This has been one of the most exciting months of my life. I moved back home, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and had my first surgery.
This made me realize a few really important things about love that I’ve always thought about but spent little time contemplating. Not sappy, Nicholas Sparks love, but real-life, down and dirty way-you-love-your-best-friends-love.
First: moving home.
Not an easy task when you’re 24 years old. I was mostly embarrassed at first, but my friends helped conjure up some good excuses, and then reminded me of them after the first week of my Dad texting me when I wasn’t home by midnight. Bigger picture excuses. This brings me to thing I’ve learned about love and friendship NUMBER 1: Be a public defender.
Moving home was the right decision for me, as difficult as it was to swallow the giant lump of pride I kept gagging on the first few weeks. Moving home allowed me Prague. If I would have continued my lease, not only would I not have the money to go, but I wouldn’t have realized that my family will survive without me. I needed the support of my friends to make it okay. Even though I was trying to convince myself that it was okay to be 24 and living at home, and it was okay to make a leap and be scared to death, I needed the people around me who know me the best to tell me the same thing. I needed the people around me to believe in me.
Which led to the next step in my journey: Committing to Prague.
There were mixed reactions. A little sadness, some excitement, but one really bad reaction that came from some of the people I’m closest to:
The selfish reaction. A ‘that’s not fair of you to leave‘ reaction that I got from some people – some with whom I’m closest. It was disappointing. I realize that I’m going to be really far away and that’s scary. I realize our dreams were different when we were younger. We won’t get married like we joked about; I may not be around for the things I thought I would; you may die while I’m gone; I may die while I’m gone.
So this led to thing I’ve learned about love and friendship NUMBER 2: Listen to all testimony before delivering your verdict.
I’ve sooo been this friend before: “OMG you’re engaged… are you sure that’s a good idea?” WRONG. “Have you thought this through?” WRONG. “You’re kidding, right?” WRONG!
By this time, the person telling you does think it’s a good idea, they have thought it through and they are not kidding. A lot of times, your initial reaction has your best interest at heart, even if you might not realize it. The life you have been picturing is shattered and you are hurt. I know that a lot of the bad reactions I got about Prague were because my friends were scared and felt betrayed that all of the plans we had been making for so long went up in a puff of Eastern European smoke.
But here’s the thing: even if you know – without a doubt – that your friend is ruining their life, now isn’t the time to bring it up. Hear. Listen. Absorb. Our little brains are swimming with endorphins and nerves are firing like missiles in WWII at the point. Shooting down someone’s dreams won’t talk them out of it. They just won’t talk to you about it. If someone you care about is really making a bad decision, bring it up another time when the anxiety of their big news is no longer around and you’re both able to breach the subject with a cool head.
Chances are, even if they are making a mistake in your eyes, you are going to have to learn to live with it, because as much as they love you, they probably won’t be changing their mind. Which brings us to things I’ve learned about love and friendship NUMBER 3: The judge sits alone. In other words, if you decide to be judgmental, you run the risk that no one will care what your ruling is.
Next came the surgery.
So, with the excitement of Prague still fresh on my mind and my Facebook wall, I started feeling bad. Eventually, my stomach ache led to a surgery (This isn’t a pity post – I’m fine). But, this was my first of anything like this before. I only told a few people because it wasn’t a big deal at the time and I didn’t want people to worry.
But, it made me realize who did worry, which made me see things differently. I got flowers from work and at first, thought how caring that was. But then I realized, no one from work asked how I was doing but one person (my boss) and no one even responded to the email I sent updating everyone. The disheartening truth is that the flowers are probably a box on a list to check when someone is out of work for more than a week. A corporate facade of concern. And that wasn’t the only facade. The one person who I confided in completely couldn’t even remember to remember. He pretended to be concerned, like he thought he was supposed to, but didn’t follow through in the end (and trust me, that wasn’t the first time he wasn’t able to follow through.) There’s another lesson here: Eventually, you run out of appeals. And, when that day comes, you don’t get to be a thing that matters anymore. People will stop answering your calls.
The check-list flowers did make me realize, one thing, however: There are people who genuinely care about me. That is a good feeling to have. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not measuring the value of my friendships on who showed the most concern about me during this one week of my life; I only told a few people anyway. I did grow to re-appreciate a few people a lot more though. Dominic, who I forced into being my best friend in the seventh grade, has been texting me relentlessly. Having him prove that he was worried to death made me love him even more. Kaylyn came over just to spend a few hours doing nothing with me on a Friday night because I couldn’t go anywhere. There are others, of course too. This leads me to thought on love and friendship Number 5: When you love someone, never stop proving it to them.
I’ve received more love in the form of calls, texts, skypes, cards, flowers, milkshakes (thanks mom), kind words and favors
than I remember ever having received at any one time in my life. Or, maybe I’ve just noticed it more.
And, it’s not that we need these things to validate our love, but I’ll tell you this: it is good to be reminded. So thank you
to everyone in my life who continues to be my public defenders, my jury, my peers and my constant support.
You make me better and make me strive for better.
So my closing thought is this: Notice the love around you, and return it in droves.