To say that I was overwhelmed by the response you guys left after I wrote Becoming’s Chapter One last week is an understatement. I tried to sit down that day and reply to each of your 150+ comments, and I just honestly couldn’t. I felt so raw, so exposed. Wonderful. I teared up on and off all day…and while I have worries about writing some of this, I do feel that it is right. Your comments told me that. So, keep em’ coming. It’s the only way I’ll get through this process.
I also can’t go forward without saying this: I have no ill feelings toward anyone in this story. No one in my story…the ones who have been mentioned or the ones to come. I played a huge role in the things that happened to me, made just as many mistakes as they did. I actually smile when I see them, or think of them. And I hope they can do the same for me…I’m sure I let them down in more ways than one. It was hurtful then, but now, it simply is part of me…and it’s just fine. Writing this story or this book was never about putting them down…but building you up.
If you missed Chapter One, go check it out first.
Can’t wait to hear what you think about our next chapter…
CHAPTER TWO: Before the Fall
It could have been worse. Laughter came and went my sophomore year of high school, and for the most part, it was a relatively happy time in my life. M injured his spinal cord in a football accident that year, and rocked my newfound strength to the core. Several weeks were filled with slow-rolling tears and huddles of whispered prayers. After months of therapy and healing, M was able to walk again, and eventually, his recovery was not enough to hold us together any longer.
Now that I look back, we were silently slipping apart long before the palpable tearing that would take place at the end of my junior year. During that year, though, other things happened. A new coach moved into town. His name was Coach Ryan. He pushed me beyond my limits on the basketball court, gave me something to put all my energy and focus into. And he was my friend…he and my dad (who was my coach all years before) were big buddies. He became that teacher to really see me, to encourage me to rise above my struggles. I still send him a Christmas card every year.
I met the kind of friends we all long for. The kind you can hurt, disappoint. The kind that will love you anyway. And because they were those kinds of friends, I can say their names.
Jenny. Jenny would become this vibrant force in my life then, just as she is now. She reached out with her brilliant smile, silly ideas, and her contagious cheerfulness. She was a hot mess. Before I knew it, we were fast friends.
Holli. You want the definition of a good, ole’ country girl? Well, you’ll need to meet Holli. Unpretentious, friendly, and unmistakably matter-of-fact…her genuineness and infectious laughter won me over completely. Real people are kind of my favorites.
Sabrina. She moved to our small school from Georgia. She had this gorgeous blonde hair and a killer jump shot. When the class went on trip to Disney World, she and I stayed behind to play in a region basketball game…yeah, we were that dedicated. But we were…and we were a “we.” I loved having a new friendship, and someone who challenged me on the court.
Reid, Curt, and Joshua were the kind of guys that weren’t necessarily babe magnets. Not because of anything they weren’t, but because of what they were. They were kind, quietly strong, Junior class gentlemen. They had faith and weren’t afraid to gently say it. And now, in the knowing, I love them even more for who they were.
This unlikely group became my family…we sat together at break, ate our lunches in a tight huddle, passed notes and exchanged smiles in class, and through each other’s company, came to terms with being different. Tuesday evenings were spent at each other’s houses. We laughed through the summer and straight into our Junior year. Before I knew it, I was elected Class President, which turned out to be a blessing and a curse. The Junior class planned the prom, you know.
And I was in charge of the Junior class.
Our fall days were filled with seriously-heated debates over prom theme. It was to be “Party Like It’s 1999” (because it was) or “What Dreams May Come” (because it had to get better). One meeting I remember in particular. There was literal shouting, and much of the drama lied in the fact that the ridiculously popular crowd was not led by one of their own. And who knew where I stood? Certainly not me, only now healing from the still-fresh wounds my freshman year held for my heart.
Here’s the thing. I didn’t care about the prom. I was in a failing relationship, if you can even call it that, and it was becoming clear to me that things like prom weren’t created for the meaning of happiness. Certainly not prom theme battles. There was a pro-1999 and a pro-dreams group. The class was literally split down the middle.
And there I was. I remember it felt so fitting. I couldn’t vote because I was class president, and chose not to voice my opinion. I remember feeling so appropriately there in the middle of everyone’s clashing ideas. As I was always.
Only something funny happened. While this guy we’ll call Harry basically threw a fit for 1999 by standing on his desk, and pro-dreams complained about the unfairness of it all, I had the aha moment. I stopped feeling unsure or unsettled by the likes of stands-on-his-desk guy. By my used-to-be life. I remember feeling confident, assured, and quietly telling myself we would figure it out…I would figure it out.
It struck me then: this had been a choice. It was simply a choice to live, to fight back pain. To choose life, however painful. To step, one foot in front of the other, right onto the coals and put on my game face. The pain was there, but I knew it was subsiding. The subsiding gave me hope.
There was, of course, a good bit of high school musical drama over the next few days, except there was no Zack Efron dancing to a peppy show tune. Yelling, vicious gossip, name calling. Yet, I felt nothing but peace. When one of the pro-dreams threw a textbook at my old number 1, things got a little dicey and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me a little happy (which I now know meant my heart was not in the best place).
Since I was sort of in charge of dealing with this absurd comedy, 1 came to me with shaking hands and humble words. “I know things that happened a while back weren’t all your fault, and I know it wasn’t right. I just don’t want that to be why we can’t fix this prom thing.”
Even in my baffled state I was able to say, “You know, it wasn’t okay. None of it. But I’ve forgiven you. And I don’t worry about you or any of that any more. It sure has nothing to do with the prom.” There. I said it. And I felt free.
That’s about the time things began to change. I became sort of popular again. Not like before…I just didn’t have any problems with anyone. I wasn’t seeking popularity or approval, but quiet. Happiness. I was able to go to basketball practice (which I loved and was quite good at) without the fear someone would throw a ball in my face or laugh my 5’8 forward speed out of the gym. I was able to laugh with some of those guys who had once called me names. And I was able to move past the hurt 1 and 2 had dumped in my lap like an undeserved bucket of coal on a Christmas morning. I was able to learn to like them again. To realize my part in the mess of ninth grade. And to move on.
One afternoon I was riding in the car with 2. We were headed to Sonic for mozzarella sticks and marinara in between school and basketball practice. In between one of her car phone calls, we somehow began talking about me and my views on drinking and the new friends I had. I just kind of sighed, my head leaning back against the headrest, wishing I was anywhere else in the world. No way did I want to have this kind of conversation with someone who had stripped me of all confidence and joy…someone I couldn’t bear to be hurt by again. As I was hosting my self-pity party, she just turned to me and matter-of-factly said, “You know, I wish I was like that. Like I could make a decision only for myself and didn’t care what other people thought.”
I was utterly blown away, not knowing how to respond or what to think. She actually respected me?? Wished she could be like me??
Throughout fall semester, I had a few more encounters like that one. I was making great grades, feeling good about my body/hair/every other superficial thing, rocking it out on the basketball court. The teachers loved me, parents thought I was impressive. And somewhere along the way, my strength was exchanged for pride.
And you know what they say about pride.
It has something to do with falling.
To be continued…