When I was in the throes of my debt, I hid. I hid my emotions, thoughts and feelings beneath a mask. A mask that hurt to wear, but I put it on every day.
Sure, the circles under my eyes made my mask grotesque. And the furrowed lines in my brow, made my mask crack. But the smile was in place.
A smile that I didn’t recognize.
A pasted-on joker’s smile. “Sure, everything is fine”, my smile said. “Sure, I have my finances in control”, my smile said.
But my smile lied.
My face contorted.
When I felt there were no eyes upon my mask, I took it off. It was heavy. And it hurt my face. Bone weary, and this masquerade upon my person, made my head ache, and my jaw tighten.
And then someone would look my way, and I would quickly slip the mask back on. “Everything is under control”, I would say. “I can handle this”.
My smile continued to lie.
Pretty soon, the unthinkable happened.
I couldn’t take the mask off. What was happening? I pulled and pulled, but the damn thing would not budge. I began to cry. This isn’t how I wanted to live my life, frozen behind a façade.
But that was how I was living my life, and I was ashamed.
I begged and pleaded with myself. I can’t continue to go down this path. This mask hurts, and I am just… tired.
Spent, and exhausted, I knew that I had an original smile hidden somewhere beneath my layers. Somewhere beneath my skin, lay my happiness.
I dug deep, I scratched my surface, and I tore off my mask.
I lay myself bare, and vowed to never wear this, this mask of debt again.
I crushed that mask beneath my feet, and I smiled in the mirror. A real smile. And this time, I recognized that smile. I recognized the curvature of my lips, the upturn of the corners.
I recognize this smile.