B* had a nice post the other day about how “people attend to details about us that we might not ever notice.” This reminded me of a wonderful conversation I had with GoldenFriend the other night. Golden and I went to college together, and we’ve kept in touch off and on ever since, even though at this point we haven’t seen each other for a few years. Most of the time months will go by between conversations, but one of us always breaks the silence, and we always manage to find a connection again. This is something I treasure.
She called me a few nights ago, and during our conversation (especially with all the recent kids-off-to-college posts I’ve read in the blogosphere), it struck me that Golden and I met for the first time on our first day of college, almost exactly twenty years ago. Twenty years! So I asked her: Golden, you sound the same, you have the same sense of humor, I still think I know what matters to you and what your days are like. But it’s been twenty years since we’ve met, and we haven’t been around each other much for the last sixteen of those twenty. What’s different about you now? How should I adjust my mental image of you to match the person you are now?
Golden and I love these kinds of topics, so she took that question and ran with it, and we had a fascinating conversation. As part of this, of course, she tossed the same question back at me. I responded that in some ways I’m more brave than I used to be, because I have more experience and I’m more confident in my abilities. But in some ways, surprisingly, I’m less brave. There are things I did without thinking twenty years ago that just boggle the mind now (arriving in the Bangkok airport in the middle of the night with no idea of where I was going to stay is one example that comes to mind). I’m glad I did those things while I did, because the thought of them terrifies me now, and I have no idea where I got the nerve to do them them. At this point Golden interrupted me and said “But one of the things I most vividly remember you telling me then is that sometimes you did things precisely because they scared you. You said that if something was scary just because it was a challenge, that was a better reason to do it than not to do it, and that’s exactly why you flew off to Bangkok. That was always one of the things I admired most about you.”
What’s funny is that I don’t remember saying that at all, but here she’s carried it around for twenty years as part of her idea of me. (And, come to think of it, that is exactly why I flew off to Bangkok.) I’ve been facing some interesting professional opportunites lately, and they’re both exciting and scary. I’m afraid of making big commitments; I’m afraid of making a mess in front of lots of people; I’m thinking that maybe the common-sense thing to do would be to back off a bit, save my strength, not get over-burdened.
But now I wonder - maybe I should look at myself through Golden’s eyes, and take the advice I gave myself twenty years ago. Why the heck not?