My wonderful daughter is having a rough summer. Nothing terrible, but while her friends are lolling at the pool, she’s staring at a computer, slogging away through “Math 3” again. In Colorado, there’s a lengthy process that must be followed for a young person to obtain a driver’s license so at 17, she does not yet have hers. Earlier this week, she crumbled in tears expressing her regret for the choices she’s made over the last sixteen months that landed her here. I was so incredibly proud of her.
“I keep choosing friends who don’t encourage the best in me,” she said between sobs. I lit up. “Do you know how awesome it is that you’ve made this realization?!” She wailed when I said it, but I couldn’t help myself. Seriously, I was probably 35 before I made the connection, and it was another 7 years before I started really applying that knowledge.
This is not to say that my friends of years past were bad people, they just didn’t challenge me to grow. You know the type: When on the verge of making a lazy or selfish decision, they pat you on the back and make you feel better about doing it.
In high school, I hated going to math class, just like my daughter. Every day after lunch, I would stare into my locker and say, “I’m not going to math today. I can’t take it.” Fortunately, my best friend would reach into our locker, pull out my books, and put them in my arms saying, “Yes you are. Now go.” Without Susie, I would have had to face summer school, too.
After my divorce, I felt so completely unlovable that I didn’t think anyone would want to be friends with me. I’m grateful that I’ve grown so much since then. I took a good look at the people in my life and really thought about how they impacted me. I chose a few in which I would invest, and cut a few loose.
Michelle: A fun lady with incredible style. She encourages me to look my best and have some flair in even the most mundane things.
Mollybeth: A tremendously smart and capable woman, she is developing into my partner in crime. With her heart for adventure, she invites me to do fun things when I would otherwise stay home and catch up on laundry. Whenever I want to do something, she always seems eager to take it on.
Judy: An intelligent woman with a killer body. I wake up in the morning and think, “Ugh. I don’t want to go to the gym today.” But then another thought creeps into my head: “But I want my body to look as great as Judy’s does!” and that is what gets me out of bed and into the gym. I won’t ever look like Judy (unless I develop a horrible allergy to food), but I can certainly look better, stronger and leaner.
Tina and Bruce: Godly people who walk the walk and never say a bad word about anyone. I, on the other hand, have a big mouth and a loose internal editor. Bruce and Tina have never once reprimanded me for saying something that was really rather unkind, but I can tell by the way my comment makes them uncomfortable or they quickly attempt to change the subject. I immediately feel ashamed and reflect on my words. Yes, it was unkind. No, I really shouldn’t have repeated it. As I consider my remark, I realize it wasn’t funny or clever, but really more catty or arrogant. I don’t want to be that kind of person. They are consistently positive. I like to think of myself as an optimist with a dark sense of humor, but the truth is that too much of what I say is sarcastic and negative. Without ever saying a word to me, Tina and Bruce are examples of what positivity really looks like. By setting a great example, they remind me that I can do better.
To my friends who really make an effort to be the best they can be: Thanks for being great role models. Don’t think your hard work goes unnoticed. If I’m growing as a result of the way you live your life, who else might you be affecting?
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