It was an anti-fungal cream. Some long, fancy name that starts with a K…Ketoconazole, I would later find out. I found it one night in my medicine cabinet, behind the mirror in my tiny bathroom. A red and white bottle, topical cream. Something I would later discover is actually used to treat funguses (fungi- not a fun guy) internally, on the skin, and particularly for ringworm. I tested it, felt its creamy texture. Shrugged my shoulders, why not?
And I’d been unknowingly smearing it, even sleeping with it, onto my FACE for almost a week, thinking the bottle (which read in bold letters, “dermatologic use only”) was enough. So… a dermatologist tested this?
The results were almost instant. Breaking out in red, blistering rashes all over my face was not a pretty sight. I tried hiding it as much as possible, as best as I could, covering it with makeup when I could or felt it was necessary. But still, it was noticeable. All the skin-tone foundation and concealer couldn’t cover the red, blistery face marks. There was no point in hiding it.
I felt naked, stripped down, ugly. Unworthy.
“Excuse me, miss…do you have any extra change to spare?”
I look at the woman with the question standing to my left. Dark brown hair. Sunken eyes. She’s wearing a brown peacoat, the kind you only find in department stores with names that end in apostrophe-S.
“I’m sorry,” I swiftly reply. “I don’t have any cash on me.” Which is true.
She nods, looking disgruntled and walks away, not too far from me. We’re standing in the middle of a busy underpass tunnel at LA Union Station, with the Salvation Army holiday musicians playing “Silver Bells” in the background. The morning commuters are rushing by, and I’ve got about 10 minutes before my next train.
I fiddle with the slip of cardstock paper in the front pocket of my coat. Buy five holiday-themed Starbucks drinks, get the sixth free. I’d just bought my fifth and final drink, a gingerbread tea latte. The familiar red cup feels lukewarm in my hands.
Without hesitating, I take the coupon out of my pocket and walk right up to the woman, calling out, “Excuse me!”
She turns around and gives me the up-down.
“It’s not much, but I have this,” I say breathlessly, handing her the card. “It’ll get you a free drink at Starbucks, but you have to use it by today.”
The older woman is slowly registering what just happened. She puts one hand on my shoulder and, looking right at me, says, “Thank you. I’m running away right now from an abusive relationship and I came here to Union Station, with hundreds of people and policemen and guards everywhere, because he left me for a moment and I had nowhere else to go. Thank you for this.”
The shock in my face must have been great. This older woman, maybe in her 60s, with the dark messy hair and brown eyes, is running. I compose myself and ask quickly, “Is someone picking you up?”
She nods. “They’ll be here in maybe 30, 45 minutes. But at least I’m protected here. And now I can get myself a warm drink.”
I smile and look into her brown, sunken eyes; a woman’s eyes that perhaps have seen far, far too much. “It’s little, but I hope this helps,” I reply. “God bless you.”
She disappears into the crowd of commuters, and I do the same. I already don’t remember what she looked like. But I’ll never forget those eyes.
Last week, I spent two days running around between work and Union Station, giving away the smallest of items for the holidays: an unwrapped pair of socks with little McDonalds gift cards in them, gifts of the young adult ministry at my church. I gave them to people where I saw a need: the hard-working bus driver who waits an extra few minutes, a homeless man getting off the subway, an elderly woman with a basket full of clothes. The woman running from her abusive partner. What I remember most is not really the act of giving, but the faces of each person, the stories behind every face. I look into each person’s eyes and I see stories of life, love, sadness and pain…but I also see hope.
Everyone has a story to tell, a voice to be heard. It’s why I work in journalism; why I started this blog all those years ago in the first place. Because stories need to be told–including my own.
It’s been difficult lately to understand that, at 23, this awkward person with skin problems I am now is not who I’m going to be for the rest of my life. I’ve got to keep reminding myself that. I’ve also been through hell and high water, never mind, but look at those around us. Those among us, changing every single day. We don’t know people’s stories, what they’ve been through or how they’ve grown from it. The story is changing everyday, and we’ve all got something important to contribute.
I’m going to be really honest here. I’ve been hiding from myself.
The truth is, I’ve been finding it hard to face myself lately. And my face. You get the idea.
December has been an overall really tough, awkward month. This time of year usually is, for most people. Amidst all the bustle and cheer, the family customs, the music, the extravagant parties and exchanges and gift-wrapping and trips to the mall, there’s also a sense of bittersweet sadness around the holidays. I think it comes from all of the expectations we have–white Christmases, elaborate (and expensive) gifts, perfect holiday outfits and soirées worthy of an Instagram caption. The underlying sadness we have around this time of year comes from the expectations we ourselves (the society) place, and the sense of feeling unsatisfied no matter how hard we try. What else did you expect?
For Christians, it is also Advent, a period of waiting in hope for the birth of Christ. It’s a time of patience, waiting for the arrival of a Savior who we know will be born to free us from our human sin. Patient anxiety, I like to call it. And yet we find ourselves restless, still thirsting for more.
Only when I started taking real medication; the real, name-brand stuff with fancy terms like “benzol peroxide,” only then did I start to see results. Slow and steady, I’m beginning to clear up. I still get asked about why I’m splotchy up there, why I haven’t been wearing makeup, etc. But I’ll never tell them it was the anti-fungal cream. “It’s clearing up,” I always say, brushing off the wavering insecurity. It’s getting better. I’m getting better.
In fact, when all of this started, I was told I was going to be on TV, guesting in a 2015-in-news wrap-up segment for a local channel in LA. It was the last thing I could ever expect myself to get into, and I guess I technically “volunteered” for it. However, I didn’t think it would actually happen…until one morning in early December I found myself curling my hair, putting on eyelashes and any shade of lipstick that makes me look older than 12, sitting in a studio with three cameras looking back at me and a mic taped to my shirt. Lights, camera, action.
Putting myself out there on “live” television was the last thing I expected in this so-called “ugly month” I’ve been feeling lately. The time where I want nothing but to hide away under blankets (like this). But as the lights went on and the tape rolled, I found myself rambling, and it was all over before I could breathe. My episodes aired this past week (see my embarrassment on YouTube) and that was that. I walked off set feeling on fire, without a single regret. And as it turns out, going out of my comfort zone is exactly what I needed.
In 2016, I want to venture forth, away from my comfort zone.
Maybe if I had a single-worded goal for this new year, it would be to venture.
Not necessarily to adventure, although that is certainly a part of it. But the verb “to venture,” as in consistently; to go into new territories, conquer new roads, do something new and different and out of my comfort zone, with full confidence and faith, no matter the outcome. I like the Webster’s revised unabridged definition the best:
Most of the dictionary definitions imply danger, hazards, sly business strategies, taking risks. And maybe so, but not always. The adventure itself doesn’t have to involve jumping off an airplane or having something at stake–but living life to its fullest potential, realizing that life is the adventure. Better yet, life is the endeavor: the struggle with purpose, the venture out into the deep, giving it your all.
Venture is confiding in, relying on, and trusting in the One who will take you where you are meant to go. To venture is to find and love deeply, no matter the cost.
“Ship your grain across the sea;
after many days you may receive a return.
2 Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight;
you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.
3 If clouds are full of water,
they pour rain on the earth.
Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north,
in the place where it falls, there it will lie.
4 Whoever watches the wind will not plant;
whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.
5 As you do not know the path of the wind,
or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb,
so you cannot understand the work of God,
the Maker of all things.”
Here’s to venturing forth into the new year.
In full faith & love,