Long Term Friends and Being Yourself
Some of my cousins live far away, so when it was the first time we’d seen each other in a while, there was always a bit of awkwardness. A moment or two of shyness, of hiding behind our parents legs… and then we’d participate in some activity that was really more like parallel play, and after that… pure bliss, as we discovered that, despite being a few years older than the last time, we were pretty much the same and could pick up exactly where we left off.
Last night, I was with some friends from middle school. I hadn’t seen these friends in nearly 20 years (we went to an international school in Cairo, Egypt).
“This one friend,” I told my wife on the way there, “is super goofy. Though, then again, that was when she was twelve. I guess people probably change.”
Well, it turns out she’s still silly. And all of the friends that I reconnected were almost exactly as I remember them (with a little more gray hair, and children). People change less than I thought. And relationships with those with whom we’ve had vivid and life-lasting memories… we pick up right where we left off.
I brought a deck of cards with me. I figured that no one would remember that I constantly did magic when I was 13 as a way to make friends, but that if I didn’t bring a deck along with me, I’d be mad if there was a missed opportunity to perform (performance is a gift). It was one of the first things that someone asked me about.
“So you’ve been doing magic all this time?” someone asked.
“I’ve gone in and out of it,” I replied. “I got self conscious at times. When you’re a kid and you think magic is the coolest thing ever, it doesn’t really occur to you that most of the world sees it as a pretty nerdy hobby.”
My friend interrupted me and wildly exclaimed “you’ve got to own it! Be yourself!”
It was so blatant and obvious that made me stop in my tracks.
I’ve grappled with being myself for my entire life, as many people have. But the way that this friend put it, with such matter-of-factness (nearly frustration), it flipped my mind.
Obviously, being yourself is the path of least resistance. And yet, we resist. But then we meet someone, someone we haven’t seen for a while, someone who knew us an insecure 13 year old trying to grapple with life’s mysteries… and although we’re now a grown-up, they still see that kid they knew. The one that sang for fun, made up songs, found your selected card, and goofed off in geography class. And they remind us: “I see you. I accept you. I love you the way you are. I love who you are. Now do me a huge favor…