Tuesday, April 9, 2013

9/30 Part 1 - 10 People of Influence

9: List 10 people who have influenced your life and describe how.

So, I realized that if I said everything I wanted to about these 10 people (or groups of people), this post would be pages and pages long. So, each number gets its own post to save you from getting too bored.

I feel much more able to do each person/group justice to the amount of influence they have had on my life.

The list:
(in order of when they will be posted, not importance to me; that order would be impossible to commit to)

1. Jessica and the Seattle gang
2. Amanda and the Coding Lab gang
3. My high school band director
4. Veronica Roth (yep, you're getting more of that)
5. My Mission President
6. McKenzie
7. June Bee
8. Malorie
9. My Sisters
10. -Honestly, I'm still deciding who this is/will be, therefore, the order may change a little, we'll see
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#1. Jessica and the rest of the Seattle gang
(disclaimer: No, we were not an actual gang).

The summer of 2008 was spent in Seattle with an amazing group of girls. We lived in 3 top floor penthouses in an old apartment complex right next to I-5. We had roof access, needed keys in the elevator to get to our floor, slept in rooms big enough to fit 3 people easily with a kitchen that could barely fit two.

We were there doing research on families and what promotes healthy family outcomes. That was good experience for sure, but it is not what sticks out to me.

What sticks out is how I changed that summer. How I drove to Seattle by myself because I was too scared to drive that far with someone I barely knew; I didn’t really know  anyone I would be living with for the next 4 months. And then somehow, drove away feeling like my heart, which finally felt whole and healthy and happy, was being ripped out of my chest. Going from not knowing these girls, to feeling like I didn’t know how to live without them.

The course of my life changed forever that summer. And it was because of Jessica. And Brittany 1, Brittany 2, Cherice, and Janae. Because of Stephanie and Danielle and Jami and Kimber and Jennifer and Celeste and Charity and Chara and Rhea and Malvina and Valerie. (and please tell me I didn’t forget anyone. If I did – sorry!)

That combination of girls was somehow perfect, God-led and God-inspired, to change me. But the thing is, I didn’t actually change at all. What changed was my perception of myself. My acceptance of who I was. The realization that I was not nearly as deficient as I had always thought. The knowledge – yes, knowledge, not just belief – that these girls accepted me. That they loved me. And nothing I could do would change that.

I learned that they didn’t just kinda like me in spite of my flaws. But they loved me because of them. And that difference, if you haven’t felt, is huge.

I learned that the things about myself that I was always a little embarrassed about were actually strengths and qualities that endeared me to other people. Never, and I do mean never, had that possibility entered my heart.

Through Randy (the project director), I learned that I was not just simply shy. My whole life had been determined and colored by the fact that I thought I was shy; there was something wrong with me; I was different and could never truly be accepted as long as I had those differences, except by a very select few.

He taught us (though it felt like he was just teaching me because of the lightning bolts shooting across my brain, rewiring all of my previously held beliefs) about introversion and extroversion. He taught me that to be introverted does not mean I am shy, but that I renew my energy stores by being alone, by thinking and processing my world, rather than by being with people. For the first time, I realized I didn’t have to change who I was to be loved by others, and more importantly, to be loved by myself.

I learned that I was not inherently wrong or bad or in need of a major personality overhaul. That actually, I was quite normal. And that my feelings about myself did not have to be determined by the society that taught me I was wrong, that I could defy the extroverted ideal and embrace this central part of my identity.

I learned from Jessica in particular, that two people, who are extreme opposites on the introverted/extroverted scale, can become incredibly close friends and balance each other out. I learned how to work through differences because of greater understanding rather than assuming my friend didn’t love me or wanted to hurt me.

Leaving that group of people, and Jessica especially, was the hardest thing I’d done up to that point. Almost everyone else was going to be at BYU together the next year, but I was moving home and soon to leave on an 18-month mission. It broke my heart to know that I would not be there with all of them. That they would all be graduated by the time I got back. That chances were very high that I would not have that same relationship with any of them ever again.

My heart felt like it was getting ripped out my chest when I got a package from Jessica full of reminders of our summer as roommates in that Seattle penthouse apartment because I missed her so much and longed for those days to return. My stomach dropped to the floor when I realized I had lost her address so I couldn’t write her back. I still regret being careless about that little piece of paper.

When I returned from my mission, and went back to Provo, I slipped into the closest thing to a depression as I’d ever felt because those people I loved were not there.

(Sidenote: that was when I fell in love with and became obsessed with Supernatural. I was hurting so much, felt so empty, and knew literally no one but my brother, that I became a little addicted to the adrenaline I felt when I watched those first scary episodes of Seasons 1 and 2. I replaced my emptiness with adrenaline and couldn’t get enough. You know, of the adrenaline AND those gorgeous men).

I still miss these friends all the time. Some I saw a few times my last year at BYU, some I didn’t. But I know that they all still care about me, just as I still care about them. And that if we ever were to get together, it would be just like old times.

And even if it weren’t, 2008 in Seattle was still the best summer of my life.

Because these girls picked up a mirror and showed me who I was and taught me to love that person I’d seen staring back at me for 21 years.

And for that, I will always, always be grateful.

To all of my Seattle friends: I miss you. Most of you I see updates of your lives on Facebook and it makes me happy to see that you are doing well. I wish each of you all the best - for what you gave me, you seriously deserve everything. Love you forever and thanks again. :)

Next up: Remember that almost depression I talked about? Well, Amanda and the coding lab are the ones who saved me from that. 

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