"I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. I’m the first Simone Biles."  - Simone Biles
My senior picture from high school. This guy was so filled with self-doubt, self-hatred, and was convinced he was ugly and broken. I wish I could talk to this kid, and tell him he is valuable and smart and that the mullet was a really bad idea. 

Good morning!

I am Hugh Hollowell, and this is Life is So Beautiful, a newsletter about finding the beautiful when it's hard to - and maybe especially when it's hard to.

I turned 49 earlier this month, and that has given me to self-reflection. One thing I am struck by is that I have spent a lot of my life being dissatisfied with who I am. Some of my earliest memories are of wanting to be faster, stronger, richer, more attractive than I was, or at least than I believed myself to be.

Reading was my escape but also my curse, because for 9-year-old Hugh in rural North Mississippi, reading about doings in Paris, France or London, England just gave me yet more reasons to be dissatisfied with who I was. We did not have much money, and that lack was the source of all of our decisions, it seemed: Not only did we buy the cheaper items, but it was pointed out when we bought it that it was the clearly inferior choice. We would rather have “that” one, but “this” is what we can afford.

I was a sickly child until I was six or so, and always have been a late-bloomer who lagged behind my peers. I hit puberty later than they did, I went to college later than they did, got married later than they did, bought a house later than they did. I noticed all of this.

Of course, social media exacerbates this problem, but it has also, I think, been my salvation from it. Because while Instagram and Facebook are curated views of other people’s lives, the curation is obvious in a way that real life is not. And seeing the curation on social media has made the curation in real life more obvious to me. I have slowly learned, as a friend really into movies once put it, to not compare their highlight reel to my B-footage.

These days, I am pretty happy with my life. I love our house and neighborhood. I am able to afford things I need, and I have work that fulfills me. I don’t really worry about impressing people these days, and while more money is always nice, I have reached a point where I recognize that doubling my income would not double my happiness.

Yesterday was Father’s Day, the first one since Dad died from COVID last year. He was 69, or just 20 years older than I am now. Of course, that he died at 69 from COVID says nothing about me and how long I can expect to live, but you do the math anyway. So, 20 summers. 20 Christmases. 20 more first tomatoes of the year. I do that math and realize I have wasted a lot of time.

When you learn you made a mistake, though, the first step is to quit making it. I’m just glad I caught it when I did.

Five Beautiful Things

  • Simone Biles is amazing – watching her perform is like watching physical poetry. Here she is in slow motion, defying the laws of physics. (The music is a little loud, and a little annoying – maybe turn the sound down).
  • Amateur photographer Laura Rowe captured this stunning photo of storm clouds in Texas. This is literally awe-inspiring.  
  • Mary Oliver reading her brilliant poem The Summer Day, fitting on this first day of summer.
  • I wish I enjoyed anything as much as this dog is loving riding in this car.
  • Faithful and constant reader Jennifer turned me on to the YouTube channel Doodle Chaos, where they make animations set to music. I particularly like this rather simple one set to Beethoven’s 5th.


I am a kinesthetic learner, which means I learn best by doing. I want to improve my verbal and visual story-telling skills as well as my on-screen energy, and so I am thinking of doing a regular “vlog” as a short-term project. (Keep in mind this newsletter started as a short-term project, six years ago.) Think a short (under 5 minute) regularly posted, lightly edited video.

Do you follow anyone who does something like this? I’m looking for models. Just hit reply with suggestions or links. Thanks!

* * *

Well, that is it for this week. I hope you have a great week, and that your life is filled with beautiful things. If you see something beautiful this week, I hope you will let me know about it, and if one of my five I shared today struck you in a special way, I hope you will let me know about that, too.

If you want to support this project, you can sign up to be a Patron or buy me a book or throw me some cash or, especially, forward this email to your friends. And if someone did forward this to you, you can get your own subscription here.

Take care of yourself. And each other. 

Hugh Hollowell Jr

View this email in your browser
Copyright © 2021, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.