I am surprised by the way I feel after I leave my hometown and head back from the holidays. My time there was different than it ever has been. I’m different than I ever have been. I met my family in a way I never could before. I interacted with old friends I had been too ashamed to see until now. I could go to people with no self loathing or excuses. I am proud of the person I am becoming and forgiving of the person I once was. Those who knew me a lifetime ago struggled with the stories they heard about the life I’d led in their absence. It was encouraging that they weren’t quick to place me in those roles. They met me with nothing but love. They acted truly happy for the journey I’ve set out on and treated me with respect. It is still something I have a hard time accepting. The smiles on their faces as we rehashed our stories brought so much inspiration for the person they believe me to be. There is still much they don’t know, but they are convinced the core person inside of me is lovely and kind and beautiful. It may take awhile, but I am beginning to agree with them. They were so happy for me. It warmed every part of me and sparked a deeper acceptance of the goodness of humanity.
It was fascinating to be reemerged in the “old neighborhood”. It made my current life seem lightyears away. How could both worlds exist simultaneously? How could I fit into both of them? Maybe I never did. Maybe I never will. Everyone from the good ole days has gone in wildly different directions. We’ve ended up all over the country and wander in and out of town like ships in the night. This is the first time I have encountered my past in this way. I’m glad the opportunity did not present itself earlier. I would have been so embarrassed for them to see me the way I was not long ago. Even after my sexual acting out ended, I was very confused. Lost. Arrogant. I had not yet learned to just shut up (a lesson I am still absorbing)!
I wish we had more time to delve into the paths they had traveled to get to today’s destination. It may take another 15 years to fully get caught up. From what I did hear, everyone has had battles they struggled through alone. Trials they faced unprepared. Lessons that came harshly and without warning. None of us could have predicted our introduction into the adult world or how we would navigate our way in it. Some of us spent our time falling short. Some awoke to dreams they never expected. Some gave up too quickly. Those of us who fought through are still here, still standing, still reaching out for the love we once understood innately. Now reunited, we can see that the love was always there, tucked away in a old photo album we had all but forgotten. It is a love that goes beyond reason, commonality and distance. It was one born of wonderful naiveté and unknown necessity of those wide-eyed kids acting tough in the halls as a fog of vulnerability billowed beneath the surface. I come back to them now not actually all that different from the past. I am still a little lost, a little insecure, a little out of place, a little afraid of my uncertain future, and a little in need of their acceptance. The change comes in that I now understand their love does not end because of those things.
It lasts because it is pure.
It is strong.
It is universal.
It is real.
It is a pillar that strengthens who I am and something that will live in my heart forever.
We may be separated by miles and time and choices, but the promise we made almost 20 years ago still binds us. We were and always will be friends forever.