It took me the perfect amount of time to find my people.
I say that now, at twenty-five years, seven months and ten days. If you had asked me at, say, twelve years, eight months and three days, or seventeen years, three months, and twenty-six days, or a round twenty-two years, the answer would have been quite different. I would have said anxiously that I wanted my people now. I wanted them there then.
As desperately as I sought them, they couldn’t be there then because they weren’t them and I wasn’t me.
Those last three words are key. I wasn’t me. For some, like my best friend who is excluded from this narrative because she is the roots to my tree, she knew herself from day 1. Her confidence — even through the horrors of middle school — was intimidating and all the more alluring for that. I know that for many of the early years of our friendship, it was as if I was trying to hold a mirror to her image. At times, in retrospect, I wonder if she did the same due to the reciprocity of our inseparability. But whatever the case, there are people I believe who know their selves and their worth from the minute they step into the game of life.
I, as life would have it, was not one of those people.
I’ve talked at length about it before, but one of the main ways that my insecurities voiced themselves through my adolescence was through my burgeoning generalized anxiety (or rather, my generalized anxiety voiced itself through my insecurities). This made me standoffish to girls, a spazz around boys, and all around an overachiever constantly trying to prove worth in anything of formalized merit. My out after high school — that glimmering future beyond the three halls of St. Mary’s — was college, which I yearned for in the daydreams of ivy-covered campuses and classes with people who I thought to be — and even I know how pretentious this sounds — of equal academic caliber. Yep, I would hate me too if I went to high school with me.
Imagine my disappointment when college was not that but a petri dish of alcohol-addled and hormone-driven experiments, at least to my freshman and previously sheltered eyes. It was…a lot to take in. Adaptability became the name of the game, and fast. By junior year I had in fact learned to drink and by senior year I was in fact having sex. My high school self would not have recognized me.
Still I felt lonely.
When I moved to Dublin, I had nothing left. The carpet had literally been pulled out from under my feet. My mental health was on repair from a complete collapse six months prior. I was, for the foreseeable future, unemployable. And, 3,500 miles away from home, completely and utterly alone. That alone time allowed me to establish healthier habits, mentally, spiritually, and physically, to incorporate for years to come. By the time I moved to London for my Master’s, I was energized. I knew my goals, knew my timeline, knew myself. That last one is the key change.
The people who make me laugh, who make me feel loved, who challenge me to think deeply — these are all the people who came to know me best during the time when I knew me best. And when we made that connection, I didn’t let them go. There’s my friend who, I’ll admit, is from Villanova, but we grew closer as I prepared for my eventual move to New York and now she has become my voice of reason. There’s my roommate, a peer from LCC who I never imagined would become my closest confidante and the one who knows me better than I know myself. There’s my badass friend who can drink me under the table but also keeps me challenging the world every day, inspiring me to be greater. My literary friend, who trades book ideas with me and sends me gift cards for Amazon just out of love. My musical theater loving, capital-F Feminist, all around brilliant friend who is always down for a tea and a FaceTime. My coworkers and compatriots in all debauchery from my summers at the pub who are always down for an adventure or a night in.And of course my London Texan who floats through life with such grace it constantly amazes me.
I have to stop myself sometimes because I don’t know what I did to deserve them. Each and every one is ultimate. None is second to the next. Without a doubt, I would not have wanted to meet them at any rate faster than the speed at which they walked into my life. The important part is that these women are all here now. My people. My tribe. But if I could have shown that younger me, at any point, the wealth she would be getting, I would have been a little bit more patient — maybe.