In the fourth grade, I wanted to be Lauren Martz. She had freckles and braces and large swooping handwriting that lay perfectly between the lines of a page. I used to go home and practice writing the way she did. I twisted paper clips over my teeth and pretended they were braces. I sat out in the sun hoping to freckle. I wanted to be Lauren because she was beautiful. I wanted to be Lauren because she was everything I wasn’t.
We’re still friends, all these many years later, and although her braces have long since been gone and most of her freckles have faded, I am constantly amazed anew by her beauty, and by how greatly I admire her.
And I like that there are some things that never change, even while they’re changing. I like that when I look at Lauren, I can see the young girl I idolized, and the beautiful woman she has become, and glimpses of who she has yet to be. I like that I can love them all, equally and fully. I like that it is possible to love in such a certain and unwavering way.
And I like that a few years ago when I told Lauren about the braces and freckles and handwriting, she laughed and said she had always hated all three. I like that this too became a lesson in beauty for me – that sometimes the things we find most embarrassing in ourselves can be a source of inspiration for someone else. I like that we can be beautiful without even knowing it.
All of my friends are beautiful – in ways they can and cannot see, in ways I have and have not told them. From each of them I have adapted something. I have learned to write like them, and speak like them, and gesture like them, and dress like them, and create like them, and make jokes like them, and be kind and giving and thoughtful like them. I have collected all of my favorite pieces of them, and in this way, I can be beautiful, like them. Because I am them. Because they are all pieces of me.
And the sound of my laughter is the result of thousands of other laughs. And the voice inside my head is a collection of every word said to me. And the love within my heart belongs to everyone I have ever known. And anything that is beautiful about me exists because of you.
And I like that wherever I go, I take all of you with me. And I like that whoever I am, and continue to become, I owe to you and the gifts of goodness and beauty you’ve given me. And I like that every moment of my life is devoted to proving my gratitude. I like that you can never say ‘thank you’ enough.
I like that there will always be a part of me that wants to be Lauren Martz. And I like that the way I feel about Lauren Martz will always be a part of me. I like that you can spend an entire lifetime loving, and admiring, and cherishing all that is beautiful in those around you. And I like the way those simple acts can transform you into something beautiful, too.