There are many things I could tell you, maybe half of which you would believe, because that is our way: to chew before swallowing, to decide for ourselves whether we like the taste of a statement before we accept it. But please, let me convince you of this: it’s better to grow a calloused skin than a calloused heart.
It’s not the fashion, to wear this evidence of wear and tear on the outside for everyone to see. Baby soft skin is prettier. It’s more inviting, more pleasant to touch. You’ve even been told that it’s easier to love, and that any display of past imperfection makes you weak. It’s better to keep your scars tucked inside your rib cage, etched on a heart that few can see.
But ignore the person who asks you to make it easy for them; you are worth earning. Ignore the person who thinks they can read weakness in a marked skin; they don’t know what left those marks or the strength you used to reap them. There is beauty in experience and in perfectly fitted armor.
You’ve never taken human anatomy, but you know that’s what a skin is: armor, walls, the first defense. I don’t remembering reading in a textbook that a skin is meant to gain you friends, or lure in lovers, or gleam in the moonlight. It’s meant to keep you safe, to turn sickness away at the door, to let you wade without harm through a world with a thousand small evils that might infect or rob you. It fails, rips, tears, gets wounded and it heals. It comes back, reinforced, not just as good as as it was, but more resistant to what injured it. Those marks are not evidence of a wound, they’re proof of your resilience. A calloused skin does what it is meant to do even better. Use makes it valuable.
Don’t let me make the heart sound weak. It has all the strength it needs to endure danger and survive sickness. All it is, is strength, a knot of muscle holding you together. It will heal, and it will come back stronger, but it is meant to move. It’s meant to pull, to beat, to feed the rest of you, to drag you to feeling. It’s meant to open, to take in what’s in front of it with verve, and only close for the time it takes to press this new thing into you, to feed you.
If you callous it, it will open more hesitantly, it will take in less, it will close too slowly. You will wait to be fed, and after you have eaten, you will still be hungry. Leave it open. Let it race and let it move you. Let it be what it is meant to be: strong, but never hard.
That is excellence: doing what you are meant to do well. Perhaps it’s beauty, too.