On the way to work, yesterday, I saw the most astounding thing.
Middle schoolers marching to their doom.
You remember middle school, right? Or maybe junior high? You remember walking toward the school doors and dreading the hours of social anxiety and teachers droning on at you about how to punctuate correctly or which proof to write in geometry?
I remember. And the expressions on those kids matched their direction.
But here is something they did not know.
The sunlight was coming up behind my van while, in front of me, the clouds hung dark as a backdrop. Each face I saw looked like a small miracle. The girl with the bejeweled pockets and the orangish blonde hair cut into a bob. The sisters with their long straight black hair swinging behind their backpacks who trudged along, not looking at one another. A tall girl walking and talking to her friend with fabulous long dark curls falling in waves over her shoulders and down to her waist. A boy with hair pulled back and his sad face looking directly into the sun.
Each of them glowed with a beauty that almost broke my heart.
Just before that morning commute, I read a book review about a photography project. The author Mihaela Noroc had traveled the world to find beautiful women of all types to photograph. Some are young, some old with lines crisscrossing their faces, some are thin, and others are not. One woman has a prosthetic leg.
When asked what beauty meant to her, Noroc said:
“In the end, I think beauty just means just being yourself. I don’t think we have to change ourselves to be in a certain way; I think we just have to keep ourselves as we are and don’t necessarily [need] to change.”
What struck me yesterday was how stunning those young people were even in their unhappiness. Maybe it was the light. Maybe it was my mood. Maybe it was their youth.
I wish I could show you in more than words, but I suppose you’ll have to trust me on this. Or check out The Atlas of Beauty: Women of the World in 500 Portraits to see the breathtaking photos in the project.
And then, I hope, look when you are out in the world to see the beauties all around you. Even in sweet middle schoolers marching to their adolescent doom.