(Stupid) zits at 32: A lesson in vanity and what people really care about

You know how we always say, "Remember when...?" and look at the past with a romanticized fondness? We think about how great high school was - when we had it easy compared to adulting. We remember Saturdays before kids when sleeping in was possible. We remember vacations, late nights with friends, spontaneous midnight trips to Walmart that were filled with giggles. Don't those memories bring a smile to your face?

You know what we don't remember with fondness? Acne. Zits. Whichever word you prefer, nobody looks back and thinks, "Remember when I had that Rudolph zit on my nose? Man that was a good week." Especially when you're 32 years old, as I am, and that week was this week.

I don't have a hide-from-the-world job, and this week I happened to have more meetings than usual. Foundation barely covered this monster that appeared after not washing my face immediately after working out. I tried all the old tricks - rubbing alcohol to dry it out, burning it off with a wet towel so hot I had to hold it with an oven mitt, cleaning the area multiple times a day. Yet, it prevailed. My so-sweet co-worker even asked me in an Arnold Schwarzenegger voice, "Is that a tum-ah on your nose?" When I said my nightly prayers, I actually asked for the thing to disappear overnight... welcome back to adolescence, I know.

Since it wasn't going away and I'm not one to stew in misery, I had no choice but to run with it. I found it to be a reminder that my days are not about me. Being in the helping profession and being a toddler mom, I don't think about myself much during the day anyway. But having to forget how self-conscious I felt was good practice for remembering how there are so many other ways to spend my mental energy instead of focusing on what I view as this ginormous flaw. A flaw that ended up being the source of great laughter among friends at work.

Rudolph was also a reminder that people don't care about me nearly as much as I think they do. A friend of mine taught me a saying: When you're 20, you walk into a room and wonder what people are thinking of you; when you're 30, you walk into a room and wonder what you'll think about them. At the beginning of the week when my zit appeared, I reverted to the 20-year-old that doesn't want to enter a room because she thinks everyone will be staring at what's wrong with her.

We spend all this energy thinking people are paying attention to what's not perfect about us. We're so hard on ourselves and self-conscious about bad hair days, skin flaws, a small stain on our shirt we didn't notice until we got to work. But really, people care that I am genuine, kind, treat them decently, and help where I can. People want a connection, they want to be listened to, they want to laugh.

Rudolph has staked its claim on my nose for the time being. It is no smaller today than it was Monday night. I really do feel what I just wrote, but if this thing is still here tomorrow I'll be staying home instead of going out dancing. But at least I can say that I found the humor in it, I found the teachable moment, I made the first joke about it, and I will never again forget to wash my face after I work out. All good life lessons. Maybe next time I can learn them with a run in my pantyhose or something.