Column, Opinions

A Mosaic of Those You’ve Loved Most

As a kid, being called a “copycat” felt like the most hurtful insult I could receive. Well-meaning adults would attempt to offer consolation, saying “Imitation is the highest form of flattery,” but this adage was no match for my crushed 10-year-old ego. 

As I got older, unoriginality felt like an inescapable curse. Every relatable video I scroll through on TikTok reminds me that I’ve never had an original thought … ever. As comforting as it is to know you’re not alone in your most obscure thoughts, sometimes it’s nice to be different.

But as with most things, time has taught me that the adults were right—imitation truly is the best way to flatter those that you care about. To take someone’s characteristics and adopt them as your own—whether it be how they dress or their favorite phrase—is a way of showing love. It’s like taking a little piece of every person you’ve ever known, putting it in your pocket, and bringing it with you wherever you go. Even if you’re not consciously aware of how each trait came to be, embrace each as part of your own personal puzzle. 

I can identify some pieces of my puzzle from the moment I selectively put them in place. In second grade, I started writing my lowercase-a’s with a little curl on the top because the girl sitting across from me in class did. In sixth grade, I taught myself every word of Luke Bryan’s best songs because my new best friend loved country music. 

While I was clearly becoming the “copycat” I feared, I now see these qualities as an homage to people that I have chosen to let in and love. 

Other pieces to the puzzle have fallen into place more gradually over time. What I know for sure, though, is that my most fundamental qualities are a direct reflection of my immediate and extended family—those I look up to most. 

The way I enunciate each group of letters when I spell out my last name. My obsession with the news. How I jump right into Google the second I hear something I don’t know. My interest in medicine. My love for shopping. How I pace back and forth around the house when I’m waiting for someone to arrive. I can even identify the family member who introduced me to each of my favorite foods.  Knowing that it’s a direct reflection of those I love most, I can’t even resent my impatient and short-tempered nature.

Every fundamental piece of me—my personality, quirks, interests, and hobbies—is part of a mosaic of the people I feel closest to. I’ve taken the good and bad from each of them, morphed it all together, and carefully filled it into my puzzle.

I know I’ve been a “copycat,” but I’ve combined these copied qualities into something beautiful and new. Only I have loved the exact set of people that make up my unique mosaic. 

As time passes, I may forget where each trait, quirk, or passion came from. But while people come and go, their qualities remain ingrained in me forever. Wherever I go, I carry our history.

To love is to be unoriginal.

April 21, 2024