The Best Me.

Libya 2003

I went through a stage in my mid twenties where I really wished I could have gone back and started again. I was sure I could have been a better student. I would have worked harder, well, I would have actually DONE some work. I would have learnt a language, done my math homework and actually read the books that I wrote essays about. If I could have gone back and started again, I just knew I would have been in a better place.

It wasn’t just the regrets. Sure, I would never have kissed the guy with the hush puppy shoes, and I would have remembered to pull the dress out of the back of my stockings BEFORE I walked into the year twelve formal dance, but there was more to it. I would have gone back and been nicer to myself. I would have looked at myself in the mirror and said “WOW”. I would have told myself that the freckles were fine, that my size was just perfect, and I would have grabbed my thighs not to be horrified by their girth but amazed by their muscle tone.

It had finally dawned on me, that physically, at that very point in time, I was possibly the best me I was ever going to be.

G and I went to renew our passports yesterday. We don’t have an Australian Embassy in Qatar, which means we wait for the consulate representatives to make their monthly visit. G was already seated at the table when I arrived, a familiar plastic packet of birth certificates and translated documents spread in front of him. Our marriage certificate was there, with six different birth certificates from an array of countries. As I flick through the contents a little explosive flashback triggers with each one, a different hospital bed, a different accent or language to decipher.

I opened my passport to see a completely different me. The photo was taken in a camera store in Libya. I remember the trepidation of driving down Gargaresh road and searching amongst the Arabic signed shopfronts for a Fuji or a Kodak sign. I remember the smiles from the men behind the counter as I entered with a stroller and two small children.

“Passport photo? Australian?” I hand them my print out of Australian passport rules, and point to the section that explains the necessary background colour and size.

The second little traveller is strapped to my front and there is a stilted conversation where we struggle between English and Arabic on whether I can keep her attached to me while I have the shot taken. We agree the straps of the baby bjorn will show in the picture and I’ll need someone to hold her while we take the shot. Without any thought I remove her and pass her to a young man behind the counter, and she is immediately the centre of attention. Three men crowd around her desperately trying to win what appears to be a smile off. I rearrange my shirt and run my hand over my tummy as I stand for the shot and the photographer realizes I’m pregnant. He points to the first traveller in her stroller, and holds up a single finger, he then points to the second and holds up another, he then points to my stomach and questions “three?”

“Yes, there’s going to be three” I’m giggling but I’m terrified.

“You are blessed” he tells me.

When I think of that time, only nine years ago, I think of babies, toddlers, wading pools and nursery rhymes. The happy times, the dinner parties, the road trips, the homemade booze and the friends. The sad times, the goodbyes, the reign of Ghaddafi, the worry of how I will physically travel with three children under the age of four.

I think about how exhausting some of those days were. I think about laying in a wading pool in searing temperatures, my pregnant tummy emerging out of the water while I made jokes about my predicament. This whale was well and truly beached.

But now, as I sit nine years older without a baby in sight, I return to look at that skin, that hair, the undeniable freshness of being nearly ten years younger, and realize once again, at that moment in time, I was possibly the best me I would be. Did I make the most of it? I hope so.

Nine years on and there are some extra lines, added kilos and oh god, are they the beginning of jowls?

“Where’s that girl?” I asked, referring to my passport photo.

“Honey, you look the same, you just have a few more stories to tell” said my very generous friend Jen.

And then it clicked.

In another ten years, I will return to look at a different passport photo, in ten years time I will look ten years older, because that’s the way it’s meant to be. Right now though, it’s time to appreciate exactly what’s on offer today.

The best me that I’ll possibly ever be.

  • http://www.ducksonthedam.com.au/ Alli @ ducks on the dam

    Like. Thankyou

  • http://bernmorley.blogspot.com/ Bern

    Oh man – I am in awe of you K. Seriously. You have seen so much. Experienced more than I could imagine. And through all that, you have remained a GOOD person (and a spunky one) I admire your life. I admire your tenacity. I admire you. Bern

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18254275544017629129 bigwords is…

    I like your hair like that. Big kisses x

  • http://ummon.wordpress.com/ ummon

    Thoughts right out of my head. Yes, I look back at pictures from my college days, when I used to think I was not good enough, and now think: WOW. Ditto, 10 years or 5years. So now, I blot out what I see in the mirror, and embrace what I see in my head. Lovely post.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08939805218711968317 Mark Fendrick

    We all need to realize that we are the best NOW that we will ever be … NOW. You have had – are having – an amazing life … you do know that. You were, ARE and (I am sure) will be a beautiful woman – not only physically, where it can be seen, but everywhere that counts.

    But since we are looking back at passport photos … 1972 … http://ppl.ug/lCFjEVP6bwY/

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09834682329952369721 Joanne Noragon

    Thank you for the perspective. You cheered up a sad day, reminding me new adventures become more stories to tell.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12734450335251336493 Linda Sand

    We just sent in our passports for renewal and I am about to try a new style of traveling for me. This will help me keep it all in perspective. Thank you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07285709209953730580 Fraudster

    Brilliant post. I actually did a similar reckoning of my appearance today. I picked up a photo of me with my two then very young children. I was about 36 and I looked great. Didn’t think so at the time. These days I look at my ‘laughter lines’ and yes, jowls, and tell myself this is the best I’m ever going to look.

    Cheers.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08938791116446859160 Lynda Halliger-Otvos

    And each decade gets better, I believe from the mid fifties perch I now occupy. Fifty marked an entirely new me-smarter, more in control, less likely to get excited so quickly, more quick to laugh. The creativity flows now too in ways it never ever did before. I began to create quilts few months back and it’s as though there are designs and works inside me that must get out. Perhaps before my hands completely desert me or maybe there’s an early death like my younger sibs who both passed before they saw fifty…. Whatever drives this spurt of artistry I must obey the call and sew sew sew.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04702217530704657676 Muddling Along

    What a fab post – a good reminder that I’m not stuck in here but that here is where I need to be

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12335775809492054879 LA Janssen

    Enjoyed this. It seems we always want to change this or that when we really ought to simply appreciate the goodness and present for what it is: a gift.

  • Anonymous

    I know about the jowls …. What’s there caper, only turning up in photos. I discovered mine in my 40th Bday shots. Made my day. Completely. Of corse I now see nothing else……
    Juststopspeaking

  • http://smellsgoodfeelsgood.wordpress.com/ smellsgoodfeelsgood

    I thought about his very thing yesterday…youth is wasted on the young.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the great post, a wonderful reminder to live in the moment and make the most of your lot every day! I love reading your blog, you keep it real! Vx

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15026987107815016616 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

    Hello, Just read the fact magazine and congratulations that you are one of the bloggers in Qatar right now.
    You inspired me and I have a baby that is growing so slowly, http://www.fashionandgourmet.com