A Look Into the Rear-View Mirror

By Judy Berman

Faded photographs. I fall down a rabbit hole. On the other side of a mirror’s reflection, I spot a girl I vaguely remember. Now I see her thru a different set of lenses.

Like the White Rabbit in “Alice in Wonderland,” the clock races – this time, backwards. I’m 15, traveling solo for the first time, on a bus from Central New York to visit my grandparents in Pennsylvania.

At a bus depot in Wilkes-Barre, some of the other passengers invite me to have lunch with them. One is an Air Force man, Jim Peterson, who is with his wife. Before we went our separate ways, Airman Peterson told me, “Don’t ever change. Stay just as sweet as you are.”

I want to say, “You talking to me?” My perception of me was the polar opposite. I felt like an awkward, barely noticed teen. His compliment changes how I see myself.

How I envy Molly Ringwald (as Andie Walsh) in the movie, “Pretty in Pink.” She is from “the wrong side of the tracks,” but Andie has a pretty good sense of self. She has a crush on a rich student, Andrew McCarthy (who plays Blane McDonough). Blane breaks the prom date with her because his snobby friend, James Spader (as Steff), put Andie down.

Andie decides to go to her high school prom by herself, but her childhood friend, Duckie (Jon Cryer), is there to escort her. Blane realizes that his friend’s disparaging remarks stem from Andie refusing to go out with Steff. He tells Steff off and confesses his love to Andie.

”You said you couldn’t be with someone who didn’t believe in you. Well, I believed in you. I just didn’t believe in me,” McCarthy/McDonough says.

Why are we so hard on ourselves?

In another photo, my hair is in a slicked-back D.A. – a failed attempt to look hip like Elvis. I have a mental image of the Cheshire Cat chuckling over it. But my Granddad Fiet writes that he is astounded “that a vessel of vinegar” like himself could produce such a looker.

Really, I thought Granddad’s glasses must be Coke-bottle thick or he had a bit of Irish Blarney in him. Were his comments just familial pride? What had I failed to notice?

My lack of confidence went beyond my appearance. A high school English teacher I respected, Robert Gloccum, predicted that I would go far as a writer. Yet, outside of school, I hesitate for years to show anyone what I write. What did he observe that I was too blind to see?

Who sees the best in you? Too many times, we shortchange ourselves. I know I did. When I look thru our dusty photo albums now, I see this distant reminder of who I once was looking back at me. My mysterious smile hints, “If you could just see what lies ahead … “

It is like being in a field of daisies. Nothing set me apart from the other wildflowers.

Then, one day, I feel more like a budding rose coming into my own.

Now that field is wide-open with endless possibilities. Unlike the White Rabbit, you may discover as I did that there’s always time to pursue your dreams.


COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Photo: Judy – high school yearbook

  1. In high school I think there were more of us who underestimated ourselves than the others. Maybe it’s a rite of passage at least for those of us from our generation. I found it much easier once I was in the business world to find and excel in my area. Thank God those uncertain days are over!

    1. You’re right, Kate. I wouldn’t want to live some of those days over again. There were fun times to be sure. But not being sure of where you stand – and with who – was really off-putting. I’m more comfortable in my own skin as an adult than I was way back when.

  2. Self esteem I tell my daughter is what I lacked growing up and feel needs nurturing in young children. She thinks her kids have an overdose 🙂 You look beautiful in that photo, how could you have thought otherwise??

  3. Well Mom, it looks like we had something in common yet again…I always wondered when I would grow into the swan, it took longer than I hoped but here we are-Mother and Daughter swans. Love you.

      1. Well Mom that is true, I never had confidence then…I do now. It is funny though I look at your pictures from when you were younger and I have always seen the swan in you.

        note from earthrider to Jenn:
        That’s it. You’re definitely in the will. 🙂 [Thank you, Jenn. luv, Mom]

  4. Beautifully written, Judy. It’s always harder to believe compliments than it is to believe criticism. Thank goodness we have people in our lives who see things in us we might not see for ourselves.

      1. So true. We should surround ourselves with such people…and hope some of their positive energy rubs off.

        …lovely picture of you. 🙂

        note from earthrider to hugmamma:
        Thanks for the compliment, hugmamma. You’re right. It does uplift your spirits when you hang out with folks with a positive attitude.

  5. This is such a tough lesson in life. It’s interesting that our sense of self, so often, is not buoyed by what others say to us to encourage our development. Why is that?

    1. Well, Michael, in my case I had to grow up and begin to believe in myself. After I did, then I began to accept and appreciate what others had been trying to tell me all along. Why it took so long? I’m not sure.

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