Writing Prompt: The Portal

Today’s a Nick Drake kinda day–a day when you take long walks, languidly pick up that hobby you promised yourself you were going to finish, catch up with loved ones over a nice, warm drink…and read pleasant little stories inspired by gorgeous, surreal imagery.

I’m a little overdue since posting my last writer’s prompt. I hope you read and enjoy, and have a wonderful Sunday!

Image credit: Pinterest.


The Portal

three-blue-portals“This is it.”  Dr. Ralph Kenon doubled the knot on the rope around his waist, ignoring the flash of the sapphire-lit sky above them.  “If there is any time to test the portal, it’s now.”

June stood, watching him with a wariness that she had always held.  She knew the cost of this trip–for months, they had traversed the cragged landscape, seeking the stone doorways that might–oh, Sera, might–bring them back home.  The portal that had brought them there–golden and glittering with the promise of abundance, riches–had been nothing more than a ploy of cruel universal physics.  Gold does not mean promise, or peace. How she wished she had been one of those companions who’d had enough wherewithal to provide Ralph counsel!

But no.  She was but his secretary: his faithful, devoted secretary who had been sure–absolutely sure–that what they had stumbled upon in the basement ruins of a demolished bank vault, would save them from the financial ruin that his previous perils and excavations had put them through.  Now, look at them. Look at them!

The others who had followed them were all gone.  The Tigmas–first George, then Pauline, and last their twelve-year-old son, Kris.  The policeman Mr. Myron Johnson had sacrificed himself to the beast who had found their resting spot that first night.  The newlyweds, Berturde and Guy, had succumbed to the Hunger Roots a couple of weeks after, just before they’d reached the City of Promise.  By then, it was only three of them left: Dr. Kenon, herself…and Sera.

June doubled her fists.  Dr. Kenon was inching towards the edge of the cliff; any second, the invisible field would snag him into its atmosphere, and he would no longer have a choice of remain or return.

Wildly, he threw his head back to stare at her.  His eyes distorted by those silly aviator goggles he’d always kept with him.  A momento of his mother, he’d said, on her final flight around the world. Everyone thought Amelia had been the only one, but Laura Kenon–oh, she had been glorious.  There just hadn’t been the press or the public attention to watch another woman make a grave mistake.

Under the front of living as a physician, Dr. Ralph Kenon had studied the energies of the universe, the hidden dimensions that were but a hair’s width away.  In the depth of the ocean, in the threshold of Egyption huts–June had been his longest-tenured secretary, and she had seen him in his more focused and his most psychotic episodes.

There was no proof as to where this portal would take them.  In the depths of Promise, its residents spoke of a multi-lensed “doorway” that flickered on the outskirts of the country.  “Oh, sure,” said one barkeep, tossing a spheroid glass to his counterpart across the room without spilling a drop of the iridescent liquid inside, “it’s always been there.  But no one ever goes there.  It’s just one of those things, like breath.  A lyric in a song.”

“But we sing songs where we come from,” Dr. Kenon responded.  The second barkeep bowed reproachfully but said nothing. He was built for expression only, a silent, judgemental sentient being with a purple trunk and soft, rounded shoulders meant to lie your mournful head between.  It was the first barkeep took orders and gathered regular stories so that passing strangers could understand the flow of the time in that sad, sweet city.

A city where what you wanted was guaranteed to be at your beck and call, if you only learned about it before it had already moved on.

 

Sera had remained generally present those first couple of nights in town.  Still, June could already tell that she was losing her when the young woman chose to look at everything else in the city but her.  At first, June blamed it on the illusion of the crystalline skyscrapers, the gloss of the marble-like sidewalks. Even the native citizens walked as if elongated by grace, striding with an elegance that made you want to lift your neck to meet them.  Even the streetwalkers, who spun around corner lights and giggled as they cuddled the thick metal poles, felt heightened in status. June kept her hand tightly around Sera’s, but the shine was too much for either of them. They parted that first night, just for an hour.  Then, in the morning, for two–June to find their houses of literature, Sera to explore the artful fountains that seem to shoot strawberry lemonade instead of water.

Every second was a spin of luck, every moment a chance to laugh for the first time since arriving in this barren world.  She and Sera raced around like children, finding more and more and comparing notes later and later in the day. Finally, it was only when they curled into a single bed at night, just before slumber took them over, did they have but seconds to learn who’d had more to share.  In the end, June would spend many hours waiting, head drooping as she squinted at the illuminated web in the window that represented their clock. On the moments she did rise early enough to see Sera slipping out the hotel room door, she tried to stop her, to ask if maybe they could meet for lunch.  “Too dependent,” was what she heard, just before the door snapped shut once.

Only Dr. Kenon stayed rigid during that week, collecting the necessary supplies and verifying the stories of the three stone rings and the night that would arise and give them a chance for home.  When he had pinpointed the day they would activate, he hastily gathered the ladies as they were about to steal away towards their separate agents and told them the good news. June immediately looked to meet Sera’s eye, as they always had when they were both parties to Ralph’s excitable nature.

But Sera was smiling at a mother and her son as the latter chased a cubold drifting down a waterspout’s sparkling stream, beside a marblesque sidewalk, along a picketed lane.

 

The night before they were to part, Sera suddenly demanded they spend the evening exploring together—”Just you and me,” she told June.

She dragged June through alleys and under fences, and demonstrated that you watched the best music there, not heard it.  The accidental dropping of crystal marbles by an elderly gentleman upon glass steps lingered in June’s mind as they climbed to the peak of a pyramidal park.  The sound reminded her of her brother, and she began to cry, doubling over at the wretchedness of the memories. Sera’d turned away and waited until June had wiped her eyes and risen to her feet, shaken out her skirt and tightened her low bun.  Then, they’d fed on juicy buns and jumped over light stones with other festival-goers in one of the city’s cobbled squares. June thought this showed hope, that maybe she’d been imagining the distance between them all this time.

The morning that Dr. Kenon woke June up, Sera was already gone.  The second bed in their room (which Sera had taken to lying in so as not to rouse June in the middle of the night) was made, and what few articles of personal belongings she’d bought and collected had disappeared as well.  Only a note lay on her pillow, and in that note too few words: “I’m sorry. Good luck.”

Dr. Kenon pushed June from the room as if it had always just been them.  “We have three days to get to the portal before it shuts down,” he said gruffly, and waved down the cab that would take them to the outermost limits of town.

 

Now, the waves of return lifted Dr. Kenon’s feet from the crumbling cliffside floor.  His rope snapped behind him but remained tied to the iron stake he had drilled into the ground yards away.  Behind it June squatted, holding her coat still against the wind. Even from the distance, she could see the fright in Dr. Kenon’s bug eyes.  Soon, he was no longer over the cliff’s edge, and drifted aloft by some instinctual force that lured him towards the rippling lenses. The portals were doing their job.

“Go,” June called, and hugged herself.  They had played Rochambeau to determine who would go first.  Dr. Kenon had attempted chivalry, but what best displayed the proper gentlemanly nature here?  Go first, and potentially plummet through an unstable set of energy fields into internal implosion and your death.  Stay behind, and risk abandonment, solitude.

Dr. Kenon became a silhouette, then a dot.  The pools of rope strung out into a single line.  It was one of his biggest weaknesses, depth perception.  It always had been. When he had been measuring out the amount of rope they’d need to reach the portals, he’d asked her to check his math.  He always had. It was the afternoon before they’d left, just before Sera had burst into the courtyard and enticed her with pastries and an evening of togetherness.

June had looked at the math, taken but a glance, before pushing the pad back to him and turning away to smile.

Dr. Kenon was still a good couple of meters when the rope started to strain, but June was quick.  One pull on the loose end, and he never even felt the jerkback as he plunged into the first sheet of energy.  It converted him to light and thrust him into the second portal, which transferred into an as-yet-undiscovered equation that passed him through a world of dimensions, choices, and opportunities.  Only the strength of his will would determine whether it would lead him home.

On the cliff’s edge, June rose to her feet as the lightning dissipated, and the sky began to clear.  An uncertain calm resonated in the breeze, leaving her arms free to dangle as she stared through the rings to the mountain range far beyond them.  She spoke but one word, as the perimeter of the first portal began to disintegrate, and the second crumbled like the shell of dried meringue.

“Sera.”

Fin.

NaNoWriMo, Here I Come

I was talking with my friend Rebecca a while ago, who was telling me about a challenge she had undertaken at her barre exercise class. “The goal is to complete 45 barre classes in 30 days,” she told me.

I was no mathematician, but those numbers gave me pause. “Wait. That means you’re gonna have to do at least two classes per day sometimes.”

“Yep,” she said. I could tell by her determined, terror-stricken grin that she had come to this revelation long before that moment. As someone who worked full-time (and oftentimes double-shifts), as well as–you know–having a social life in other endeavors, adding that type of commitment would definitely force her to make some adjustments to her daily routine.

“Yep,” she said again when I voiced this, but this time her expression softened into a serious resolution. “I don’t know how I’m going to manage it–but Ima manage it!”

To my glee and admiration (and her own initial shock), she did more than that. She completed her challenge well before the deadline, even giving up some of her favorite pastimes temporarily to make the challenge a legit priority.

I’ve repetively told her how proud I was of her. I hadn’t doubted that she could do it; she is someone who is quite resolute when she plans out activities. In fact, her dedication inspired me.

Despite writing more in general (primarily personal journals), I have not focused any time on actually writing a novel itself (there are other reasons for that, but anyway…). Perhaps I’ll have a day of delight and bust out a page or two, but by the next day, the inspiration is MIA.

Seeing what Becca did with her challenge reminded me that sometimes, the key to success is just deciding to do it–and then, just commiting to it. So, that’s what I’m going to do.

And I’m going to do it by adding a resource that I never have before. I’m using the aid of National Novel Writing Month–also affectionately known as NaNoWriMo.

What is NaNoWriMo?

Well, aside from being really fun to say (and debate its pronunciation among others: “Am I saying it right? Am I–am I saying it correctly?”), and residing in the best month evah (*ahem*Scorpios of the world unite*cough*). NaNoWriMo is a non-profit global organization that promotes the creative drive of novelists everywhere. What started as 21 writers in 1999 has since exploded into a resource with sponsors, education programs, word-tracking capabilities, and more. Beginning November 1, novelists will blaze into a flurry of writing with the goal of getting out at least 50,000 words–a solid start to any novel–by the end of November 30.

Despite my love of writing, I’ll confess that signing-up the word-tracking “required” for NaNoWriMo intimidated me. As a child, my writing was my private safe haven. The most publicly I ever shared my works were in college, both in my creative writing classes and my slew of WWE wrestler slash fanfiction that I posted on an online, members-only private forum.

(The Rock and Triple H. Mmmm, those were good times.)

Timidly, I clicked the link to the NaNoWriMo site. The image of a typewriter and a bagel (half-eaten) lured me into its embrace, while the “sign-up” button beckoned me closer.

Scrolling down further granted me an excerpt of NaNo’s vision statement:

NaNoWriMo believes in the transformational power of creativity. We provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds—on and off the page.

From NanNoWriMo.org. LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION

…They said my favorite word.  “Creativity.”

…How have I denied my urges for so long??

But NaNoWriMo doesn’t just promote writing and creativity–it thoroughly enforces it. Apparently, over 900 volunteers will organize “communal writing sessions” throughout the world during November, giving its attendees both a place and a sense of support that has never been seen before 1999.

Weighing the Odds…as They Crush Me

I continued to peruse the site, building hope and promise that maybe–maybe this could help me get on track towards finally getting over my fears of writing.

Why do I think it will work? Apparently, several novels were penned with the help of the challenge.

  • Wool by Hugh Howey was a fun, freaky scifi series book that I utterly enjoyed when I found it on Amazon.
  • Water for Elephants is another. Heck, that one was turned into a movie starting Robert Pattison, Reese Witherspoon and Christopher Waltz.

Though my goal to write was not to become a famous, popular author, it was nice to know that NaNoWriMo had served as a solid foundation for serious writers who, perhaps, just needed that extra boost of accountability and community support to keep going.

I scrolled down further on the front page, my heart lightening with each line–and then clenched as two sets of numbers suddenly rolled into view.

  • 798,162 active novelists
  • 367,913 novels completed

Welllll, son of a mother. That’s…a lot of writers.

The Game Plan

If I do Nothing, Nothing will happen.  If I do Something, Something has no choice but to occur.

–Anonymous

Just looking at those stats alone was enough to make me sway and bring back some of my original fears to start writing again. Out of such a high number of novels completed, there is bound to be a notable percentage of those novels that are actually brilliant, witty, emotionally life-changing, literary masterpieces.

That being said, I appreciated about NaNoWriMo (aside from the heavy promotion of nurturing creativity) is that it is not a contest. In fact, they make a point to say that this is a community, a place to support each other as everyone works towards our same, singular goal: to complete our 50,000+ word works.

During a time when physical ability has been a heavy strain, writing is one tool that makes me feel sharp and alive. That–and I can’t say this enough–I love to write. At this stage in my life, I want to do more than leave my random scrawlings in a handwritten notebook.

I have good ideas for novels. I know I do. And I want to share them with others to evoke the joy and delight that my favorite novelists and writers have done for me since I was a child.

If the initial goal is to write at least 50,000 words in 30 days, that averages to 1,667 words per day.

Is it possible? Well, sure. Many things are possible.

But there will be days when the desire to sit and type will wane. There will be days when the last thing I will want to do is stare at my dumb computer screen and paw through the slush that will be the first draft of this novel. There will be times when I’ll feel like I’ve written myself into a hole, and the hole seems a bottomless pit with no hope for landing.

And then, there will be those days when I just think: “This sucks, and I hate everything and what’s the point.” And then, I’m gonna run from my desk like Ron Swanson.

…But.

The very reason I’m joining this challenge is because…I have unofficially written for nearly 30 years, and I have yet to try and publish anything. My self-esteem and fear of producing boring, laughable crap has left me prone, stuck.

I have family and friends who have long since been writing and have successfully published. They were able to push past the inner fears and life struggles, bear down, and do what they needed to get their work to the masses.

I envy them. I admire them.

I want to grab them by the lapels and screech, “How did you do it?!”

But, more than anything…I want to join them. Maybe not in just publishing books, but also in the power of their desire.

I want to know their strength and their ability to commit to a project. I want to know what worked for them. I want to know what didn’t.

But…you know? I actually already kinda do.

I’ve talked with the family members, and I followed the blog of and occasionally chatted with an old friend as her books ranked higher and higher on Amazon.

I truly think I have all the tools I need. There is nothing left but the doing.

Final Thoughts

I don’t want live in excuses or fear anymore. I don’t want to procrastinate.

Committing to this challenge will allow me to hold myself publicly accountable for writing a novel for the first time. Honestly, I’m not even sure what the layout of the site is much beyond the sign-up button. Once I finish writing this post, though, I will find out.

If musicians can lock themselves in studios for 72 hours to get an album done, and my friend Rebecca can dole out multiple barre classes in a single day and still rush into work that same day, then I can sit, plug my ears, shove my insecurities aside, and freakin’ write.

…Wish me luck.

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Calvin Coolidge

Any other first-time NaNoWriMo novelists out there? I’d love to hear what’s driving you this year!

End of a Beginning: My Rookie Year as a Voice Actor

“And, that’s a wrap on Kesha Charles!” It was writer/director/producer Zachary Vaudo who delivered the final hatchet chop on my last act as lead and cyberpunk demon slayer of the third season of horror audio drama, The Blood Crow Stories.

From the viewport from within the soundbooth, I watched his wife and fellow writer/director/producer, Ellie Collins, slump in her chair and let out a soft whimper. “Aw, I’m gonna miss her.”

As I stood there, my Kindle hovering in my hand with the last season 3 script loaded on its black and white screen, I realized that for me, “Kesha Charles”–the quirky, determined heroine–was still too close to say goodbye. Maybe that was why I had yet to feel the sorrow at its heaviest levels.

Would I miss reading for her? Obviously.

I knew the loss would sink in by the time the last episode of the season aired on October 15 (*ahem*check your local listing podcasts on iTunes, SoundCloud, GooglePlay Music, and more to listen*cough*).

In fact, I think the ever-ballooning sense of that loss is what prompted me to write this post on the eve of the last episode launching.

It would be a bittersweet ending–not just for my first full-time audio character (though I did have a character in their Season 2–which I adored playing). It would also officially mark the end of my first “rookie” year as a professional voice actor.

(Talk about a blog post that is LONG overdue.)

The Beginning of the Beginning

It was February of 2018 when I had my chance to audition for The Blood Crow Stories. I spent an entire morning in my walk-in closet, trying different voices and praying the quality was good enough for the audition I would be sending to Ellie by the end of the day. Do I go southern? Should I try something more guttural? Deeper? With gravel?

Or…do I simply read in my normal voice?

In the end, I sent her a couple of examples and, as I hit send on the email message, prayed harder than I ever had that I would get the role. I was realizing more and more how I wanted to truly live my life–not just for fun, but as a career.

The creative arts were calling to me–screaming at me, actually. If I got this role, it would be a sign that maybe I actually could live the life the way I wanted to.

All of the singing drills my mother put me through as a child.

All of the choral performances in Oklahoma, Illinois, California.

All of the drama classes and competitions in Florida.

They would all actually mean something.

Over a decade had passed since I’d even thought of touching that side of myself again (Hehe…sorry). A weekend of a voiceover class and an unexpected stint onstage in 2017 had reignited that desire like a will-o-wisp flitting across a swamp. I wanted to walk, I wanted to run, I wanted to play all day in the suuuun—

Aaaand, I moved into the wrong desire (and story). Double sorry.

Ellie sent back her response to my audition in four days, but those four days might as well have been four weeks. Within seconds of scanning the email that I had been selected for the part, I called my mother and blubbed on the phone like a baby.

“Adrian!” I wailed, virtually extending my proverbial boxing gloves across the distance. “Adrian, I did it!”

“I don’t know who you’re calling Adrian,” my mother said, “but I am so, so happy for you, B.”

Personal Pride

…making the conscious decision to train as a voice actor was the first time I had allowed myself to be 100% selfish and decisive in what I wanted to do with my life, anyone else’s opinions be damned.

It’s not that I’ve purposefully avoided the topic of writing about my feelings of being a voice actor. I think I just never felt comfortable believing that I was legitimately part of such an amazing industry. It was like how I felt/feel about writing: despite the positive feedback I’ve received, I was/am still navigating my fears and inhibitions, along with a heavy dose of Imposter’s Syndrome.

Nevertheless, all of the feedback has helped me realize that some of the most valuable lessons I’ve received, both from The Blood Crow Stories and my voiceover courses at the Atlanta Voiceover Studio, were very much true.

  1. The microphone is a sponge. If you think you’re putting enough emotion into your voice–triple to ensure it shines through.
  2. Slower…is better (ahuehue–jeepers, I’m in the dirtiest of moods today!☺️). Don’t be afraid to pause and read more slowly than you think is normal. It’s surprisingly easy to unconsciously “speed up” the reading more than you mean to.
  3. Follow your directors. Feel free to go improv if they’re all about it. If not–their directions are LAW.
  4. Trust your clients. If they tell you your performance was good–or if they say nothing at all and are good to move on–believe them and move on.
  5. You’ll never be your level of “perfect”…
  6. …BUT, when you can’t hear “yourself” in your own performance, you’re not doing half bad.
  7. Confidence (or lack thereof) is audible. If you don’t believe your performance, neither will anyone else.
  8. Your voice is your tool. Any lifelong self-esteem issues you have over it being “too high” or “too nasally” will only be an obstacle to you listening to it objectively. Besides, what makes your voice unique is what will get you the parts NO ONE ELSE will get.
  9. But also, treat your voice like a precious gem. Treat it to water, warm lemon/ginger/honey drinks, xylitol mints, regular vocal exercises, regular training classes, and–of course–rest.
  10. And seriously–work on your feelings of self-value, self-worth, self-esteem…self-everything. Discrediting your own voice to the people who hired you and are paying you and are excited for your voice to be in their production–helps no one. Especially not you.

Embracing the “End”

Aside from beginning classes in taekwondo in 2009, making the conscious decision to train as a voice actor was the first time I had allowed myself to be 100% selfish and decisive in what I wanted to do with my life, anyone else’s opinions be damned. I know that may not sound like much of an achievement, but you’re reading about someone who switched her college major to accounting just because someone mentioned that she liked numbers…and accounting…has…numbers.

I know. I know.

I don’t know what year two holds for me–or year three, or year four. Heck, I don’t even know what life will hold for me this week or this evening.

But I know that voice acting will be a part of it. All of it.

And I will remember my rookie VO year and everyone/everything involved in it with eternal fondness.

Here is a convenient window to The Blood Crow Stories, all 3 seasons. 😁 Get caught up just in time for Season 4 to drop on Halloween, Oct. 31.

Learning to Be a Good Friend (from my Friends)

Over these last few months, I’ve had the blessing to reflect on a lot of things both internally and externally. One thing that has stood out for me that I never expected to notice, was the impact that my friends have on my quality of life.

Growing up as not just an introvert, but a shy, reclusive introvert, I didn’t think it was possible for me to gain true friendships. Not only that, but due to some of the “friendships” that I did cultivate, I thought that as a part of my chronic issues with my depression and anxiety, that I could only gain a certain type of friend. You know–the ones who make you feel worse than before you first spoke to them.

It’s not until you start crawling out of yourself, do you finally notice the number of hands that have been reaching out to you all along.

I can’t make up for how poor of a friend I might have been in the past, but I want to be a better friend to those who are with me in the present. To do this, I’m making a conscious effort to remember the following lessons that all of my dearest friends (and a few former ones) have shown me.

Friendship is a Two-Way Street

The first lesson should be fairly obvious, but–yeah, well, what can you do?

I have one friend who is always on the ball at finding things to do around Atlanta, and she is always happy to invite me to go with her. Seriously, I don’t know how she does it. Sometimes I lovingly refer to her as my connection to the outside world.

That being said, her on-the-point invitations made me realize how much I sucked at asking my friends to hang out.

Like, I have no excuses. I suck at it. I would always wait for my friends, however close they were to text, invite, even just say hi. It literally never crossed my mind to say hi first.

And that…is a problem on my part.

If I want to see my friends, shouldn’t I–oh, I don’t know–make plans to see my friends?

Yeah, Captain Obvious and First Mate Common Sense to the bridge, amiright?

(On a side note…I think I might copyright that last line. 😌)

It’s not as if I don’t know how it feels to be on the other side. I’ve had people in my past where I’ve been told to give them a call or text them; they’re always free!

And then…they’re not.

Or, worse: no matter how the conversations went–even if they initiated it–they’d still wait for me to reach out again…and again…and again.

Which begs the question: why do I feel like I’m chasing them down?

A true friendship is balanced–both parties enjoy each other too much to worry about keeping tabs on who is “ahead.” When it becomes blatantly obvious that one friend seems to be chasing the other (or, the other friend seems to enjoy leading the other friend on), it may not be the type of friendship worth cultivating.

And I certainly don’t want my friends to feel like I feel that way about them.

Being Selfish Can Be Selfless

I mentioned once my thoughts on my own giving love languages (see shameless plug below), and why my order of them differed so dramatically from my receiving love languages.

See “Why Don’t My Giving Love Languages Match my Receiving Love Language?, Theory 1: Self-confidence” 😑

Due to my wobbly self-esteem, I often assumed that I as a person was a very expendable friend, and that anyone else was a better choice to hang out with:

  • Oh, he’s brighter.
  • Oh, they have more in common.
  • Oh, they’re sitting closer together.
  • Oh, she tells better jokes/wears more skirts/looks more mature/wanted to be a neurosurgeon. Why would anyone want to talk with me when they’ve got her around???

And so on, and so forth.

I assumed I was doing my friends favors when I bowed out of some activities. Imagine my shock when one friend just outright told me, “But B, I really want you to be there.”

I stared at her, temporarily dumbfounded. “You…do?” Understanding suddenly struck me. “Oh, you need me to help set up, or be a designated driver, or something.”

But she waved that off. “I don’t really care what you do. I just want you to be there.”

Really? “Really?” I asked her.

“Yes,” she blurted. “This means a lot to me, and you’re one of my closest friends!”

I…am? “I…am?”

She looked ready to swat me. “Yes!”

To which I responded in eloquent, pure B fashion. “…Oh.”

That interaction showed me how my lack of self-esteem had made me handle the friendship poorly yet again. While I thought I was being selfless by keeping my “boring self” away from my friends, my friend–through her “selfish” wish to have me at her event–showed me that my self, “boring” or no, was very much wanted. I appreciated that. And I thank goodness for friends who aren’t afraid to tell me exactly what they want from me–because I can be that dense.

It’s Okay to Be Vulnerable

While I’ve dabbled in the realm of roommates and part-time lovers over the last decade or so, I’ve remained independent most of my adult life. I don’t use the term “super introvert” lightly; I enjoy my alone time and relish in my ability to make decisions about my life without having to consult with anyone else.

Because I’m so used to relying on myself, I often don’t like to spend a lot of time worrying about my emotions or physical ailments. Just take a deep breath and keep going until what needs to get done gets done.

And yet.

There I was, on the phone for the first time in my life, terrified and panicked–and admitting openly to someone else that I needed help.

On the other end of the line was someone whom I hadn’t been good friends with for that long. However, he was kind and considerate and had reached out barely a month before to get to know me better. I had been amazed at our ability to chat openly, to laugh and connect creatively about almost everything.

At the time of my panic attack (which I’d never had before), I hadn’t known who to call. This was just another annoying obstacle, something I needed to just “walk off,” like I’d always done.

But he had called for other reasons…and I’d picked up. He’d just happened to get me at a really bad time.

“B?” He’d immediately picked up on the agony in my voice. “Are you okay?”

I couldn’t talk. I could barely think. Not since my college years had I asked for someone to help me with anything. The last time I had, I’d been told to “figure it out myself.” So, I’d taken that philosophy to heart and learned to care for myself–or at least cope.

But there, in the midst of my pain, with my new friend waiting on the other end of the line, I couldn’t hold in my self-preservation. I opened my mouth…and I croaked out the truth. “I’m…sorry. I’m not doing too well right now. Can you just, maybe…stay on the phone for a while?”

I waited for his sigh of disgust. I waited for impatience to fill my ear. I waited for the sounds of awkwardness, of confusion, of not understanding what my freakin problem was, and why was I wasting his time.

Instead, I heard without hesitation, “Of course, B. I’m so sorry you’re in pain. What’s wrong? What do you need? Do you need me to come over? I can come over right now. I can sit with you.”

My next words caught in my throat. Or maybe it was a gasp. That someone would take the time to come to me–especially in the horrors that was Thursday night traffic–just to sit with me during what was one of the darkest down days I’d ever experienced, shattered me into speechlessness.

But he didn’t rush to hang up. He didn’t make excuses or make me feel low or pathetic. He made me feel like it was okay to show my most shameful side, the side I’d tried to hide from everyone, family included. He did the one thing that I’d never expected someone to do when my “true” self was revealed.

He stayed.

At last, I managed to respond. “Just…please. Stay on the phone with me for a little while longer?”

His compassion flooded me as he spoke again, his tenderness palpable and warm. Under his words and the weight of my cell phone, I began to cry without restraint. “Of course, B. I’ll stay on for as long as you need.”

When to Hold Tight, and When to Let Go

It is always a painful moment to realize that your perception of a friendship may not be the same as how they see it. It’s especially hard when the friendship is with someone you admire greatly.

But then, if you do feel a sort of distance growing between you, you have to ask yourself two questions:

Are you holding onto the friendship because you really like hanging out with this person…

Or…are you simply holding on because that’s “the way things always were”?

Are you using more of your energy to save something that, for the benefit of both of you, may be healthier to release?

The nice thing about friendship is the same thing about life: there is no definite path on how things are “supposed” to go. We cannot–nor should we–control their strength or longevity. Just as we can’t stand in the middle of a river and push the current in the opposite direction, we can’t force a friendship to always remain as it was. It must grow, expand, evolve, redirect, or…perhaps, for a while…taper off.

Good friendships are organic and rich. Before you know it, you’re chatting for eight hours straight in the middle of nowhere and wondering why the sun is rising. You can sneak up on them from behind and literally see their eyes light up when they realize it’s you. Twenty years can pass–and when you meet again, it’s as if you’re still children, tripping over each other in the excitement and pure joy of being together once more.

I’ve got a long way before I feel like I am a “good” friend to my friends. But with all that I’ve seen and experienced from them, I hope that I can show them how much I appreciate their selflessness, their kindness, and their love.

Not for my own conscience, but because, dagnabbit–they deserve it.

3 types of friends:  for a reason, a season, and a lifetime.