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"La Vita é Bella"


My sister is the most beautiful woman in the whole world! Now, I know what you’re probably thinking (cough) incest… but don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that she sets a room on fire with tousled hair and luscious curves. I mean to say that she lights it up… unlike any person I have ever known, she is the pure radiance in my surroundings who perpetually fills my life within unwarranted beauty… and hope. Each day she shocks me with realizations of profound meaning that have gradually molded me into what I am, and that, if applied, could possibly help to better us all.

But what’s wrong with humanity? I thought we were perfect. In the novel “The Sixth Extinction”, Richard Leakey states that Homo sapiens are the result of many chance events that resulted in the culmination of evolutionary excellence. But if that’s so… then why do so many of us still feel insecure? Why do we hide ourselves beneath social labels and facades? Why… do we feel so alone? Carefully, I recollect the lessons that my sister has taught me and remember that we do have something to value in this world; to live for; to conserve. First, let us analyze the manner in which we have grown to view ourselves, to notice the inherent advantages in our imperfections. Then, let us question how we treat one another and how that affects our lives. And finally, lets muster our self-worth and learn to appreciate the beauty not only nested within ourselves, but imprinted everywhere in our surroundings.

Now I know what you’re probably thinking already: “What on earth is this hippie smoking?” But just try to hear me out for another minute… or another 7 minutes and 25 seconds… and I promise I won’t have you waving peace signs or wearing tie-dye. You see growing up, I had a lot of issues with self-esteem. I used to feel that I wasn’t smart enough, thin enough, or normal enough to be accepted by anyone… and according to the American Psychological Association, 9 out of every 10 people in the world have similar self-doubts or insecurities. That adds up to just about… everyone we know –except my sister. I remember in middle school… how kids used to make fun of her because of her big lips, her messy, unbrushed hair, and her trouble speaking. The truth is, it was my who was constantly exploited or discriminated against. Having been born with a mental handicap known as hydrocephalus (the accumulation of toxic cerebrospinal fluid in the brain), my sister was instantaneously fated to lead a life with the perpetual mentality of a child, and with burdens of adjusting to an indifferent world and unacceptant society. So on and again I have had to reanalyze my pessimistic perspectives of myself, to truly appreciate all of the great qualities that identify me and make me fortunate. And in fact, there have been times when I have wished I could be like her –so free, innocent, and fearless. I still remember how I cried nearly every week in middle school when I heard the horrible things that kids called her, and am still baffled by how my sister always remained entirely unaffected by it… always clasping me in the end to help me get better. Because honestly, she didn’t care; she never cared about having the perfect hair, the best smile, or the elaborate mask of make-up. She was real, pure –she was, and is, what Aretha Franklin calls a “natural woman.” And while my sister continues to find her own natural ecstasy from dancing off rhythm, laughing on impulse, and smiling to every single person she meets for the first time, I too have learned to accept my own reality, to realize that for my age, I’m in pretty good shape, I’m healthy, I’m the top of my class, and even though I still get called a “freak” sometimes, I actually started to love being one.

Furthermore, I have always loved and admired my sister’s unbiased manner of dealing with everyone: always offering a hug to random strangers, and treating every individual equally with enthusiasm, compassion, and support. I’ve tried to tell her before: “You can’t just talk to those girls over there… They don’t even know you!” To which she responds, “But I know them… They are my friends… my Best Friends.” Now contrary to the obvious dangers that we think these encounters pose, my sister has taught me that in this rapidly overpopulating society where it seems that no one has real talks with anyone any more. She has rebelliously, and single-handedly, shattered the modern communication barrier to become one of the most widely recognized students my high school has ever known. I’m not kidding… students recognize her in every Target, Kmart, and Burger King in the city! She reminds us that we have to learn to stop being afraid of getting to know one another for who we really are; to always treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves, and to once again intent the unspeakable act of literally putting out our hand to another person to say: “Hi… How are you? What is your name?” Only in this manner can we ever notice that we aren’t alone in this world… and that there are always new things we can share with one another that are of great value. So, even though I don’t know you, and you probably don’t know much more about me other than my name, why can’t we, for just one moment, be like my sister, and cross the boundaries to become partners… confidants… friends… best friends. You have to learn to accept that if you feel alone… it isn’t because the world has abandoned you, but rather, because you have lamentably detached yourself from the world.

Ok, so now that we’re best friends… would you mind if I told you a little secret? I’ve never told anyone this before… (except for all the people in my previous rounds), but the happiest moment of my life was an afternoon, in seventh grade, when my sister and I were waiting to get picked up from school, and I remember how she walked along the sidewalk, picking up handfuls of leaves the had fallen during autumn, cradling them against her chest, soiling her hands carelessly in the process. And then, in one climactic moment of pure innocence, she laughed out wildly as she threw the leaves up in the air and twirled herself as they all came raining down upon her. The kids at school would sneer at the mess that she had made, but she was happy… I was happy, and I had the realization that happiness really can be that simple, if we only allowed ourselves to reach it and embrace it. If we only let go of all the internal inhibitions, then we too might see the world that my sister sees: a grand world; a world that is worth preserving with everything that we have. I remember when I saw Roberto Benigni’s film “Life is Beautiful” for the first time, I was awed by the way that the Jews struggled relentlessly for survival in the face of all the worldly evils of the Holocaust. In the end, after two hours of practically bawling your eyes out, you learn to smile again, and appreciate that life can always be better and more precious than anyone could ever imagine.

So, bottom line… my sister is beautiful. Nope… she is downright gorgeous. As the famous saying goes: “true beauty lies within”, so let us all look within ourselves to truly be proud of who we are. Let us reach out to others… and not be afraid of the innumerable ways they can contribute to our happiness. And finally, take a moment to look around and absorb all the treasures this world has to offer us, because at the end of the day, you are everything that matters; happiness is truly what we have to strive and live for; and remember what the Black Eyed Peas warns us: “We’ve only got one world.” It is our duty to preserve it what we have left of it.

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