It has been said that humans are made of the same stuff as the stars. I remember being 16 and staring into that nightly infinite expanse, willing them to come closer, to teach me something about the meaning of life, about who we are and why we’re here. As it was, sixteen-year-old me was preoccupied with trying on selves, jokes, clothes, thoughts, emotions, places, experiences, always looking for a steady and sure version of herself to show up in one of the many episodic reinventions. She was sure that through some process of elimination she would maybe know who she wasn’t, in order to get closer to who she—maybe—was.
16 returned often to her sarcasm, her guard up to protect how open and innocent she really felt. The gloomy sarcasm felt like a protective circle around her optimism and excitement. Perhaps she kept it shielded because of how porous, how affected she truly was. Both moved and unshaken, vaporous and frozen. Melancholy, head in the clouds, face to the sun, the romance of being rained-on embraced, try it all on, there she was. Judgements, questions, methods, markers. Tastes, trends, groups, beliefs. She needed to find out for herself, with only as much experimentation as her religion would allow. Uncomfortable in her own body, wondering when the day would come that she would finally feel present in it. Hoping that she could enjoy being alive inside of herself before death delivered her spirit to the wild.
I wish to gather her up in my arms now with unflinching eye contact in a calming welcome home vibe, absent of shame. I want to offer her absolution, to see her absorb and marvel at her state of being. She is a creature of light, she just doesn’t know it yet. A beauty all her own, like the sun beaming through broken windows of an abandoned industrial building. She will one day find out that she is, in fact, made of warmth and goodness. She will eventually recognize her intrinsic luminescence, but for now, the uncertain searching look in her eye as we make eye contact is enough. She has things to teach me, just as much as I have the compassion to give her.
She wonders if a life without regret is possible, an odd thing for a 16-year-old to think about, and I wonder if I can bottle the bright innocence she exudes and burn it like incense. She wonders if she looks okay, tugs at her shirt a bit, and I do the same. We are one and the same, staring at mirror images of ourselves. The difference between her body and mine is that mine has more stories to tell. More weight to it. I can feel these journeys stored up; the emotions that are still in play. She has her shoulders back, looking life square in the face. I have to remind myself to straighten up and lift my head. The truth of the matter is that we both wonder if we’re enough. Enough of what, I don’t know. I look at her—body, soul, spirit—and wonder how her mind could have ever thought such a thing. She is perfect. New. Alive. An awkward lively human with a pixie haircut.
We stare into space for a bit. Two soul sisters, myself and I, kindred spirits, strengthening each other with solidarity. Our resolve feels ageless and timeless. I can almost feel a grandmother version of ourselves is hovering over both of us. We will find our essence. We will. She will. I will.
We all wonder what it feels like to be original. Perhaps part of it looks like seeing into the past and sitting with the many ages of my own self in order to love each one and celebrate each of them as they grow. Today it’s 16 and I. Maybe my practice is to embrace the many test phases of Amanda Lindsey Cook and really listen to what all of those experiences have to say to me, to heal me.
Part of me is sad it took me over 30 years to begin to fall in love with the very person who needed to try those personas on, but that’s just the regret talking—whatever regret is. Part of me is sad that I was thinking about such things and wondering if I was enough at the perfect age of 16. Part of me is wondering if it’s just all par for the course and that, in the end, what we face begins to heal us and what we fear actually begins to free us. What if all of it matters and what if being an original has less to do with trying to “be” and more with letting ourselves become? Perhaps all of the attempts and tries are part of the reinvention that is necessary to embrace our truest self– all ages, all personas, all quests of the soul and body included. So here we all are—all of the “me’s” and all of the “you’s” perfectly original right where we are – whether we see our stars yet or not.
I propose this. That we become more gentle with our many years of discovery and personality development, especially while attempting to meet the demands of our immediate surroundings. That we spend more time looking at the stars and less at Instagram presentations. That we fall deeply and blissfully more in love with being alive, with whatever age we are and all the ages that led us to this one. That we dance more, through our kitchens, on the street on the way to work, and especially whenever we feel thoughts and questions making cases and calculating worthiness and regrets in our rational minds. Shake off those dusty thoughts and shine.
You are ever so so so so bright.
Amanda Cook is a songwriter and worship leader at Bethel Church and with Bethel Music. Originally from Winnipeg, Canada, Amanda has a dynamic history as a worship leader and songwriter that began at a young age. She has been a part of the Bethel Music family since 2010 and currently ministers throughout the United States and internationally. Amanda’s worship wraps words and pictures around what it is like to live honestly and passionately connected to God, discovering greater fullness and wonder in every season with Him.