you are more than just one thing;

Beauty begins the moment you start being yourself. It’s a lesson hard learned, and one that has become a constant struggle to stay loyal to.

Being 16, like most teenage girls, I thought the sun rose and set and rose again based on the opinions of boys. I probably kissed one too many, let one too many get too far. You start to lose yourself when you give others permission to control your thoughts and your actions. That’s a power no one should have over you. Looking back, I think I was trying to find myself in all the wrong ways. I hadn’t quite determined what I wanted out of life or who I wanted to be.

And that’s okay. I was young. And while I’m still young, I’ve grown up since then.

College taught me a lot about the kind of person I didn’t want to be. Being in a sorority, I always heard about the hookups of my sisters with one frat boy or another. But we always knew of another sister, another friend, another girl from another chapter that had hooked up with the same boy a few days or weeks prior. Everyone is entitled to their own life, but I never wanted to be talked about as “the girl that also hooked up with that one guy.” I never wanted to be one of many.

I never wanted to be a plural; I wanted to be singular. And if I was going to be a plural, it was going to do it for me, not for them.

I stopped letting boys define me and slowly, but surely, I started becoming myself. Because you can’t be defined by one thing, like whether or not that boy with the good hair would call you again. Did he think you were pretty enough? Skinny enough? Funny enough? You are not defined by only one of those things. You are not your weight. You are not the clothes in your closet. You are so much more.

You are the sum of all your memories, all your desires, your regrets, your quirks. Like the fact that every time your hip pops, you’re given a slight reminder that you once longed to turn 14 years of ballet lessons into a lifetime career of pirouetting across stages under bright white spotlights. And that, no matter what song is on the radio, the speakers in your SUV – an SUV that once drove around girls and boys who were too scared to show each other their hearts – will hit max volume as you put on your sunglasses and your best Beyoncé face and sing your little lungs out while your ever-present ponytail rips through the wind coming through the open windows.

And your ponytail, the bun on the very top of your head that mostly resembles a bird’s nest, is ever-present. The nape of your neck accented by a sprinkling of unruly curls that will never be capable of joining their friends in the nest. They’re a forever reminder that you are your father’s daughter. A father who’s hair was a shaggy mass of black waves in the 70’s. But you’re also your mother’s daughter, made evident by the matching mask of freckles that surround your eyes and cover your nose.

The notes on your phone are filled with words that you want to say; need to say. And your name has been dragged through the mud once or twice. But that’s okay. You’ve overcome each and every struggle – and it’s made you strong. So much stronger than anyone should ever have to be at the young age of 16.

You are your first heartbreak. The heartache that you took out on the pavement, as you ran miles and miles just to give your mind an hour of peace while you concentrated on keeping your breathing even, leaving any thought of him in the parking lot where you left your red Ford Explorer.

And you are the heartbreak that has nothing to do with a boy and everything to do with a man. An amazing grandfather, mentor, friend. Someone who taught you everything you would ever want to know about loving the people that surround you and persevering through the tough times.

“Keep swinging, kid.” 

That’s what he would say. And those are the words that will forever help you fight your battles.

You are the example for three younger siblings. You are the example for an overprotective younger brother who thinks he’s the oldest. And you are the example for two sisters who have become your better halves, the people you would entrust your world to. The two who would force feed you a gallon of ice cream on the days you swear you’ve never been sadder, hiding under the quilt blanket your mother made you from t-shirts that create a timeline of the life you lived in high school. The two you would hug and hug and hug as they cry over their stress and their heartbreak and the thought of their world cracking in half.

You are motivated and competitive and eager to give the world every ounce of your potential and ask for nothing but adventures in return. Because there is no time to be bored in a world as beautiful as this.

You have fire in your heart. You are a force of nature. You are complex. You are not just one thing.

Don’t ever let anyone simplify you like that.