Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about changes in life over the course of time. Our surroundings and experiences shape us each and every day. And sometimes we don’t even see it or realize it’s happening—but it is. Think for a moment about the person you were growing up. Think about the person you were ten years ago, five years ago, six months ago. Those iterations of you were different—maybe not starkly, but they are unique from one another.
Growing up my family would have described me with the following words: outgoing, talkative, extroverted, popular, preppy (that’s from my dad—but his thoughts on being a “prep” were very different from adolescent culture when I was growing up). There was, and maybe still is, a running joke in our family that no matter where we went, I would know someone. My dad would say “people lean out of bus windows yelling your name”. Even on vacation, in different cities, or traveling to remote areas—my family would still bet on me being recognized or finding someone I knew.
In high school I was often busy. Extracurriculars, church, hangz with friends, babysitting, family time, etc. staying busy fueled my soul, and even though it was exhausting at points, I needed to be around people more often than not. Often that was attributed to me being the youngest. I’m not sure if that’s exactly accurate. But needing people and social settings and activity has always been a part of my being. It’s why I crave the various types of community so much. And though he wouldn’t readily admit it, some of it is learned from my dad. He has a knack for making friends wherever he goes: he knows no stranger.
College brought new changes as I was out from underneath the keen and watchful eye of my parents. It meant managing my own schedule and my whereabouts only being accountable to me. It meant trying new things, making mistakes, and being adventurous. It meant working hard and playing harder. It meant the freedom to figure out who I was and who I wanted to be.
Fast-forward to my senior year. I had a great core group of friends: people who understood me, supported me through hard times, and embraced my weird (just as I embraced theirs). But something changed. Whether it was the reality of soon being released into the “real world”, or quickly and suddenly being over drama—I pulled way back from my social activities. I stuck close to my dearest friend and her boyfriend and his best friends. And we all just existed, apart from the rest of the college scene around us. It didn’t seem strange at the time but at points now I wonder why that change happened.
I spent time post college with ASP, wrapped up in that staff culture. And then even had a short time in Admissions at OWU. And there were close friendships at both of those that survived for the season they were meant to be. But I moved back home, found a job and started living into the role of Youth Minister that I had been longing for for a long time. At that point most of my high school friends were not living in Indy. I made friends through work, and church truly became my community. But I didn’t really know how to function socially in that role. My sister and I moved in together eventually and our habits started wearing off on each other: she became more social and I yearned more than usual for time at home. And it was a good rhythm: supporting one another, often being inseparable, and being able to read one another like no one else could. But there was something missing. The majority of my friends were older than me, married, and had kids. I’m so thankful for that in many ways. Those friendships have taught me a lot about relationships, family dynamics, and priorities. They’ve made me evaluate how and why I chose to do certain things and pushed me to challenge myself daily.
But I struggled (still do) with not being around people constantly. It made me wish for the college days when I could just pop into someone’s dorm room to hang, or find people in HamWil or in the ZookNook at all hours of the day. The “real world” doesn’t work like that though. I had become more introverted, it made me wonder if that was my own suppression of my true extroverted nature. Was I overcompensating (consciously or subconsciously) and catering to my sister instead of myself? Im not sure I know, or will ever know, the answer to that. What I can say is that life has bounced back, and I’ve circled back to enjoying, needing, and appreciating time spent with various groups of people. Have I changed? Sure. Or maybe I am just allowing myself to live into more fully who my true self is, without hesitation and regrets. People often talk about “finding themselves”. I think that process is something we do every damn day. Becoming more and more ourselves—allowing ourselves to be more open and vulnerable and showing the grit we have that helps us get through.
Time spent is for sure one of my love languages, probably my top one. Sometimes that means parties with people, making new friends, boisterousness, and laughter of all types. Sometimes that means one-on-one coffee dates, cooking dinner with a friend, walking to get ice cream, or talking over FaceTime. Sometimes it means birthday get-togethers, dinner parties, book clubs, game nights, or binge watching television shows with close friends. Sometimes it means Italian nights, dressing up for cultural celebrations, or going to hear live music. Sometimes it means road trips, retreats, sporting events, or taking in the theatre. It means lots of different things, but they all have in common time with others and a schedule that fills up quickly. It can be a lot with full-time work and classes for my Masters. But as I live more fully and honestly into who “me” is at this point in time and space, I’m thankful for the ways in which my life feels full, the way it makes me feel loved, and the people who show up time and time again.
Who knows who I’ll be in 6 months, 5 years, or on my 65th birthday. But I can’t wait to keep discovering and staying true to every form of me as life forges ahead. It’s cyclical but being back at the beginning doesn’t mean you’ve started over. It just means that you’ve realized where and who and how you want to be.