In my desk, there lies a bundle of paper wrapped in a blue, satin ribbon. Ink and graphite mark this rainbow of papers, tears blot some of the pages, and each one had a part in writing the story of my life. The letters date all the way back to middle school, maybe before, and range from birthday messages to words of encouragement, kindness, anecdotes, and everything in between.
If there is one thing I have learned in my now twenty-two years of life, it is this: words have power.
Words have the power to completely make or break someone. They are the chisel and hammer, relentlessly drumming against our lives and shaping us as we go along, and they can either craft something beautiful or do unthinkable damage. They have a way of sticking to a person and then taking root deep inside their hearts, for better or for worse.
Once, I was covered in nasty words. Words that harmed to the point that whenever good ones were scattered like so many seeds, they slid right off the hard "shield" built up like a second skin.
Fat. Annoying. Loud. Weird. Gross. Cow. Stupid. Boring. Crazy. White noise. Oversharing.
And on, and on, getting progressively worse.
At some point though, a chink happened in that armor, letting the good words slip inside. Then, bit by bit, year by year, the nasty words of old were stripped away or fell off because they didn't apply anymore, and good ones spread until my whole being became a garden of wildflowers.
Tonight proved that. Tonight marked my twenty-second year of life, and some of the best friends in the world put on their sneaky pants and surprised me. Two spirited me away while the others crept into my apartment and filled it with twenty-two balloons, each holding a message or picture from some of my dearest friends and family members. As I walked into the room, surrounded by words of pure love, my heart felt near to bursting.
This is what living should be like. This is what everyone should feel. Beauty and truth and love.
One of my worst flaws is constant introspection now; I'm always going over my words, actions, and decisions again and again, questioning everything and tearing myself apart. I label myself, pick apart each sentence, and worry time and again that everyone around me secretly hates me or is laughing. The thing is, though, there has to come a certain point in which the foot must come down and I must say, enough is enough.
You can tell a lot about yourself based on what other people call you, I think. How other people talk about you, and the words they use to specifically describe you. And if I am anything like these words my darlings wrote on the twenty-two messages, then by God, I must be doing something right.
Lovely. Strong. Beautiful. Intelligent. Incredibly talented. True to yourself. My treasure. Sweet. JOY. Precious. Dearest. Wise. Amazing. Gifted. Best Friend. You shine like the sun. Quirky. Bubbly. Sparkly eyes. Compassionate. Kind. Strong. Ton coeur est beau. Smexy. Special. Bold. Hard Worker. Dreamer. Darling. Such a gem. Honest. Genuine. Going to do incredible things. Capable. Significant. Radiant. Gorgeous inside and out. Caring. Devoted. Passionate. Loving. Elegant. Unique. Spirited. Gracious. Wonderful. Powerful. True friend. A light. Loved. Admired.
I like to think that, because of this experience, all I do is go and toss words like precious jewels at every person I come across, but this is simply not the truth. Still, life goes on and with each passing day, new opportunities arise to spread love and speak words of wealth, or to throw a nasty dart that can cause someone to completely tumble down.
I don't deserve my friends. I don't deserve all of these beautiful words they described me with, but I swear to do my best to try and live up to them. We, each of us, choose each day whether to give in to our changeable moods, or whether to keep our heads above the water and keep sojourning on, helping others who are drowning along the way.
So, here's to changing for the better. Here's to smiling at strangers, holding the door, paying it forward, speaking to those in service like they are human beings, and brightening others' days. There is enough negativity painted in the world; let's splash some color across it.
The very last words Beth Mitchell said to me in private were these: "The mere thought of you fills my heart with joy. Always has."
I want to live up to her legacy, and be the person she thought me to be at all times, no matter my current mood or the circumstances of life. Joy was the character trait I was given when I graduated high school, and joy is what I will hold to my heart and spread to others.
Why not give it a try with me?
Use your words, and use them well.