The most beautiful thing about life is that we always have opportunities to change its path. In the past three years, I have learned this well. Meeting one of my oldest and dearest friends today for lunch granted me the opportunity to hear her story, and learn her version of this truth in a way that left me literally in tears. For the sake of anonymity, we will call her ‘Jill’.
Jill and I met when I was only 8 and she was 6. We roller skated together, and quickly hit it off with our quirky personalities. Jill’s parents were going through a violent and malicious separation, and Jill herself had been witness to some pretty terrible physical fights, yelling matches, and emotional manipulation. So much so that she learned how to lie with the worst of them. Deception became a way of life for Jill, and a means for survival in such a deplorable environment. Her father was an alcoholic, and had taken to stalking and bullying she and her mom on a daily basis until he finally moved out of state and left them to clean up the many messes he had strewn across their lives. They lost their home, lost their support, and eventually lost friends who had continuously tried helping them.
Throughout the years that followed, Jill became more and more distant with me because she had started exploring the world of drugs and alcohol, which led to more lies and deception. Our friendship suffered, no matter how much I tried reaching out to her, because she was ashamed. She knew better. I never fully confronted her, nor did I burn that bridge, out of a hope that someday this ‘little sister’ would find her way and return. I decided at around 18 that I had no other choice than to love her from a distance. She had closed me out, locking the door firmly…. but not permanently.
Nineteen years and thousands of tears later, she let me back in. Only this time, she stands on solid ground with a good 6 years of sobriety under her belt. She spends her days and nights helping rescue others from the path that almost took her life. By the end of our lunch today, we were both sharing tears of gratitude. I am so proud of her, of what she has been through, and risen from, but more than that, I am proud of her for telling her story and changing her path.
Although our paths have been very different, we both have ended up finding the same answers. We have both struggled with such issues as abandonment, self-destruction, and co-dependency. But we have both come to the conclusion that none of these problems should ever define us, excuse us, or end our journeys. There is something to be said for rising from the ashes. We all must learn how to spread our own wings, make our own way. No one can do that for us. We all have different ashes from which to rise, and we all must find a way to unburden our wings. When we do this, and fully commit to flying as far from the ashes as gravity allows, we learn that we were actually meant to soar.