I see you. Hunched over a table, poring through a book about old Hollywood movie stars.  You come to the library every day after school - finding solace in the stacks, with their musty dreams and adventures at the turn of each page. You love other people's stories. Your own isn't so glamorous. So you push your unruly, frizzy hair out of your face, adjust your thick glasses over your freckled cheeks, and inhale the pristine beauty on the pages in front of you.

You are no great beauty like these stars of the silver screen - you know this - but you can see the beauty in others. Right now you fight your curls and scrub your cheeks with lemon juice - not appreciating the love notes your ancestors left in your gene pool: hearty Scots-Irish sharecroppers who bent their backs in the Tennessee sun during the day, and filled the night with music from their fiddles and banjos.

You're as strong as an ox, but you're a little chubby. Always have been. Except for one very brief period in time when you will be legitimately svelte. That part of your life will also be marked with sorrow and loss - something that being skinny will always be tied to in your mind. Don't worry, you'll be chubby and happy again. And you'll be fiercely protective of your own daughter's body - instilling confidence and acceptance instead of fear of fatness. There are worse things you can be than fat. It's not going to keep you from doing anything you love. I promise.

You're poor. Your roof leaks, you have to heat water on the stove for your baths, and your clothes and your sister's come from a mission or the Salvation Army. Sometimes you even make your own clothes. Your mom taught you how to do that, and it's something that you'll always have. You'll also always have the fear of poverty in the back of your mind, and you're going to work hard to make sure that never happens again. Sometimes you're going to work too hard. And you need to know that it doesn't help anyone when you get run down. Taking care of yourself isn't selfish. So take a day off and go get a massage every now and then. You can finally afford it.

I know you hunger for the bright and shiny right now, because you don't have it. You will have the bright and shiny because you will work for it, but you'll also figure out that things don't mean as much as relationships and experiences. You'll get to the point in your life where you can imagine selling everything and becoming a nomad - seeing the world with your family and making memories. You will realize that true wealth comes from who we loved and who loved us, and that it's all we have left at the end of our life.

And about love. You're going to fall in love - more than once, in fact. I know you find that hard to believe, since you've never been on a date, much less held hands with a boy. You're just clueless right now, even as romantic as you are. You're going to fall for the wrong kinds of boys at first - but you will learn, and you will eventually thank them for teaching you things about yourself. You'll figure it out. Just remember that love is an action. If you don't tend to it, it will die.

Remember your love of beauty and glamour? It's going to serve you well. You're going to spend 21 years of your life behind a chair, most of it in your own salon, making women feel and look beautiful. But that's not all - because God has a plan for your life that you aren't even aware of - a gift that you will be completely oblivious to until you start rounding the corner into middle age.

Not only can you appreciate the beauty in others, but you can see light. Like, really *see* it - good light, bad light, highlights and shadow. You used to daydream as a child, and watch late evening summer light stream through the trees. You knew it was good and it was golden. But you didn't know why until someone put a camera in your hands, and told you "This is what you need to do." And then it all started making sense. 

You will be awful at first - taking blurry pictures of your cats and flowers, trying to figure out all the buttons and getting frustrated because you can't yet make your camera see light like you can. Of course you're awful. Every photographer is at first, even when they think they're great. But you will get better. You'll spend your whole life getting better and learning. Making mistakes, chopping things up and re-starting. This is being an artist - never feeling quite good enough, but doing it anyway. 

For the first time in your life, your love of beauty, romance, and people will come to fruition. You will make people feel as beautiful and loved and wonderful as you *don't* feel right now. So hang in there, awkward kid. I see you.