(Caveat — I wrote this over a number of days, in between other assignments. Apologies if the timelines for specific items seem out of date.)
In my observation, it’s not about the mask or cape; it’s about how people respond to that signal in the sky.
It’s no secret that I’ve been struggling lately. I don’t hide it. I don’t like lies or secrets, and if someone isn’t akin to my pain, they’re not required to read it. This is my voice. Many times, this is my only voice. Until this week, I thought I was talking to myself.
My God was I wrong.
I’m so blessed to have an arsenal of sounding walls waiting in the distance. I’ve cried more in the last week than I have in the past year. Positive tears. Tears of inclusion. Tears of being part of my chosen family.
You don’t choose your family, but you do choose your friends. If everything goes right, they choose you back. My chosen family — the people with whom I have created incredible memories over many years — has chosen me back. At my loneliest and saddest place, I’ve been put on a pedestal.
Of course, that has nothing to do with the reason for my outcry. I wasn’t looking for attention. I simply needed to get the words out of me because, as a writer, if they’re left inside me, they fester. They create resentment, harm, and danger. My words need a home, and if it’s this blog, so be it. I wasn’t seeking attention, but attention I did receive. And, while I didn’t ask for it, I desperately needed it.
In honor of all the people who put on their capes and let down their daily tasks to pay attention to me, I say thank you.
Can you find you?
At first, I was going to name names, but, after thinking it over, I’d prefer to keep this blog going silently. So, in the name of anonymity, you know who you are. Please feel free to comment or share as you feel, text me a note, or simply smile because you know you’re you. If I forget anyone, I apologize in advance, and it wasn’t on purpose. I’ve just had so many plain-clothes superheroes touch my life in the last couple days… you’re all more important than you’ll ever know (the following is in no particular order; I tried to make a list, but everybody is Number One, so…)…
The Military Guy
Thank you, Military Guy, for helping me understand things that are far beyond anything Google could help me with. This has been one of my greatest struggles, and, despite my best efforts, it’s way more real than anything I thought I could prepare for.
You’re a gentle, kind man with an enormous heart. I cannot even begin to express my gratitude. Everything you’ve given me–from advice to a listening ear–has been invaluable in my life. Thank you more than words can say.
The Girl Who’s Been There Forever
You didn’t really get to choose to be in my life; it just kinda happened. Since we were around five or six years old, you’ve been my big sister. You were my biggest influencer, even when you had no idea you were. I always looked up to you. I still do. I can’t wait to see where motherhood takes you as your Mini grows.
Thank you for always being my other person. I can’t imagine my life any other way, and I feel comforted knowing you’ll always be a part of it.
My Third Grade Crush
Man, was I a fan of you! You were the first boy I ever called on the phone. As time went on, you became a pretty awesome dude. You allowed me to be a part of your life, wherever it took you. We ran into each other an intermittent times, completely unplanned.
When life took over, you became successful, started a family, and continued being an incredible man. Tonight, you text me so randomly…just to check on me. I cried full tears.
It’s funny how time brings you into my life at the most unexpected moments. Although, truth be told, I suppose we both know they’re not unexpected, nor are they unplanned. The night you text me a thank you for letting my dad bring me into the house… it still brings goosebumps. I had literally told someone that story an hour or two before you text me completely out of the blue — a couple years since we’d spoken.
You’ll always have a place in my heart. Thank you for allowing me to have a place in yours.
The Wheel to My Axle
Man, do I owe you a debt of gratitude. From the moment we met, your fireworks have powered me through some very tough times. I don’t even know what to say. You’re an incredible being, whose simple existence has made the world a better place. Each breath you takes makes someone’s life a little better, whether it’s by donating clothing, feeding a goat, or simply showing those radiant pearly whites.
I could never begin to tell you how incredible you are and how much you mean to me. You’re such a smooth diamond in a world of chaos. I’m truly honored to know you.
My Best Friend
You’re probably not gonna read this unless I send it to you and ask you to read it, but that’s okay. I’m so incredibly blessed to have you in my life.
We’ve had an interesting road, filled with lots of “growth opportunities”. After a ten-year stint of not speaking, we picked up right where we left off. You’re such an incredibly special person, and I hope everyone who meets you understands this. So far, I have no doubt this trend will continue!
Our filter-free friendship has probably saved my life more than a couple of times. For all my fuckups and downfalls, you’ve always been there to scoop me up off the concrete with your gentle-yet-honest shovel. I don’t know what I did to deserve you, but I’m so grateful I did it.
We’ve endured 30 years. That’s impressive, considering we’re only 26 😉
Most people will never be afforded a special friendship like ours. There’s no hate. No dishonesty. Only eggshells when absolutely necessary, and even then, we walk a little crunchy. It’s unlike anything else I’ll ever have in this life. I’m so glad I got to experience this kind of friendship.
The Girl with the Giggle
Supporter #1! I can still hear you giggling about silly shit back in high school. I proudly stood up at your wedding years ago, and even though life has changed everything we were then, you still stand by me.
Distance hasn’t changed much, as far as I can tell. You’re still an incredibly supportive friend with a huge heart and an awareness of others around you that’s really special. I suppose that’s why you chose the profession you’re in.
You have no idea how much it makes my day when you take the time to comment on a post I publish or text me just to say hi, even if it’s been a while. We’re both busy and lead very different lives, but I’ve never doubted your support of me. The feeling is mutual, of course. I don’t show it as well as you because I’ve been in the trenches and haven’t had the opportunity to come up for air, but you’re always on my mind.
Please know that every inch of support you give me goes a mile. I look at our old pictures often. I’m proud of the person you became.
My Perfect Penpal
You haven’t said shit about the most recent occurrences, yet I know you’re totally aware. You’re kind of a badass in every sense of the word. I know I totally could freak out on you if I needed to (or — if I wanted to — because I actually do kind need to), and you would simply respond with a statement solid enough to be replied to by way of one great Google Image search.
Holy shit … I don’t know what I’d do without you. I appreciate the fact that we can have Eff Bomb Competitions all day long; sometimes, you’re the only person I “speak” to in an entire day.
I can’t actually remember how we became friends, but I’m sure it had to do with a similar disinterest about someone who publicly sucked. Thank you for hating awful people as much as I do ❤
That Dazzling Couple
It all started many years ago, at the end of a long table in a jazz club by my spot. Here we are, a decade or so into life, and you were kind enough to offer me a place of respite an entire country away.
I’ll likely take you up on the offer very soon. Thank you so much.
Over the years, we’ve gained a group of friends, had some dwindle away (myself included), and gone our separate paths. The fact that you still reached out to me, despite time and distance, meant a lot. I cried a lot when you messaged me. Please know how much I appreciated it.
The Supporter on the Other Side of My Screen
You’re a beautiful person. I barely know you, if at all, yet you gave me your number and extended your arms. There were times recently I wasn’t sure I could make it through the hour, but you gave me your number and told me I could call anytime. I’ve spoken to you only once; it was a long conversation that filled my heart with the honesty and love I’ve needed.
You’re a great person and friend. You already know that, but sometimes you doubt yourself. Chin up! I’m here if you’re here.
That Guy Who Made Me Feel Special for a Few Days
Like a gust of wind, you swooped out of nowhere, showered me with virtual affection, and disappeared into the night. I don’t think you understood the pivotal moment in which you approached me, but I definitely needed it.
I’m sorry if I said something wrong or offended you in some way, but I want to thank you for making me feel so special, even if it was only short lived. We go back a long time, so feel free to reach out to me if you ever want to talk again. I wish you success with school, your kiddo, work, and wherever life takes you.
My Cuss Buddy
Ha! So, my Eff Bomb Partner has found a competitor. Girl, you have no idea how important you are to me. There are a billion things I can’t tell other people for fear of judgment, but I can tell you. Besides the fact that your accent makes me wanna talk to you for days, your heart settles me down.
Everything you’ve given me, from friendship to work, has been beyond the bounds of anything I could have ever imagined. Keep making those family meals. They’re important, and your kids will remember how amazing your specially set plates are when they get older!
That Preschool Revamp
I’ll never forget the first time we talked a year or so ago. It was a long conversation, and I remember both of us commenting about the others’ voices. How long it’s been! How many miles we’ve come!
We lost touch for a really long time, but I always had you in my heart. I didn’t know how to find you because I didn’t know your last name. I disappeared in high school on purpose, so I lost a lot of that roadmap. I don’t regret any of that, but I did regret knowing how to find you. Thank you for making yourself available to me when I needed you.
The Unexpected Close Friend
By way of a message that read something along the lines of, “I feel like you need to know you’re not alone”, you touched my heart recently. I told you how proud I am of everything you’ve done over the past 20 years because I’m sure it was incredibly tough. I can’t even imagine. Everyone has kids now. Some are just starting out in life; some are starting their own lives. You were young when all of this began, and you’ve done an incredible way with making this world your own.
Your kids are great kids. That means you’re a great mom. Shit’s hard. Don’t let anybody tell you it’s not, because it is. Your team of humans are real people. They’re exactly what the world needs, and you made them. Be proud.
I don’t exactly get to talk to you often, but you’re my mom. I know you want the best for me, even when I’m struggling. I know you love me and think of me often. Thank you for giving me the tools to conquer this world as best I can, even I fall sometimes.
Let’s be real — this one isn’t a surprise. My plain-clothes superheroes are the two people who put me here. There are a billion words I could dedicate to the wishes I have that my dad could see me today, and even though he hasn’t been here to see me through this episode, he’s here.
It’s funny — they say time heals all wounds. My grief for this girl has never left. I live everyday, hoping to fulfill a little bit of the light she would have shone upon the world. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. So much of the person I am today came from the person she molded me into.
From fearless night walks through the cornfields to four-hour-long drives up north to see guys who couldn’t be less interested in us, you are so much of the reason I am the person I am. Every memory, moment, bit of fear, and incitement of excitement I felt when I was younger lives in me today.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that good people aren’t hard to come by, but good people who will be by your side when you need them are. I’ve been in a really hard spot lately. It’s not depression; it’s life.
There is a difference.
I do my best to be a good person and an even better friend.
To all of my plain-clothes heroes, thank you for taking the time out of your lives to make time for me.