Tony-Lynn was too good for me. That’s always what I thought. She had the prettiest smile, the most ridiculously perfect figure and hung around with all the “mean girls” in school. She always seemed so friendly from afar, but who she hung around with indicated she must be like them. So I assumed she’d make fun of me or turn up her nose at me if I said hi or paid much attention to her. We existed in the same halls living our lives through four years of high school without saying a word to each other. Turns out we were actually in middle school with each other too but I hadn’t known it. I don’t remember her from that time at all. She was there though.
About four years ago my best friend Alicia and I ran into her at a nail salon. We were all relaxed and happy getting pedicures and, though it felt a bit weird because of residual high school misconceptions, struck up a conversation with each other. She was sweet and kind, spiritual and FUNNY. I’d never have thought but was so glad to be wrong. As the water wirled about our toes and the hot rocks took us over the moon we shoomzed about life inbetween high school and now. Tony had become a Special Education teacher at a school in Stamford, CT. That facinated me. I was proud and a bit jealous of her because I still felt so unaccomplished. I hadn’t yet finished my BA and was hurting financially; I wasn’t where I wanted to be career-wise.
The pedicure was great- I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere but in that whirling water. We exchanged numbers politely but I knew I’d never call her. I figured she was still way too good for me and decided if she called me I’d be happy to hear from her but I wouldn’t make the first move. Even the thought of doing it made me feel like that geeky little high school girl again, trying to sit at the popular people’s table. I didn’t have the nerve.
She never called.
And I didn’t care. I remembered that day from time to time but was too caught up in all my goings-on to worry about not having kept in touch.
Two years went by and I was finished with my bachelors degree, just starting to work as a substitute teacher in the Stamford Public School system. I was assigned a teaching position for first grade at Roxbury Elementary School. As I’m walking through the main hall way toward the office whose familiar face do I see but Tony-Lynn’s? She smiled HUGE and giggled when she saw me and greeted me with a bear hug. I felt stupid for never calling her. I’ve always had a problem with confidence and assumed that hearing from me would be a bother not a blessing to her. I was WAY TOO self conscience. We caught up briefly and once again went our separate ways.
Flash forward two more years to this summer and whose summer school class room am I assigned to assist in but Tony-Lynn’s? We both agreed this was it; some heavenly creature was telling us we should be in each other’s life. Summer school being only a month long it passed by quickly and we had a blast. With every conversation I realized that Tony-Lynn was so much like me it was ridiculous that we’d never been friends as kids. I guess social borders kept us apart. There were people you “should” hang out with and people you “shouldn’t”. It never occurred to either of us that across those borders could be a person that was meant for you. She told me that one summer, years ago, she’d recognized me roller blading with my jogging stroller down beach road. I couldn’t believe she’d even recognized me, having assumed that I was invisible to her in high school. My son securely fastened into the carriage, I would roller blade with him on the straight away that was and still is Beach Road in Norwalk, CT. I didn’t know she’d seen me but during one of our many conversations she told me that she had seen me and she’d thought to herself “Look at Michelle, she’s so brave”.
That was a good word for me.
I’d just recently come to accept that about myself.
Maybe that is why I was able to allow Tony to enter my life for real just this summer. She’d seen something in me from afar that I’d needed time to see close up. When I did, I could be comfortable in her presence.
Maybe we’d just been too stubborn and busy, wrapped up in our old habits and negative relationships to realize that somebody we’d never seriously considered could be just the right one.
During summer school this year we learned A LOT about each other. We have WAY too much in common. It’s kind of crazy. How could people that grew up separately have so much in common?
But people are not their environments. They are not their experiences. They are their choices and those choices are guided primarily by their spirits. Spirits have a whole other sense of priorities when it comes to connecting with people and interacting with their world. Of course what we live through affects us, molds our egos and thus our decisions but I will always believe there is another part of us, one that is watching and trying every day to guide us toward our happiest place. But we have to listen to it. Here Tony and I were, making so many of the same decisions, same mistakes and having such similar experiences living absolutely separate lives, surrounding ourselves with people who we thought were right for us because they were supposed to be.
Supposed to be.
It takes along time to break through “supposed to be” and understand what is. I don’t even know where “supposed to” comes from, the ego is my best guess, but it’s the silliest concept and most ridiculous idea. “Supposed to” really doesn’t and never will exist. It’s an illusion and a vail that keeps us from our happiest selves. I’ve only just recently begun to realize how much I allow myself to get lost in it.
Because it’s keeping me from many good things.
Including other people who add beautiful things to my life.
Tony-Lynn is beautiful; she has a lot of greatness about her. Most especially the way she brings out the best in others. Her work with our Autistic Spectrum Disorder children demonstrates it. The smiles she brings out of those children everyday speak for themselves. With their confidence high and energy levels up it is no surprise they grow and progress so quickly through her guidance. But there is something more. It’s the way she works with the adults in the room. The assistants, the paraprofessionals, of which I was one of this past summer. She’s empowering. She makes you realize how important your instincts and ideas are which in turn opens up your ability to interact with the children. Without realizing it, you become better at your job because she is so good at her own. She teaches everybody in the classroom not just the kids. Suddenly you realize your abilities and strengths and gain confidence in your decisions. “It’s OUR classroom”, she says, “We’re all teachers”. But it’s her energy. It’s her light. She’s the one producing it, shining it and giving it.
There are planets and there are suns.
Tony-Lynn is a sun.
She produces her own light.
I was fortunate enough to enjoy it’s warmth this summer and I’ve never felt so energized.