I woke up to this song this morning, in that lingering space between conscious and asleep, where one foot was still in whatever I was dreaming about, and the other foot was itching to get into the kitchen to make a cup of tea. You know that place? Where, if somebody were to ask you a life or death question that needed an immediate answer, you would probably mumble “Yellow”, or “Seventeen”, or “My purse is in the oven.”, and roll in the opposite direction.
I woke up to this song slowly.
It’s funny how some people hear the music, while others only hear the words.
I always hear words, and two or three lines into the song I realized I haven’t always been a beautiful girl.
Actually, there was a long period of time where I knew what the word beautiful meant, and I could only identify it in other girls. I saw lengthy legs, and belly buttons, and long wavy hair, and pearly white picket fence teeth, and wondered why I had those things in my possession, but they simply didn’t translate the same. I felt like I was born to be an artist, but I didn’t know how to use my paintbrush.
I didn’t wear them the same way.
They wore me.
When I was fifteen, I asked my mother why all of the other girls had boyfriends, and nobody had asked me out yet. I defined my self worth by how many other girls were holding the hands of boys who would only break their hearts. In high school, I had plenty of friends, and a notable social repertoire, but nobody knew that I secretly snuck into the library at lunch to bury myself in Jack Kerouac, Ernest Hemingway, and Ayn Rand.
When lunch was over, I returned to what I thought was mediocrity.
I only allowed myself to be that girl in between the lines, because when I was fifteen, those things weren’t beautiful to everybody. Instead, I tried to learn how to apply make up (and failed). I tried to understand what boys my age wanted (and failed). I tried to dress myself fashionably (and MY GOD, I failed).
Soon, I forgot what it was to even want to be beautiful. I figured it was something I was never meant to be, the same way I forgot that I wanted to be a ballerina when I was little, but never got around to taking ballet lessons. I also wanted to be a Ninja Turtle. Still trying to figure out a way to make that happen.
I just never got around to being beautiful.
Now, I am 25, and I feel beautiful. It has nothing to do with my clothes, or my friends, or my build. It actually has nothing to do with the way I look at all. It’s the comfort I take in my vulnerable moments, whether that means sharing a new part of myself with somebody, or facing the day bold and bare faced. Vulnerability is something I had to grow into, along with my legs, but once I learned how to appreciate both, I walked taller. Sometimes, I catch myself in vulnerable moments that long ago, I would have tried to hide. The minute you learn to appreciate vulnerability, you learn things about yourself that you never would have known.
It’s admitting to a stranger that after eight months, New York City doesn’t always feel like home.
It’s dropping my things, or losing my phone in a bar, or spilling coffee on my crotch, all of which happen regularly.
It’s not being afraid to say crotch on a public blog.
It’s getting overly (and embarrassingly) excited when somebody else appreciates E.E. Cummings the way that I do.
It’s an incandescent feeling, when you realize you’re perfectly content skipping the Sunday social scene because you’re just getting out of the shower at 3pm, making yourself a cup of tea, and sitting on the brownstone steps of your Brooklyn apartment with your journal.
It’s scrunched up noses, messy hair, no make up, and a pair of jeans I’ve had since I was 19 that I don’t have the heart to throw away, because some things, and people, and jeans, you’re just meant to hold on to.
It’s that sweater from the men’s section of H&M, and combat boots with worn out toes.
I guess deep down, it’s wanting to prove to some fifteen-year-old girl, that blue converse sneakers will always be an acceptable alternative to stilettos, writing will always be beautiful, and that reading will always be cool.
And also, I wouldn’t mind proving to my parents that “Ninja Turtle” would look amazing on my resume.