• Aperture: f/2.8
  • Focal Length: 14mm
  • ISO: 800
  • Shutter: 1/80 sec
  • Camera: NIKON D80

Northport, Alabama

I’ve never felt overwhelmingly pretty, not when I was a child, certainly not when I was in high school, not when I was in college, not when I was in my twenties. A handful of people told me I was pretty tonight, and I got a lot of attention. It’s odd. Odd in a good way, but I’ll admit it takes some getting used to.

I’m in a strange phase. I look back at old self-portraits, I see 70 pounds I thought were mine forever, gone. I hardly recognize myself, yet I can’t quite compute that the new ones are me either. My facial shape is changing. As my cheeks get less round, I see better definition, and I can’t help but wonder what I’ll look like when I reach my goal. Because at the moment, even at this weight, I feel good.

Maybe it’s that I have confidence now that I never had. A level of security I’ve never known. It shows. It shows on my body, and it definitely shows in my eyes. I look happy. I am happy. I don’t recall a time I was ever happier than I am right now. My job is going well. This week, there’ll be another story in the Monitor. I’ve barely had time to catch my breath from the last one. I have new friends. I have a new car I’m in love with. I have a new hobby I relish. My life is going well. Things haven’t crashed in so long that I’m starting to relax my shoulders, starting to actually breathe.

This, like my changing body, takes some getting used to as well. I’m not accustomed to things going right. I’m always waiting for the bomb to drop. But lately, I welcome the bomb. Look forward to it. Because the thing is, the bomb doesn’t drop so much as it explodes in a dazzling array. I feel like one of those glittery rainbow stickers in a children’s book. Like there must be stars shooting from my eyes, butterflies flitting around my head, flowers springing beneath my feet. It sounds silly, but it’s the only way I can describe where I am at the moment.

For the first time in my 34 years, the world seems enchanted. Filled with magic. Filled with wonder. Filled with joy at this overwhelming thing we call life.

I’m getting older. I’m starting to see fine wrinkles around my eyes, and I don’t mind so much. They were made by smiling, and I smile a lot these days. My forehead is rarely creased in worry or concentration. My eyes are seldom clouded with sadness. And as I look in the mirror, I realize I’ve changed in so many ways, both outwardly and inwardly. Of course I want to be pretty. Every girl wants this. But my perceptions of beauty are different now. When I look confident, when I feel confident, it makes me smugly proud. And sometimes, yes, I think I might be becoming pretty.

I’ve fought for this. I’ve fought to find this. I’ve fought to have this. And I’ll fight to keep this. When my head doubts, all I have to do is look into my own eyes, and I see it, see the strength and determination that’s served me well this past year. Everything is different. And I’m so grateful. So incredibly, profoundly, grateful.

Music: Car Crash by Matt Nathanson (lyrics)

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