True Beauty

Write an essay in which you tell us about someone who has made an impact on your life and explain how and why this person is important to you.

Oprah never read me bedtime stories. Dr. Phil never advised me on my inspirations and aspirations, suggested careers that were seemingly tailored all too well to my strengths and weaknesses, gave me practical insight into the enigmatic minds of the male variety. Then again, to cater to my (almost) every demand from conception to college years would be a nearly impossible and thankless task. Why would these American icons bother with a job that is not lucrative, Hollywood-worthy, and possibly heart attack-inducing? Yet, in the scope of things that really matter, are we not first impacted and impressed by our parents, whether we hail from a single-parent family or a dual-parent one, whether we are raised by our grandparents or adopted into a loving foster family? Perhaps our parents are not usually the first faces that come to mind when we think about our role models of choice. Yet in the end, these leaders of our home are still present, still influential, and still as embarrassing as ever. My mother is a complicated woman. She stands two inches under five feet, thus allowing me to tower over her in my 5’1” glory, yet her voice could command an army. In contrast, my father’s calmer demeanor is probably better suited to fighting with fellow soldiers. My mother’s mother, according to Mom’s own words, “wasn’t much of a cook,” yet my mother can make fried rice and beef stew and sautéed crab legs like none other. She didn’t become a Christian until she was in her mid-twenties, inspiring my father to rededicate his faith as well, yet the width and breadth of her knowledge and her passion for Our Father astounds me, enlightens me, inspires me. She’s sharp, blunt, and knows me inside and out. Only this woman could be my mother. Over the years I have experienced my own joys and sorrows, my strengths and insecurities. I have struggled with my self-identity and my friends, exhausted myself over last-minute projects and homework, and she has weathered much of it by my side. To suffer it all with me would be unnecessary, as she knows that my obstinacy and independent nature requires space for me to learn and hurt and grow. Her honesty teaches me things about myself that I don’t want to know. On a car ride home from church one Wednesday evening, I remember (foolishly) asking my mother if she thought I was beautiful or not. We sped through a yellow light — to Mom, yellow lights are simply an encouragement to speed up, not a warning to slow down — and she finally replied, “Are you beautiful? Well… not yet.” Looking back on that brief conversation, I realize that she wasn’t merely addressing my physical appearance (though I have to admit that I am known more for my brains and humor than my face or physique). Rarely can you find a parent who has the capability to look inside her daughter’s maturity and personality and say it as it really is. She knows my stubbornness, my occasionally bad temper, my pride — all my flaws displayed for her wisdom and intuition as a mother. And perhaps that is the point. I have been blessed with a sacred mother-daughter relationship, a very affectionate and personal and real connection with the woman who still holds my hand when we go shopping. I have been shaped by the most capable hands possible. It might be an exaggeration to say that I would be nothing without my mother (I’d love some credit for myself), but her impact on my life is undeniable and unshakeable. And maybe one day, hopefully sometime soon, I will be able to look at myself and truly call myself beautiful… just, apparently, “not yet.”

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