Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Confessions: A Letter to Everyone In the World

Dear everyone in the world,

I apologize if sometimes I am awkward. I'm sorry if our attempt at talking came to a screeching halt, if I gave one-syllable answers, or if I can't easily say in person what I can say in writing. I do care about you, and want to make a connection. I'm just often a little bit at a loss as to how to make that happen.

The truth is that I have no idea how people make friends outside of the world of theatre. Or outside of a common activity. I'm friends with the teachers and staff at Alianza because I'm with them every day, helping to run a school. We have common experiences to talk about. But when I first meet someone, there aren't any of those common experiences yet. And I doubt that people would be interested in just discussing the "small talk" things that come to my mind in those moments--the convergence of Jupiter and Venus, the old English letter "thorn," or a collection of short stories retelling Biblical tales that I've been reading.

But I'm always afraid that there's not time for me to talk about things I really want to know about you. I don't want to make small talk. I want to know how you discovered the thing you're passionate about. I want to know if you get angry or sad when you're afraid. I want to know if you're closer to your mother or your father, and what books influenced you most as a child, and how you feel about Disneyland, and if you like spicy foods or not. I want to know what you are constantly telling yourself.

It's been fifteen years since middle school, but when I walk into a room of strangers who know each other, there are still moments when I feel like that bespectacled 8th-grader in a new town in Oregon, wondering where to place her lunch tray in the cafeteria. I forget how to sit, how to talk, how to be.

But here's what I keep reminding myself: The deepest and most beautiful friendships in my life have come from the moments when I had the courage to reach outward. Moments when I chose to stop doubting that people would love me, and instead, chose to reach out and love them. When I chose to ignore the voices saying "you are not good enough, you do not belong, no one is interested in your life." When I chose instead to tell someone else "you are good enough, you belong, I am interested in your life." When I did ask them those questions about how they discovered their passion and what books influenced them most.

And in those moments, I feel most like the truest version of myself. It's a strange paradox: that to find your truest self, you have to forget yourself, and reach outward.

So dear everyone in the world, I'm working on that. For every room full of strangers I've entered, with a little time, I've often left with at least one genuine friend. I remind myself of that when faced with the next room full of strangers. I remind myself that moments of feeling out of place will not last forever. I know that I will still have plenty of times when I feel awkward, and scared, and uncertain, and lost. But I'm learning to choose my way out of those moments, and to be my truest self--the self that's brave enough to reach out to the people I sense a connection with, and let them know how wonderful I think they are.

Because I really do think that so many people are wonderful.

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1 comment:

mandy_moo said...

You know, Liz, you may not realize this, but you and our other lovely roommates really made my first semester at BYU-I so much better than it would have otherwise been. You were really, really kind to me, and I appreciated it so much, even if I didn't express it well. I look back on my time in Chapman Hall with fondness. I wish *I* has been a better friend to *you,* but I think I was a hot mess being away from mommy and daddy for the first time and didn't really know how to handle it.