A few Fridays ago, I left right from school and drove through a tornado to go visit my friend Rachel in Norfolk, VA. That’s right, I said a TORNADO…shockingly enough this is not the first time this has happened. No, I’m not a lunatic or even an amateur storm chaser..it’s just that, well, Rachel is the friend you drive through tornadoes for. I am lucky enough to have a fairly large handful of girlfriends that are worthy of making me take on extreme weather conditions. Now if I’m being honest with you, it wasn’t always this way. I was lucky enough to grow up in the suburbs, right outside of Washington DC, in a pretty neighborhood filled with kids my own age. I have a twin sister (I’m the goof on the right seriously rockin’ those 80’s shades)
and while I had friends, the older I got, the more content I became to hang out with her instead of the incredibly clique-driven kids that I went to school with. Now I’m sure I had plenty of flaws, but the endless gossiping, judging and general shit-talking was simply not something that sat comfortably on my shoulders. Picture the high school from the movie “Mean Girls.” The divides weren’t quite that extreme but they were pretty close. Part of this was self-imposed, part of it wasn’t. I wasn’t a loner by any means and between my sister and I, we knew pretty much every kid in my high school. Being a twin turned out to be kind of a big deal..go figure…so I inadvertently racked up a few cool points there. I was also active in sports and music, so that helped me out a bit too.
I’m a people person by nature and have some supremely awesome parents who taught me to appreciate many different qualities no matter the outside package. So I was what I like to call a FLOATER..You see, I had friends in every group, which unfortunately meant that I was never really 100% a part of any of them. And really, that was ok with me most of the time. I remember the exact moment when I started to realize that I didn’t really give a shit whether or not I was accepted by the “cool kids” at my school. My sister was diagnosed with thyroid cancer our junior year of high school. Pretty soon word got out and suddenly Joanna (and me by proximity) was Miss Popularity. It’s funny how many things you get invited to when people think there’s a chance you could die. We were invited to a sleepover at one girl’s house..someone we had known for years and been friendly with but never super close to. We had a great time…talked about boys…ate junk food and Joanna and I were overwhelmed by the warmth and attention being showered on us. We were cool! At some point, late in the night, I was a little drunk on junk food and lack of sleep and so I asked why they hadn’t ever invited us to one of their sleepovers before. The awkward silence that followed left an ache in my stomach. I don’t know if it was the Doritos or the sudden realization that we had only been invited this time because they thought Joanna was dying. Cancer…it turned out..was the ultimate celebrity. My spine stiffened and that ache turned to a hot, angry burn. I looked at those girls, with their candy pink nails and coordinating pajamas, and told them more than asked. “So that’s why you invited us isn’t it? Because Joanna has cancer.” They shifted uncomfortably and someone offered up a lame “of course not!” I let the moment go, pretending I had just been kidding and they grabbed onto it like a lifeline. And when we left that next morning, I knew that I would never EVER be friends with ANYONE like that again. I’d rather be alone. That’s when I stopped giving a shit about what people like that thought of me and if I was cool enough for them or not.
Joanna didn’t die. Her thyroid did. The Cancer did. But she didn’t. 🙂 We never did get invited back for another sleepover. I could not have cared less.
I did have a best friend, Amy, who was seriously cool. I hit the jackpot meeting her freshman year and we were inseparable for the rest of high school. She was just so different..on the weekends we would ride the metro into DC, linger in the museums, find festivals to explore and talk endlessly about art and music and anything that popped into our heads. For the first time, I had found someone, who didn’t share my gene pool, that I could be completely myself with. I’ve always been kind of quirky..I’m not just trying to be cute here. I was that kid who was always getting in trouble for reading inside her desk in class, I have a ridiculous sense of humor, make weird word associations, my brain is a crazy jumble of thoughts that ping-pong back and forth. I wonder.. constantly.. about EVERYTHING. When I was little, I thought I could communicate with dolphins anytime I was submerged in water. After watching “Ferngully,” I was thoroughly convinced that I could place my hand on trees and feel their pain as the neighborhood boys nailed wooden planks into their limbs to make a tree house. Told ya..weirdo. So anywho, now at the ripe-old age of almost 29 (eeeek), I am surrounded by friends who accept me for the weirdo I am. They have beautiful hearts and are all different and make me better. I’m constantly grateful for that and often willing to drive through severe weather in order to show it.
I did make it through the tornado, you’ll be happy to hear..and made it just in time to catch a movie with Rachel and her two girlfriends. It was called “The Other Woman,” and starred Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann and Kate Upton. In case you haven’t seen it, it’s about a woman named Carly who finds out her oh so handsome boyfriend also happens to be someone else’s husband. Hilarity ensues, quite a bit of man-bashing, and some tender moments between the women make for an entertaining girls’ night out. Sitting there, face-to-face/face-to-movie screen with an overdramatic example of what happened to me two Septembers ago (has it been that long?) I waited to feel the heartache of those memories. I could feel Rachel’s anxious gaze flicking over to me constantly. “I’m so sorry,” she kept whispering, “I should have picked something else.” I stopped her. “No seriously, this is great. I’m totally good.” And that heartache that I was waiting for, it never came..but RELIEF did. Relief that I wasn’t lying. I really was good. Completely and totally GOOD.
And part of the reason I am good is because I have friends like Rachel…who cried with me on the phone countless times…sharing my heartbreak as if it were her own…friends like Leigh..who forced me to come over to her house at least twice a week so I would actually eat food…and Casie, who would make me take a shower and get dressed up and go out..(and sign up on a dating site)..and Ashlea who spent the nights when I felt lost in a bed that was way too big for me..and Dana and Elyse and Nicole who texted and called constantly to make sure I never ever felt alone. I could go on..Each drop of their love filled the ocean in me. I am good because of them and let that be a lesson to all of you out there..Your heart can never be completely broken..not while you have friends to hold the cracks together. Let the tornadoes come…the one that picked me up and tossed me around on that fateful day in September hurt for sure..but it also set me down in a place that was SO…MUCH…BETTER. I’m not in Kansas anymore Toto…and I’m feeling pretty great about it.