Friday, April 29, 2016

The World Doesn't Decide Who I Am

When I was ten, my best friend was a girl from church named Tracie. She was two years older, infinitely more street-wise. We made potions, dressed up in her mom’s ’60’s garb, and daydreamed business ventures that never left the ground. We were small-town girls with skinned shins, daughters of a faith that tried to swallow us whole. We couldn’t make sense of our church or the people who kept failing us, so we leaned into each other, laughed until we cried, and on one fateful winter night, ate homemade snow ice cream and pickles until I puked in her carpeted bathroom with its shelves upon shelves of breakable elephant figurines.

Over a slow arc of years and then decades, she drifted south and I north.

We lost touch with each other in that unique way most childhood friendships eventually fizzle. But somewhere in a cardboard box is a tiny, plastic pickle pin, the kind meant to be attached to your bag or shirt in some strange showing of loyalty. We were young. We loved pickles and being weird together. What else was there to say?

Three summers ago, I was adapting to life in our new community. I was busy learning the flow of my neighborhood, learning names at our little church down the street, corralling a preschooler who was still trying to relax into our family, and making trips to the county jail. I was a writer, but I’d have only said so in a whisper. There was no book deal, not even close. I didn’t have an agent, my blog kept breaking, and I was sure I was alienating everyone with my incessant virtual lip-biting over all the change heaving my way.

I frittered over my dwindling comments. I obsessed over my traffic. I waffled between a keen understanding of exactly who I was, and the low-pulsing ache of wishing I were different. All around me, online friends launched further, faster, and my soul tinged green with envy.

And then I made a batch of pickles.

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