When I met her I was a sophomore in college and we were in the middle of a Big Ten school. It was my first time away because I stayed home my freshman year and went to a Junior College. I landed in that place because of a mostly off again, non-existent relationship, that was never going to exist but love does dumb things… so I started off on the wrong foot from the get. I was broken. (Making good choices is not always my strong suit.) My dorm was nice, by dorm standards. It wasn’t home, and I was scared (basically I’m just a baby). Every door that would open, as I walked down the hallway, smoke would billow out. (Once again I’m aging myself but smoking in dorm rooms was not frowned upon that’s for sure). I was kind of mortified. I’m not going to pretend to be completely sheltered and/or innocent. I am, and was, neither. I had seen some things for sure, but this was clearly not going to be what I was used to. Instead of being placed on the higher floors with the ‘cool kids’, I was cursed (or so I thought) enough to be assigned the to mezzanine level. So we weren’t even technically the 1st floor by definition- we were below that. Dorm assigned outcasts (not really but it kind of felt that way). Same energy- UHM NO… well not at first (we ended up making up for that by the end of the year). Everyone else was excited, you could feel it in the air (‘cause you know college), but not this girl. I had no idea what I was doing there and I was convinced I may be in my own personal version of hell. I truly believed that I wasn’t going to meet anyone like me and I was not going to have any friends. I didn’t belong there.
Down the hallway came this all legs girl, shuffling (you literally heard a swoosh, swoosh, drag, swoosh as she walked). I grew to love that shuffle. She was thin and whimsical. I had really never seen anyone quite like her. She had light and kind of tattered jeans that were a little long, a t-shirt, and the curliest most gorgeous mane I had ever seen. She shook her shoulders side to side so that her hair would whisk through the air like a wild bird. She was exotic, and beautiful, and she smiled at my self-proclaimed stupidly plain, and simple self. From the very beginning you could tell we were sort of yin and yang. She would enter a room (granted it was a dorm room) and everyone’s attention would be drawn to her. She wasn’t demanding the attention, her very nature attracted it. I, on the other other hand, would enter and sort of shrink down wherever I could (unless Michael Jackson, Man in the Mirror was on and then well my moves took over- but that’s a different story). Even though our differences were apparent she was completely contagious and I wanted to be more like that.
What started on that ground floor and in my friendship with my carefree friend was the blossoming of me (and a lifelong friendship-but I didn't know that at the time). She taught me (and continues to) some things that I will never forget. Although I have not always been perfect at these little life lessons, I have always carried her spirit with me.
#1. Beliefs are Just Thoughts
There couldn’t have been two people that were more opposite. From our appearance, to our thoughts, to our actions and our spirits- on paper and actually in life we were POLAR OPPOSITES. She was worldly and earthy and ate eggplant for God’s sakes. That girl could sleep until 4PM!!! I was sheltered (ish), to a large degree, and didn’t even really know what earthy meant until I met her. My super cultured self (HA), ate Pizza and tuna melts. I still woke up at 7AM (and that was late for me)! There was actually a group of us that formed this mezzanine bond but most of them, at first, did what they came there to do… study! (God help me if one of my kids is like me-too late.) She and I found ourselves ‘studying’ in the local “library”, I mean Bubs, on the regular. We started most nights off with this nasty thing called Rumplemintz…. LORD HELP ME- but our theory was that our breath would smell good. It was during those times that we would discuss politics, 3rd world countries, religion, love, lifestyles etc… you name it we talked about it. We were young intellectuals-or so we pretended to be. We laughed all the time- mostly she was laughing at me, but laughter was an anchor for us. Politically we held very different views. Culturally we had little common ground. Socially, you guessed it, differing opinions. None of these things divided us, however. We didn’t care one bit if the other person thought differently. I think that I can safely say that we had a mutual respect and admiration actually. We were both well versed and relatively educated on those things that we were passionate about so our discussions were just that; discussions that were going to lead to no conclusions other than it was a good talk. We didn’t need to be right or wrong (at least not most of the time), we just needed to be heard.
#2. You are BeYOUtiful
I'm convinced that she created this. She was, and is still, the epitome of owning who she is and rocking the heck out of it. I don’t want to say that I didn’t change at all in those college years, because I did. I became a little bit more carefree and much more independent. A little more earthy (hee hee), more outgoing, and definitely more confident because of her influence. My beliefs and my core remained intact, as did hers, of course. I was still very me, but more of me was unleashed. There was never anyone more true to herself than my sweet friend and by her example I learned how to embrace my own uniqueness. A common story that I love is, like I said before, we used to frequent a place down the street called Bubs. We would go early (because yours truly even in my late teens was really more like a blue hair)-her late night self happily humored me! (Ok occasionally I had to beg but she always came through.) Well, as the STORIES go, we would go out (maybe not every night but ehhh hemmm a lot- not proud... just facts). People knew us. Well they knew her, and I was just the sidekick. We were kind of like dumb and dumber but well we’re girls and I’m not funny. So not like that at all. We would have a really good time, until 11 PM, 11:30 PM and for sure by 12 AM rolled around my pumpkin self couldn’t stay awake any longer. (Some things never change. Remember we were in college- I had no game and no hang.) She would walk me back to our dorm (so that I was safe) and then she would go be a normal college kid! There was never any pressure to stay longer, go here or go there, she accepted me for exactly who I was and loved me anyway! I’m certain I embarrassed the crap out of her more times than I can count and she rolled with it!! We also taught each other things that were important to us: I was open with my faith, my bleeding heart, my desire to get married and have kids etc… She taught me about tolerance, languages (girl was/is brilliant like that), cultures, social injustices and soooo much more.
#3. Let Your Hair Down
(That’s literally a little hard for me these days, but I’m working on it.) There has never been anyone in my life that prompted me to want to be so carefree as her! I’ve always been the kind of girl that won’t look into an empty, on the market house’s windows, because I don’t want to break the law. This isn’t a badge of honor- in fact it can be a curse- but that’s who I really am. So you see, that’s the person she was dealing with. (Why she chose me as her friend I will never know- probably because she was stuck with me.) She on the other hand had her eyebrow pierced (at the time, my currently nose pierced self, thought she was living on the fringe) and had a lot more fun than I ever dreamed of having. We would climb out of our dorm window onto a flat roof and lay out or have some beers…That was huge for me because you know - rules and all. She lived her life in the moment with complete joy! I had an amazingly kind, and very handsome manboy (hopefully he reads this- I'm getting brownie points) at the time, who asked me to go out ALL YEAR LONG (poor dude)...she was there every step of the way and in fact went on our first date with us (I needed backup). I ended up marrying that guy… but that was after she helped me hide under tables from him (thank God he was persistent). We were trouble- in a very innocent kind of way (wink wink). I had come from thinking I was in my own hell, being lonely and scared, to meeting people that would change the course of my life.... and I was having fun doing it!
Through the years life has brought us in different directions, doing different things, and taking different paths. We have danced in and out of each others lives with little ground to make up on re-entry. We have experienced crazy trials and tribulations and many triumphs along the way. None of those things required me to be like her and her to be like me. We just needed to be there and love each other through them and meet the other right where they were at.
Many of us, most of the time, are looking for commonalities in life. We try to be like others to fit in. We want to blend instead of shine. We tend to gravitate towards those most like ourselves. We steer clear of situations that may present differences. If we are truthful, we look for differences and rely on the excuses they create to not have to connect with certain people. We close ourselves off or pump up our chests in an effort to be right. What if in most man-made issues and situations- there is no right? What my wonderfully enigmatic friend taught me was that we can truly and honestly celebrate differences by just loving the other person for exactly who they are: a person who deserves to be loved. What if we put ourselves out there in our most natural state, and welcomed others into our lives just as they were as well? I can promise they would open your world, transform your heart, and help you to be a better version of yourself. She was, is, and will always be perfectly different than me, but when she shuffled down that hallway, and into my life, she broadened my horizons and changed my whole world.... from the mezzanine up!