This I Believe

Zen - Richardson, Texas
Entered on February 17, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
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Caesar’s Hotter than A Maybelline Model

I believe no amount of Maybelline can make me feel as gorgeous as a copy of Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. You can’t be attractive if you’re making yourself up for others. The most beautiful people in this world embrace what they believe, no matter how strange it may seem.

When I was in second grade, I read Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Even though I didn’t get half of it, my love affair with books started there. I was too young to be self-conscious, and all the children my age weren’t affected by society’s perception of beauty. When I read Ovid, I wasn’t a nerd, but just another kid. I believed in the power of books.

As I grew older, craving more knowledge, my eyes opened up to fashion magazines with models spread across the covers. I’m supposed to be like that, I thought. Wanting desperately to fit in, I ditched my books. I was no longer seen in the park clutching a copy of Les Miserables, but holding a copy of Cosmogirl. I read their articles religiously and gave myself a complete makeover. My inner grammarian recoiled at the sight of those magazines, but I learned to silence her nagging.

I wanted to be gorgeous. People told me I was, but I sensed a growing chasm inside of me. I didn’t feel nearly as beautiful when wearing Abercrombie as when I was wearing sweats, reading a good book. Washed away in the tides of adolescence, I believed that the only road to acceptance was paved with makeup and pretty clothes. This belief was nowhere near as strong as the second grader’s belief in Metamorphoses, but I clung desperately to it.

One day, I was flipping through TV channels, and a Dove commercial caught my eye. I saw six women flashing grins (and more) at the camera. Their faces didn’t look like the Botox-tight smiles of other models. I found myself envious as I watched them, most not considered beautiful by today’s ridiculously high standards. But there was a glow emanating from them, a whole sense of being true to themselves. “Look,” they seemed to say. “This is me, and I’m proud of it.”

But I wasn’t proud of myself.

A few days later, I reorganized my bookshelves. The TeenVogue supermodel was now smiling inside the trashcan, while Julius Caesar found its place on the center shelf. With each old book that I replaced, I felt the gap in me filling up. Once again, I believed in the power of books. This was my passion, and I was not going to let it go without a fight.

I have friends that fret over slightly imperfect makeup or not having the latest fashions. They wander around the road of their life, struggling to find what their beliefs are. I’ve traveled through that, and know what I believe. I believe in the magic of a good book, a pair of sweats, and a cool autumn day.