past that is no longer relevant to my future?
It has been a painful agenda to walk through, but one I am so grateful to have made at least a first pass at. Life is about constantly culling and pruning and subtracting things that are no longer relevant and profitable for our lives in order to discover and add and grow things that are. With each goodbye to a thing of the past, we’re making room for things in our future. And while there will be a void or a gap until the things of the future make themselves known, we won’t be weighed down and will be able to run a little bit faster on our way there.