‘Cause Im Not Beautiful Like You, Im Beautiful Like Me

The Loge of the Empress in the upper enclosure...
The Loge of the Empress in the upper enclosure of the Hagia Sophia. From here the empress and the court ladies watched the proceedings down below the basilica. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Church of the Holy Wisdom, commonly known ...
The Church of the Holy Wisdom, commonly known as Hagia Sophia in English, is a former Greek Orthodox church converted to a mosque, now a museum, in Istanbul. It is universally acknowledged as one of the great buildings of the world. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Angry Girl Rock Band: Joydrop.

This is going to be a strange combination of my experience in the Hagia/Aya Sophia and my personal experience of , connected by the thin line of peace. That quiet inner peace you get when youre in tune with the world and yourself. Its a feeling I had in the Hagia Sophia and one that Im developing when looking in the mirror.

Its also about the feelings of beauty when you are so out of place in a culture – every time I see a group of locals on the street and I hear them laugh really really loud as they pass – I “know” they are talking about me and how odd I/my hair/my height/my whatever looks compared to what they are used to and I feel strange. Its not an automatically bad feeling, but after a few days of it – its really hard to feel positive, especially sitting in our new hotel in Izmir where the entire wall seems to be a mirror. And I feel ginormous. Like the bed in comparison behind me seems small – and its a full.

Its hard in a world where most people (from my perspective) seem to fit in to be in a place where you are constantly reminded that you are not the norm. Yesterday, we went to a park where all these elementary children were walking by. Every single one of them wanted to wave and say hi to the obvious foreigner. The friend I am traveling with, everyone keeps speaking to in Turkish. I get the “bye-bye” on the plane and he gets – well – whatever they said in Turkish as we got off.

Im not sure what I want exactly. Its not a bad thing to be different. Part of it means that I dont have to work that hard for people to remember me. At church, at school, apparently around the world, there’s just one me. Except for that girl my best friend saw in France who looked just like me. It also sometimes means people want to talk to me. Especially when Im new in a ward, people love to come “fellowship” me, assuming Im lost or a new convert to the LDS faith. It makes breaking the ice a bit easier, which is always a welcome event. But its also jarring. In my head Im just like them. The world is pretty stable from my perspective, so I think oh hey Im Mormon just like the rest of them, or Im a tourist just like lots of people walking by. And then there’s the wake-up call from my black friends learning Im Mormon saying “You know you’re black right” or the 10th Turk that day calling out “I like your hair” that just makes you think, right not the same, mental readjustment. Sometimes its not just physical traits – its also hearing from someone you trust, that you’re particular about things and people, while you think “I go along to get along all the time!”

The image I have in my head of what I look like and act/think like in comparison to the rest of the world, isnt as stark as it must be to them.  But when I take a beat such as when I was in the Blue Mosque earlier today, or the Aya Sofia earlier this week, I feel in sync with myself and my life again and its like the external forced awareness melts away again. There is something about places of worship – even if they are not currently used as such – that houses that quiet hushed peace that is so hard to find in everyday life. You can be in a room that people made beautiful in an attempt to express their devotion to God and feel the combined prayers of thousands of years of petitioners. You remind yourself that there is a God, and Im doing my best to do the things He wants me to do. It makes you feel a lot less alone and spotlighted when you are so out there on the spectrum.

Right now, doing what I think God wants, involves traveling and going places I have dreamed of going my whole life, while dealing with the truths you learn about yourself when you step outside of your normal routine. Im also grateful to be traveling with a friend who is far more flexible about some things than I am, and is always in a good mood regardless of outside events. Except when there is snoring.

So I may not be the size or look or personality that I think constitutes beauty – although that odd man the other day seemed to be a fan – but there is still a way to feel beautiful and content and at peace in a lonely world; if I can just remember that after each small crack in the foundation.

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