— Ben Wilkoff (@bhwilkoff) January 31, 2016
In the photograph is a young man with short light brown hair, blue eyes, and a tan. Around his neck he wears a ceramic medallion with his first name printed on it hanging from a length of twine. Aside from tan, his skin is smooth. Across his forehead are no squiggly creases drawn out by the smile he wears in the photograph. Along the outer edges of his upper lip and running to his nose, there are no smile lines. No crows feet appear at the corners of his eyes along with the smile, and beneath his eyes exist no hints that he might be getting much less sleep than is medically recommended.
I found the photo on the hard drive of a 10-year-old laptop I was resuscitating. Flipping through other pictures, there I was, smiling forward more than a decade.
For a second, I missed being him. He had fewer responsibilities, he’d seen less loss. It was only a flicker as I realized the lines and scars of time I wear now were made by the memories he didn’t know were coming. His best years of teaching were still ahead of him. The friends he held closest represented only a fraction of those whom he would call on when he found the loss in his future.
While the dimples were still on either side of his smile, he hadn’t yet smiled enough that those lines were deep enough to show his smile was his default in life.
My face carries the grief of loss – some uncontrollable, some by my own actions. I wear the age that comes from finding humor in as many moments as I can. The dark circles under my eyes remember to myself that I’m not yet halfway to the end of all this, and a few more naps would be appropriate.
I don’t quite know the man in the photograph. I envy him. He’s still on the way to meeting me.
This post is part of a daily conversation between Ben Wilkoff and me. Each day Ben and I post a question to each other and then respond to one another. You can follow the questions and respond via Twitter at #LifeWideLearning16.