The Other Woman

There is a woman.

She’s the sort of woman everyone loves to be around. She is charming and funny and kind. She has interesting hobbies and aspirations. She is well-traveled and can speak knowledgeably about any number of fascinating topics.

She’s a great listener. She’s the kind of person who maintains eye contact with you and gives you an encouraging smile even when someone else cuts you off or talks over you. She makes you feel heard—really heard—hanging onto your every word as if it’s the most interesting thing anyone’s ever said. You leave every interaction with her feeling like you just had the best conversation ever.

She is disciplined. She works out regularly and has a great time doing it. It doesn’t matter if she’s in her living room following a fitness video or in a studio surrounded by dozens of other people. She is confident and leaves every workout sweaty and satisfied. Her fridge is filled with healthy meals she’s prepared herself, along with a few not-so-healthy snacks, because she also isn’t afraid to indulge.

She doesn’t let anything get her down. Flat tire? Rude people on the subway? She’ll still walk into the office with a smile on her face. She’ll make a joke about all the things that went wrong. She isn’t the kind of person who would mope around her apartment, even if it is gloomy, even if it is winter, even if there is a pandemic going on. She’d deck out her studio with holiday decorations and twinkly lights. She’d put on a jazzy Christmas playlist while cooking dinner, and then settle into bed with a cup of cocoa to watch a cheesy Netflix movie. She’d laugh out loud even if she was alone.

When it comes to dating, she doesn’t sweat it. She makes her needs known, but after that, whatever happens happens. When she gets rejected, she handles it with so much grace the other person starts to second-guess their decision. When she meets someone she likes, she makes them feel like they’re her whole world without actually letting them take over her world.

She’s one of those rare millennials that doesn’t turn down invitations, doesn’t need to be coaxed into leaving the comfort of her apartment. Of course, she loves her quiet nights in, but her days are filled with all kinds of fun activities and events. Meetings with other people who share her hobbies, gatherings with friends, opportunities to give back and spread acts of kindness.

She isn’t any sort of rare beauty, but she shines in that special way that happy people do. She isn’t afraid to approach that cute guy at the bar or strike up a conversation with the person standing behind her in line. She doesn’t second-guess herself or worry what strangers will think about her.

She goes after all her dreams, even if they’re hard, even if they’re scary. Especially if they’re scary. She encourages her friends to do the same. She’s the voice saying you can do it in a sea of naysayers. She believes in the beauty of her dreams, and she wants everyone around her to feel the same.

She isn’t much different from me. She isn’t smarter, more successful, more beautiful. But she does love herself in a way I’m still learning to.

She is the woman in my head, the one I look to for guidance in all the hardest moments of my life. What would she do? I wonder. Sometimes I’m brave enough to follow her lead, sometimes I’m not.

A few years ago, I didn’t look anything like that woman. I still don’t look like her in every way, but I’m closer than I was before. Maybe, if I keep working at it, one day I’ll look at her and I won’t see any difference at all.