26 November 2014

How well can you REALLY know someone?

People say I’m intimidating. A good friend recently told me she doesn’t feel like she knows me very well despite having traveled together to another country and knowing each other for years.
I’ve heard this for much of my life actually. “You’re intimidating.” In high school I was on our Speech and Debate Team. I know what you’re thinking – of course debate competitors would find me intimidating: I love to argue and always have to be right! But, you see, I didn’t compete on the debate team. I performed in the Humorous Oral Interpretation and DUO Interp divisions – both Speech categories – in situations where I was meant to be funny. And I was funny. I got seventh in HOI at State, and my DUO partner Danny and I won the grand prize at our high school talent show. 

See? Not scary.

Me and my band/drama buddy James in high school.

Yet something about ME was unapproachable to my competitors (and some members of my own team). I wore a black suit and pull my hair back into a tight bun, but then again, so did everyone. What was so different about me?
As I got older, I had to let this “criticism” go a little bit. I'm short and have strong opinions and a big personality and maybe that's intimidating. Instead I choose to look at myself like this: when I look in the proverbial mirror, I see myself as welcoming and approachable and fun and an ambassador-of-ridiculous. It makes me really happy when I can connect people to each other. I like to be the one who organizes and makes decisions, and who others see as a source of information and support. Just last week I had three friends call me to be a job or housing reference – I love that sort of thing!
I strive to always be true to myself and lead my life in an authentic way. I’m always incredibly touched (and often surprised) whenever someone says they’ve been inspired by something I’ve said or done. I’m so grateful when people take time to read my little blog and tell me what they think. I’m open to new ways to be silly and welcome others to embrace their own crazy sides knowing I won’t judge them for it.
I feel like all of these things are incredibly obvious, but maybe not. I often wonder, “other than my bitchy resting face, what about me is hard to get to know?”
But I suppose I’m like anyone. I have a very private side. There are things I just don’t want to talk about, or things I rarely talk about. I can be sensitive. I’m picky about who I get to know at a deeper level. I like to make new friends, but only if it doesn’t disrupt the normal flow of my life. If you wanna go climbing or running or skiing I’d love to get to know you better, but if you’re looking for a movie buddy or want to grab happy hour after work or invite me to your mid-afternoon party on a Saturday I’m afraid you’re out of luck. 
I’m highly critical of ignorance. Be informed. Know what you’re talking about if you’re going to have a strong opinion. Don't just spout something you've heard or read - regardless of source. I’m unforgiving when it comes to language and grammar. Learn the difference between Your and You’re and we’re going to get along just fine.
Which is my way of saying I’ve decided I'm like an avocado - a little tough and rugged on the outside, but full of good delicious substance once you get through the skin. Be careful with skin though, because even if you can’t break through, I do bruise easily - something you as an outsider might never see. Then even under all the mushy stuff, there's still this really, really tough core few will take the time to bore into. I’m not even sure I know yet all of the things in the core – but isn’t that the excitement about getting older? Unearthing new and unforeseen quirks and passions which make you uniquely you?

What would you be?

As we grow up we learn evermore about ourselves: our motivations, aspirations, what makes us happy, and ultimately, why we get out of bed every morning. As we learn about ourselves we learn about the types of people we want in our lives – those who reflect back something we see, or want to see, in ourselves. Some are friends for a reason, some are friends for a season, and some are friends for a lifetime. You won’t always know why you knew someone until long after you don’t talk anymore, but that doesn’t make them any less valuable to your life. You may have only gotten to know that ONE part of them, but it's the part that sticks with you that matters.
One final story – my best female friend Allison and I have known each other for going on 13-years (sheesh!). That’s the entirety of our adult lives. She’s seen me go from this angry, cynical tight-wad with a chip on her shoulder to someone who smiles more than she frowns and understands the value of being generous. I’ve watched Allison transform from a quiet-wallflower unsure of herself or her direction into a gregarious, magnetic-personality making her own way in the male-dominate profession of scientific research.
Allison and I haven’t always seen eye to eye. We haven’t always been super close. Like any relationship, our friendship has ebbed and flowed. And even though she's my best friend, I have often wondered what I would do for her – what would she really need – in a time of crisis. It's my barometer for all friendships actually. I wonder things like: What would make her feel better? Should I go over there? Bring ice cream? Order pizza? Tell her a funny story? Should I make her talk about what happened to distract her from what's going on? Should I just leave her alone entirely? Try not to be one. more. thing she has to worry about?

I don't have those answers. I don’t think she’d be able to answer those questions for me. But at the end of the day I know she, and all of my other friends, would be there for me. And I for her. That's what friendship is all about.
And really, what more do you need to know?

Friendship.

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