When I went to New York City this summer, I got the chance to reconnect with an old friend. We went to high school together and it had been 30 years since we had talked to each other. I considered Lizz to be one of my best friends back then.
After we met, she stayed on my mind….and I couldn’t figure out why. I did talk with a few people about seeing her, people who would know her, like my family. But even that aside, I kept thinking back to our meeting. We decided to connect at a local Manhattan bar at about 1:00pm. Once we got talking, I didn’t look at the clock until about 4:30pm. It felt like no time had passed at all.
At first, when thinking about the meet up, I remembered her bright blue eyes, honest, energetic, excited. I also thought about how contented she was. I’m not sure what I expected but what I found was so beautiful.
After a while, when it kept resurfacing, I really started to think about why. I met Lizz at a very difficult time in my life. High school is not a picnic for most people but it was especially hard for me given that my parents had divorced while I was in 6th grade, I was a nerd (too smart), transitioned from a Catholic grade school and I was struggling with being gay.
When I met Lizz, she was into alternative music and theater, she dressed differently, she had a mohawk. She used to drive me to school and I remember one day when she pulled up, she was slouched down in the seat. I couldn’t figure out why until I got in the car and saw that she had three long spikes of hair coming off her head that were hitting the ceiling of the car. Each had been sprayed a different color. And when we got to school, Lizz walked in confidently. She even told some girl who was staring to take a picture.
With my adult eyes, I look back and see the power of that connection. Me, a self-conscious, awkward, goofy teenager that didn’t fit in, with this tower of self-confidence and self-assurance. I’m sure that Lizz didn’t always feel that way but it looked that way to me.
Lizz taught me that it was OK to be different from everyone else. That you could accept yourself despite all of your differences. To stand out was a good thing.
More importantly, when we met up in NY, I was able to see that Lizz was still the same inside. There’s a bright light inside of her that is still shining. She pursued her dreams, she’s at peace.
Not perfect, still evolving…
But the superpower is still there: unconditional acceptance.
It changes you.
It changed me.