Spring! A renewal. A change. As trees across the country bloom anew with life, so too, in their way, do people. Don’t you feel a little different? Now that the days are longer, the is air warmer, a sense of possibility—so tamped and timid in the cold glare of winter—is rushing back into the world. Don’t you feel it? Isn’t it making your bones hum, your heart fizz? Well, Justin Bieber feels it. As well he should.
Just yesterday, Bieber—a Canadian boy-king made of music—posted a reflective, triumphant Instagram post, one that suggests that he is feeling that springtime newness, that aliveness, that grand and hopeful potential. The post is a split-screen photo. On the the left is Bieber the errant boy, his mugshot from when he was arrested in 2014 on D.U.I. and drag racing charges. What a fallen time, when an angel wrestled with his own self. But on the right! On the right is a photo of Bieber the proud man, Bieber now, smiling and better, glad to have arrived in the good place he occupies. What a relief!
Bieber has captioned the image thusly: “I LOVE THIS because it reminds me IM NOT EXACTLY WHERE I WANT TO BE BUT THANK GOD IM NOT WHERE I USED TO BE!! THE BEST IS YET TO COME DO YOU BELIEVE IT?”
Isn’t that one of the most inspiring things you’ve read since, I dunno, a Katy Perry tweet about the election or something? It’s just such a nice, honest sentiment, Bieber saying that he’s not quite perfected himself, but is genuinely glad that he has improved, that life has educated him, taught him lessons, made him stronger and, perhaps, more whole. That is Justin Bieber’s journey, and it is also our own. Well, some of us are worse off than we were in 2014, of course. Time doesn’t always move so perfectly for everyone. It’s not always a crescendo. But for most us, yes! Can’t we relate to this pop-star pilgrim’s progress? I think we can.
One thing, though. The photos aren’t that different, are they. Like, yes, one is technically a mugshot, but the way Bieber has cropped it makes it kinda just seem like a kid smiling. And then the “after” photo is just a slightly older kid smiling. Should Bieber do this kind of thing again, maybe he could make the juxtaposition more dramatic. Like, in one photo he’s in the slammer, crying and miserable in some Florida county jail. (I don’t know if any such pictures exist, but Photoshop can work wonders!) And then in the other photo he’s doing a charity fun run while kissing a baby and signing a peace treaty. (I’m sure such a photo currently exists or, at the very least, will exist by the time Bieber decides to do this again.) You know, really establish the differences between then and now, really highlight how Bieber has strengthened as a person. That’s my only note on this otherwise beautiful Instagram post.
Not that it’s my place, or any of our place, to give Bieber notes on his personal Instagrams. He can represent his evolution in any way he sees fit. I’m just saying that it’s such a heartening, stirring story that he could, if he wanted to, goose a little bit, just to make it even brighter, even more high-stakes. Like, if the first photo was Bieber going slowly mad in solitary confinement and then the second photo was Bieber vacuuming all the greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere while passing the Equal Rights Amendment. It would just be a little more satisfying than these two side-by-side smiles.
That said, the smiles are good. I’m glad Justin Bieber is smiling, and am glad that he has different hair. Maybe that’s what this little Instagram tale is actually all about. Justin Bieber looking at his high pompadour—all the brash arrogance its towering heights imply—and thinking, “How different I was.” Now that he has a little short pixie cut, blond and spiky, the hair of a humbler, more mature person. He may not be where he wants to be just yet—obviously Bieber’s ultimate hair goal is an elaborately feathered, Nick from Family Ties type of do—but at least he’s not where he was. Those days are over. The world spins forward. The future is now. And Justin Bieber is here, gladly, to welcome us to it.