well, Boone, I’m on the threshold of another transition, and if anyone knows that I don’t transition well, it’s certainly you. (PS, I’m glad we can joke about that now.) I didn’t give you much of a chance in the beginning. I made up my mind about you before I ever even got here, but you never held that against me. Not once. You were gracious and patient and I was not. This happened innumerable times, I know it did, but you never ever kept track. Anyway, I don’t want to rush off to my next place and forget to tell you the good things I picked up during our time together.
I learned how to be myself here. I learned how to stop hiding inside of the skin of all the versions of myself I thought I was supposed to be – the versions that were more impressive or scholarly, the ones that looked better, the ones that were more hell-bent on perfection and saving face and doing no wrong and having no fun or grace or patience. More importantly, I stopped even wanting to want to be those versions. Other places have been trying to teach me that my whole life, but you did it in a year and a half. No small task.
I learned how to love myself here. To believe in myself and respect myself. You were a safe haven. You gave me the space I needed to fall apart and lay everything out on the table and sort through it all, through all the things and parts of me I’d been neglecting. I look at all the parts of me, the ones I was ashamed of before especially, and I love them. For whatever reason, I just couldn’t get there on my own, before you. And I don’t mean just how to love myself as a person, but myself as a process. As a work in progress. As a “getting there” and a “not there yet” and an “on her way to something glorious and full of beauty.”
You taught me how to slow down. How to relax and take care of myself for once. You taught me that uncertainty in the future is a fact of life, and that I would do best to just enjoy the present moment. Your pace is slow, and mine is not, and you helped me find a balance that I needed very badly. I am a better version of me when I’m not going full speed all the time. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I ended up in a graduate program that taught self-compassion like it was a secret concentration that we each figured out how to pick up in our own way and on our own time. (I think it took me the longest.)
You gave me the people I needed. Oh, did you ever. You and Jesus must have really done some planning a long time ago with all this in mind, the way you planted sweet souls here for me. There were some here that hurt me, there were some haters, let’s not glaze over that part, but even they were gifts. Because they were vehicles that you used.
You taught me how to stand up for myself. All the space you provided gave me the environment I needed to grow some thick skin after seasons in which vulnerability was too painful. And when vulnerability became my choice, you taught me how to use my voice, and to tell my story with power because people need to hear it, and that I am the champion of my own story and struggles. You taught me that the haters don’t have the last work, that they are often more bark than bite, but mostly that I can survive the bites. And that haters gon’ hate, and so whatever, honestly.
I was a little more lost than I’d like to admit when I got to you, and somehow, despite all my resistance, you gave me the space I needed to find myself for the millionth time. And, well, if you’d treated me the way I treated you, I’d be in pretty bad shape right about now. You were always gracious, and I see now why people adore you so; why they let you nestle into their hearts, all curled up in a special sweet spot, reserved for you forever.
This was a defining season. One in which I made a visit to my dear old friend rock bottom and had to explore so many things – the kind of woman I want to be, and why, and how to get there.
Someone asked me the other night how on earth I could handle being a counselor, how much pressure it must be to think of what to say to people and know how to help them, figure out what they need. And I said that it wasn’t really about all that at all. It’s about giving people a safe space to emote and think and be. It’s about holding that space for them, and giving them all the security and sanctuary they need for all the time they need it.
You taught me that. You held space for me.
I’m sorry I didn’t believe in your ability to do that at first.
“What do you need?” you asked, a well of compassion in your eyes when I arrived here two summers ago.
“I don’t know. Leave me alone, I'm tired,” I said.
“That’s fine. You need to rest. This is your space to not know. And when you do know, it’s still your space. And when you need me, I’ll be here,” you said.
I think that’s all you can ever really ask for in a friend.
And then, one day I did know. That day was in September. I remember it well. And you were still with me, after a solid year of me telling you that you were no good at all and entirely too cold and that I certainly had not before and did not now and would not ever need your help.
The truth is that I always did need your help. I always have and I still do, and I’ll carry your lessons with me in my heart, all curled up in a special sweet spot, reserved for you forever.
I can’t promise that I’ll miss the snow, but I can promise you that you’re the reason why I’m launching so well into the next phase of my life. Well, you and Jesus.
Y’all make a great team, and I’m awfully thankful.
I'll use everything you taught me; I promise that, too. I'll keep holding space and will pray that you keep on keepin' on.
And just don't ever change, alright? You'll get some people like me who demand that out of you, but please don't.
We need you exactly the way you are.