If Only I Was Beautiful and Other Lies I Tell Myself

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Daily, we’re accosted by photos, media images, and commercials telling us we’re not “beautiful.” For the longest time, I stared at myself in the mirror and thought, “If only I had less acne, if only I had a smaller nose, if only, if only, if only.” Then last summer, I decided to stop using make-up on a daily basis. No foundation covering the blemishes I tried so hard to hide, no mascara or eyeliner to frame my eyes (I was always rubbish with eyeshadow). And then I made a valuable discovery. I was still beautiful. I looked less like a doll and more like…me. I looked the way God intended me to look.

There are always days I feel rejected, when a guy doesn’t notice me or when it seems like all these girls walking by me have flawless hair. But the reality is that I am beautiful. My hair looks better shorter because it’s thin and fine, so I rock that look. My face is fine the way is is, so I don’t wear make-up, except on special occasions, like friends’ weddings. I’m even learning to accept my body for all its imperfections and to scoff at people who tell me I need to eat (I eat all the time). It only makes me self-conscious.

When I don’t feel smart, I remind myself how much I learned from reading books over the years and all the random trivia I can spout. When I feel like I’m not beautiful, I smile (I love my smile, if I do say so myself). When I feel like I am not good enough, I remember that God put me here for a reason. I also remember the Doctor Who quote that “in nine hundred years of time and space and I’ve never met anybody who wasn’t important.”

You are special just the way you are. Don’t ever change who you are just because someone thinks you should be a certain way or because you don’t live up to our culture’s “beauty” standards. You are important. You are necessary. You are beautiful. 2014-09-20 04.42.26

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Love Isn’t All I Need, But I Do Need It

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Last night, two of my coworkers and I had a movie night. Like any sensible 20-somethings, we watched Frozen (don’t hate). Olaf is my favorite character (and Sven). Olaf is one of the sweetest characters in that whole movie, and for all his goofiness, he is packed full of wisdom. For example, let’s just talk about the entire scene when Hans has left Anna to die of cold. Olaf shows up to save the day, lighting a fire at risk to his own personal safety. Anna laments that she doesn’t know what love is, and Olaf says, “Love is putting someone else’s needs before yours.” That’s big stuff for a little snowman that hasn’t been alive very long. And then he tells Anna, as his nose drips off his face, “Some people are worth melting for.”

When I got home after the movie night, still pondering these words, I thought about my whole anti-romance kick that I’ve been following for years. I kept saying, “I don’t want to get hurt again.” I love people. I love my parents, my siblings, my grandma, my extended family, my friends, and my dog. But all that love comes with a risk.

Angel died last year. I loved her with all my heart and that was the first time she left me. It was a tempestuous (I love that word) year with my family. My friends are scattered all over the country. Anyone can leave you, anyone can be gone in an instant.

When I moved back to Pittsburgh, I tried not to get close with too many people. I would just be gone soon anyway. But I’m still here, and now I have so many people that are becoming close friends the more we hang out. Katrina came line dancing with me a few times and is one of my confidants, Shannon and I have adventures, Kristin understands my love for Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Disney movies, Alaina and I talk about children’s books, John texts me to see how I’m doing, Alex recommends books, and Phil helps me grow as a person. And those are only some of the amazing people I met in Pittsburgh.

Inspired by Olaf, I opened my Bible to 1 Corinthians 13. Everyone knows it: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Love is patient. I am not a patient person. Could I be patient for another person? I don’t know. Love is kind. Can I be a beacon of kindness for another person and treat them as he or she deserves? I don’t know. Love protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres. Can I do that? I don’t know.

Love is a risk. It’s always a risk. And the probability of falling in love again means I most likely will get hurt. My goal is to work on my trust issues to figure out if I can be the kind of love that trusts and isn’t ready to give up after five minutes. Or expect the man in my life to give up after five minutes.

So I asked myself, is love worth it? Is it worth the pain and heartache again? Yes, because I am better prepared. Yes, because I am more honest with myself. It probably will blow up in my face. But the chance to love and to open my heart to others is worth more than never having taken that risk at all. If it makes me a better person, it is worth it.

I need love. I want love. Falling in love is like jumping off a cliff when a pack of snarling wolves is after you: Sometimes you just have to do it.

Welcome, Christmas!

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I have not been this excited for Christmas in years. It took all my self-control to not burst into Christmas carols before Thanksgiving (don’t worry, I didn’t – I have standards, after all).

Today is the first day of Advent, a time of preparation for our Lord to come to us on Christmas day. Day one of my preparation involved putting my little tree up in my bedroom and decorating it with my favorite Christmas ornaments (a T.A.R.D.I.S., Rapunzel, Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Mickey Mouse as the Brave Little Tailor, Max from the Grinch, and many others).

Whether you are religious or not, this time leading up to Christmas is a great time to feel thankful for what you have, as well as to think of others. One of my things for Advent is to try and get rid of a grocery bag of stuff a day. It’s amazing how much you don’t need when you really think about it (even though I am horrible about getting rid of stuff). Gazing at a stuffed animal I haven’t thought about in years makes me think, “There is a kid out there who would love to cuddle with this thing.”

So, that’s my challenge for you. Help someone this holiday. Welcome Christmas by being friendly to everyone, even the people you don’t like, which is my least favorite thing to do. After all, there’s so much hate in this world, so let’s make our corner of the universe just a little brighter.

Where Is Your Heart?

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Different things hold importance to me at different times of my life. Sometimes the things I love fluctuate in phases, just like the moon. But when I love something either the moon is full or you can’t see it at all. There is no half or crescent moon. To quote the false Isabella Thorpe in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, “I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” When I fall in love, I fall in love.

Ever since I moved back to the Pittsburgh area, I’ve been asking myself this same question over and over. Where are you? What is important to you? What do you hope to take with you wherever you go? And, the big question, where are you now?

Physically, I am in Pittsburgh. But they say that home is where the heart is, and mine is always with the friends I left behind in Ohio, even if they are no longer living in Ohio. Once I warmed up to the idea of living in a state that everyone back home criticized, there was no going back. Now I can’t imagine not living in Ohio.

But that’s the beautiful thing about hearts. They hold a lot of love. So it is okay for my heart to be split between two places. It is okay for me to belong to both Ohio and Pennsylvania. As I thought about that today, I remembered the quote from A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying good-bye so hard.”

December marks one year until my planned graduation date for my Master’s degree. So, very possibly, I only have one more year left in Pittsburgh. My heart is here, there, and everywhere. And that’s okay. If reading Harry Potter taught me anything, it’s that love is one of the most powerful forces in this universe.