30 Day Lady Positivity Challenge- Day 27

by - Saturday, September 20, 2014





Day 27- Someone who is beautiful because of how they see, not only how they look.- Natalie


We are getting to the end! I think this is a really great topic- when a baby is born, part of the pleasure of being present for the start of their of their life is seeing the world through their super fresh eyes. We are quick to notice how a person situates themselves around what they see, but if you reflect on how they actually see the world differently, you might discover a whole new wonderful side of them (not to mention something new to love in the world around you). So if you aren’t going to do this challenge (and it does take forever), I think this might be a good mini-challenge, to empathize enough with the people we love to try to figure out why what they see is beautiful to them. 

My cousin Natalie is another one of those people who just seems effortlessly cool and creative with everything she does, and I think a huge part of it comes from how she sees the world. She is also an amazing artist, but we can talk more about that later. Natalie grew up in Kenya in a community of missionaries, so right from the start, she has an incredibly unique perspective. After visiting Nairobi myself last year, I can see that her family occupies this kind of strange middle space in both Kenya and in the States where they would spend their furloughs. They belong to unique communities in both, but they also exist a little bit as outsiders wherever they go. They never completely blend in, and I bet they feel pretty self-aware in most situations (at least in their transitions).



Perhaps because of this position, Natalie especially has struck me as a sensitive observer. She is super fun and silly, but I think she plays things close to the chest, is endlessly graceful and quiet when dealing with strangers, and a keen responder to others. She comes off as shy (though as a toddler she was super outgoing and really good at jumping on the bed). Being a missionary kid means you are meeting new people all the time, and I am consistently impressed with how she handles that discomfort in a way where she both connects with people and seems to accept the disconnect.  Plus, she has let it propel her into a life brimming with courage, and I feel like for the rest of my life I will be jealous of her adventures!

When Natalie moved (semi-permanently) to the States for college, she went to a school driving distance from our grandparents (both of her sisters landed closer to their other set) so we were lucky to get o spend a lot of time with her. I know my grandparents loved having her at the house as well. I have loved having Natalie around, because she has a great sense of humor and fun. The key to success at family events (and life really) is having someone else in the room who says YES, let's do it. Natalie is always that person. She never needs to be the center of attention, but she is a good leader and friend to many of our cousins who live nearby. She recently moved to Texas, and I really missed her when trying to pull together s'mores and togetherness. We got spoiled to have her around.


I also have the sense that Natalie is a real girl's girl. She has a big, very loyal group of girlfriends, an she is the favorite of many of my girl cousins (my cousin Shawnie is currently plotting Natalie's marriage to a pro athlete). My theory is that being a girl's girl or not primarily depends on one's ability to listen and care, both of which seem to be strengths of hers.

Natalie also loves to shop and to play with fashion, and who can blame her when she looks like a model? Natalie is a tall drink of blonde water, and she dresses like these girls on Top Model after Tyra makes them give up their accessories and put their hair back. I have heard from many people that Natalie looks just like her mom did (but Moffitt blond), but she actually reminds me of Shelly (none of us look all that much alike, to be honest). I feel like her seeming effortlessness comes from a deep knowledge of what works on her, what she likes, and a quiet confidence that shows she knows what she is doing.


This same beautiful vision of the world, aesthetic sensibility, and confidence in her own choices has led Natalie to the fine arts. The art world systems are built to kick your butt in the beginning, but I hope she sticks with it, because she is really talented. For her senior project, Natalie painted these gorgeous small-scale abstract landscapes, and now that I am genoming, these small geographies resonate with a lot of what other artists are thinking about. If she had a website, I would send you to it, but she is only 6 months out of undergrad and hasn't gotten there yet, She also spent a summer interning at Kitengala Glass, a giant, bizarre, and totally amazing workshop outside of Nairobi, where she learned to blow glass and make mosaics and be cooler than all the rest of us put together. 

Of all of my Mom's siblings, her brother Steve has always been the quietest but one of the most adventurous, especially when it comes to trekking up mountains and climbing rocks (also in life choices, you don't move your whole family to Africa if you let your fear of the unknown control you). He reminds me of my Poppop in that they seem perfectly comfortable with silence, just looking around, especially when they move through natural settings. I see this quality in Natalie as well, a comfort with the quiet, a connection with the natural world (she slept in a tent by herself for a week on her school campus once- how cool is that?), and a  lot of subtle tools to communicate what is most important to her.

To be a successful artist, we all know you have to be a skilled maker, being able to effectively manipulate whichever materials you choose. To be really great (or anything worth paying prolonged attention to), you have to be a great observer and thinker. In one of her senior critiques, Natalie was kind of backed into a corner to talk about a very personal experience in a way that made her uncomfortable, but I think there is some power in her doing that. She is already a great observer with a very unique perspective, so the more she shares what she sees, the greater she will be as an artist. This powerful combination is what gives me faith that she can be really successful as an artist if she chooses. 



I think Natalie's (and her sisters') view of the world is so much more transitive than those of us who had the privilege of an easy and mostly unchanging environment. I love when she opens up more about what she is seeing, thinking, and feeling, and I have learned a lot from watching her behavior and kindness the past few years. I just think she is fearless, awesome, and able to see the world in all sorts of beautiful color. In my opinion, she is an extraordinary person, and so much of that comes from how she carries her history and wonderfulness right with her. She looks at the world with both freedom and caring, and this lens creates a view new to me and many around her.



So here's to you, Natalie, for rocking big earrings like every day is your birthday, for having an endless supply of fun ideas, for making really beautiful abstract paintings, for being yet another tall person when I am doomed to only the slightest verticality, for building an amazing console, for turning one room in Nana's house into a colorful art gallery, for using your talents when people ask, for having the courage to put yourself out there over and over again, for your optimism and faith which I hope you never lose, for knowing this is what you should be doing (and for being right), for weathering the horribleness which is being 22 and starting adulthood, for giving our grandparents so much love and confidence in the time you lived with them, for letting the rest of us know little by little the beautiful way you see the world. You are beautiful and I am so grateful for the past few years and chances to know you better!

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