10:00 am EDT, August 15, 2015

Dear Jennifer Lawrence: A love letter

(After all, what's a better birthday gift than heaps of praise and admiration?)

Dear Jennifer Lawrence,

Words can’t describe how much your presence in the world has impacted my life. However, being a writer, words are all I have, so I’m going to try.

Growing up, I was always a little different from the rest of my family. I could easily enjoy the things my family was doing, but whenever I tried to talk about things I was passionate about, I’d get a few strange stares. That didn’t deter me from liking what I liked; it simply made me start to think of myself as odd.

Fast forward to high school where I was overly concerned with body image. As much I loved eating different kinds of food (I deemed eating my favorite pastime around age seven) and tried to stay active, it was hard not to preoccupy myself with my weight and outward appearance. (There were school dances to think about, gosh darnit!)

My first few years of college were a bit better in terms of body image and accepting my geeky persona, but I still had my self doubts.

Here’s where you, the incomparable Jennifer Lawrence, come in.

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Jennifer Lawrence

I’ll admit I can’t remember what I was doing when I first heard your name, nor can I say for sure that I had some sort of physical reaction the first time I saw you on screen. What I can say is that my love and admiration for you crept up slowly and then all at once.

It didn’t hurt that one of the first roles I ever saw you in was that of the amazing Katniss Everdeen, a character I already felt like I related to. Katniss feels real because of her flaws. She has a short temper a lot of the time and is prone to isolating herself, same as me. Seeing you play this character I knew so well conditioned me to see you in the same way.

While The Hunger Games was a sort of “gateway drug,” your Silver Linings Playbook performance as Tiffany is truly what grabbed my attention. Though you didn’t write the line, “There will always be a part of me that is dirty and sloppy, but I like that, just like all the other parts of myself,” it has been something that has stayed with me since the first time I saw the movie.

Mind you, this was just kind of a “getting to know you” phase where I could relate with the roles that you took on (Mystique included) because they were all such multifaceted people.

Your place in my heart was really solidified, however, the first time I saw this gif:

Where's the pizza?!
Via pizzagif.tumblr.com

It may seem odd, but that’s really what did it.

From there, I began to pay closer attention to your interviews and the way you talked about yourself and your life experiences. You say the first thing that pops into your head, good or bad. You’re not afraid to poke fun at or even make a fool of yourself. You’re unabashedly clumsy, keeping your cool in awkward situations (like tripping up the stairs at the Oscars and still smiling). I especially love the way you take everything in stride, whether it be controversy or praise.

One of your most memorable moments for me was when, at the Oscars, you talked about how much you just really wanted to eat and that you don’t worry too much about your weight. That struck me. Yes, you live an active lifestyle by nature, but the fact that you talk about food so openly and don’t preoccupy yourself with your weight stunned me. It just wasn’t something you deemed worthy to think about.

I’m aware of and have read all of the discussion regarding you as a body image role model, but what I can say is that you were my person. We have relatively similar body types and an identical love for pizza. Seeing someone so clearly similar to myself doing something that I am afraid of gives me the hope and motivation to do it for myself. Or, in this case, to accept my body as my own.

Jennifer Lawrence Oscars

You do what you feel and you don’t apologize (even if that means going against what people expect of you). It seems like something so small, but it speaks volumes to me and other people just like me.

I also love you for your kindness and compassion. You make time to meet and talk to complete strangers. You visit children in hospitals. You have your own foundation and will do anything to help others (including swearing like a sailor for 30 seconds straight). I now strive to be even a fraction of the caring person that you are in hopes of making the world around me a better (and happier) place.

I see you as someone I’d not only like to meet, but someone whose strength and self-confidence I’d like to match. You showed me that there’s no greater person for me to be than my truest self, geekiness, clumsiness, and all. (You’ve also shown me how to better make people laugh, so thanks for that as well!)

Thank you for your strength in the face of criticism, your fun-loving spirit, and the energy you bring to everything you do.

Happy birthday, Jennifer Lawrence. Thank you for being you.

P.S. I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve adopted you as my spirit animal. I even have a tank top to prove it.

If you could say one thing to Jennifer Lawrence for her birthday, what would it be?

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