About My People
“Your hand on my side, leading the way. 10,000 horses couldn’t pull me away.” — Mat Kearney, “Face To Face”
I call them my army of last true believers. They’ve witnessed me at my worst, celebrated me at my highest. They’re diverse in their life experiences, rooted in their own separate beliefs, and yet, always ready and able to be my own personal frontline. United for a shared purpose — me. They are my safest place to land.
I got the message that night, she had already been on the other end of the phone. It’s hard to know which of us was more choked on our tears and disappointment.
To be high and surrounded by people is a given. The fantasy lends itself to easy love that doesn’t last longer than flights from the east to the west coast. A foundation poured in 5 hours and 55 minutes is quicksand. Ready to swallow and end in despair. The relationships I’m most proud of aren’t quick affairs, they’ve seen dips, and cement poured through night shifts full of just as many laughs as there were tears. They’re made of chocolate cake at favorite New York spots, Starbucks dates where knees bumped and hugs felt like gravitational pulls. They’re calls while they drive just to make sure I know they hear me, messages into the early morning to know that I’m not alone after the “nothing good happens after 2am” rule.
I tucked my legs under my body, as I slipped into the diner booth, between us would sit some of my most wrecked moments. My friend carried them because my shoulders couldn’t anymore.
For every day that I made the choice to show up for myself and what was best for me, there was an army of people who reminded me that above all else they trusted me and my judgement. Every single day. Every single day I was reminded that I was respected for making good decisions, that my moral compass wasn’t off, that in a maze I was who they would turn to. To be seen and known as a beacon who could hold her own during stormy times was a vote of confidence that I hadn’t even given myself during this season. To have friends who showed up with love, no judgement, and all their time — they made my gratitude list easy to write out every single night.
After the end of 12 hour days, she would write me paragraphs telling me that life meanders and that in dark seasons she was with me. That she didn’t usually pray, but there she was, praying.
The night I found the lump in my breast, I sat and wondered how the universe fathomed that I was strong enough for another layer of reckoning. I was on my bed, in my favorite pajamas, and cried. I touched my breast, willed it to disappear, and when it didn’t, I did the next best thing — held myself accountable to getting checked by telling my people. Then it dawned on me, I was as strong as the army that showed up for me every single morning, no matter the fight. On my knees, I prayed. And I didn’t do it alone. Right next to me was every morning text telling me I was on their mind, the one who googled all my symptoms just to calm my anxiety.
The Christmas pajamas I’m wearing on the night I write this have matching sets in Connecticut, Austin, and Iowa. Next to my leg is a box of my favorite cookies, they were overnighted in a care package that reminds me I am loved well by a mom who lets me call her my own.
In the waiting room of a clinic that has seen me at my worst and at my best, I found myself sitting next to someone I hadn’t expected to be sitting next to as of 3pm the day before. I was grateful for the change of plans. The energy was different, more focused on me than it would have been. I did for myself the night before what I had taught myself to do throughout the last few years — show up for what’s best for me. My friend texted me a prayer written for me. I read it. Then said a second prayer thanking God for her.
She texted me that morning, “look at the ways your people show up in your life and let that dictate the way you expect others to act. you shouldn’t be settling for less.” She should know, she’d shown up every day I’d asked her to. Had automatically volunteered to on the days I didn’t ask.
When Mat Kearney sings, “I don’t need much with you my love, because the champagne drains and the airplane fame turns into rust,” I think of my people who know substance trumps nights popping bottles and doing it for the 'gram. I know they will be there when the highs of my life, my career, turn into lows. Because they always have been. Because here we are.
How you experience that moment of reckoning is a direct result of the choices you make prior to it coming. You can look in the mirror and see the army you’re a part of, protecting your six like they know you would do for them. Or, you may look in the mirror and ask yourself where it all went — the success, the highs, the groves of people begging to be in your presence —because in the reflection stands you and the remnants of a reputation that was once whole and relationships that were, but no longer are.
I get to look in the mirror and see my people. Every moment this season that I came across those who aren’t lucky enough to have someone tell them they’re worth more than their going rate, made me just want to hold my people tighter. They reminded me not to sell myself short, not to stop rallying for myself, not to give into fear while in doctor waiting rooms.
The text said, “You should come to Ohio.” My reply said something like, “Okay.” Because invitations are easier to jump on, guilt free, when there’s unconditional love.
They’ll tell me this wasn’t necessary. I’ll tell them they deserve more. It’s how we do it here.
I’m a lucky one.