Older does not mean wiser. That’s what we like to tell ourselves, to forgive ourselves. But who are we kidding?

I learned something very valuable from my 22 year old niece today.

Just be yourself. No matter what – it’s all you have. If the world doesn’t like it – so be it. But if you can live with and love yourself – you will be infinitely happy.

When little Amanda was a toddler she made me laugh. And not in the, oh, how cute, you’re a little person and we’re trained to think you’re cute, to encourage your cuteness. Nope. This kid was funny. She had timing. She had confidence. She never demanded an audience, she loved herself and was happy in her body. She was so fun to watch. I could tell even then, she was something special.

She became a teenager. And she developed a style all her own. She didn’t so much eschew the fashion trends as she completely established them – for her world. If you took Molly Ringwald’s fashion independence in Pretty in Pink and crossed her with Ellen Page’s attitude in Juno – you would have my niece Amanda.

A couple of years ago Leonard Nimoy (yes, Spock) put out a call to Northampton, Mass (where my niece lives) residents to “come as you are” to be photographed. She queued up. She said Mr. Nimoy was incredibly nice, made her feel completely at ease as he photographed her.

Well, she heard her photo made the “Secret Selves” exhibit due to open at MASS MoCa later this month.

And today, The New York Times called her. They would like to interview her about the Nimoy photo. Needless to say, she was pretty damned excited.

So let’s say she does get a write up in the New York Times. I know it will not change my niece. It’s just another stop on her journey through life. It’s a bonus. She doesn’t need some outside force to recognize her greatness – she is happy to be here and happy to be her.

I love you Amanda.

Aunt Denise