My skin tone is officially the darkest it has been in my almost-20 years on the planet. How do I know? Well for starters, my foundation that used to match my complexion effortlessly now makes me look like a ghost. Secondly, I have discovered a birth mark on my thigh that has only become apparent now that the skin around it is darker. And finally, I have the most insane tan lines I have ever experienced in my life.
Tan lines are strange things. Over the past few days, I have wondered whether they are badges of embarrassment or pride. On the one hand, they mark hours of sun exposure in this 100 degree northern Baltimore heat, which should be an accomplishment for anyone. However, they are also somewhat awkward, as my stomach and my forearm look like they are parts of two different organisms. So on this lovely morning reclining in my air-conditioned home, I cannot help but question: what should we think about these melanin-induced patterns that appear on our bodies?
Being a summer camp counselor is a much more demanding job than one would think. Apart from wrestling through the post-lunch haze brought on by dehydration and too much peanut butter, other challenges must be met on a day-to-day basis. For example, the feared “break down” of your 6th and 7th graders when they will absolutely refuse to get into a canoe with one another. Or the panic that your camper’s harness is just slightly out of place and they will somehow hurt themselves on the element you are climbing. Such are typical worries in a neurotic brain like mine. However, just like every obstacle, these concerns are just opportunities for great accomplishments (both for me and for my campers).
Just the other day I had one of these moments. It was my first time ever doing archery at camp, and those of you who know me understand that I do not do hand-eye coordination sports for a reason. My fellow counselor and I went to practice before the day started (so I could at least marginally brief the activity), and with the scowling eye of an experienced archer on me, I was ecstatic to have at least hit the target (at 10 yards away…). With a sheepish amount of confidence under my belt, later in the day I went back to the field with my campers so they could try their hand at the sport. One of the kids was struggling, but with 15 minutes of patient focus and coaching he was finally able to hit the target. What a satisfying situation to have turned my diminished skill at an activity into a child’s greatest triumph.
I wonder if tan lines represent just that– the curious magic of mixing embarrassment and pride. In other words, recognizing your shortcomings but being able to use them for the betterment of others. Because though tan lines are strange, they do represent where we have come from and the things we have done with our lives. And also, just like my birthmark, they reveal parts of ourselves we weren’t sure existed.
Maybe this metaphor is a little too-extended, but all I know is that I am quite proud of these marks and have been showing them off to everyone. After all, as soon as the summer is over I will pale-up pretty quickly back at Hopkins, so why not live it up now? The moral of the story: I may be awkwardly tanned, but at least I am tan!