When I Grow Up

“We are constantly invited to be who we are.” – Henry David Thoreau 

This week I bumped into a woman at work whom I haven’t seen in several years.  She is exactly as I remembered her: strong, elegant, dignified, confident, impeccable. I’ve always admired her. More accurately, I’ve always been awed by her. Everything about her character and the way she carries herself screams of a Maya Angelou-esque self-love. As we spoke, I couldn’t help but marvel: this is a woman of worth. She will not tolerate being treated with anything less than respect. Not because she’s arrogant or cocky. No, she respects herself.

“I want to be like her when I grow up,” I thought to myself.

There is also a different woman at work who makes me smile every single day. She sits nearby, so I am privy to her conversations fairly often. She’s an older woman, unfailingly optimistic, kind and exceedingly helpful. “Let’s put our thinking caps on and get this figured out for you,” I’ve heard her say to someone on the phone. She wasn’t being condescending or juvenile. This is authentic to who she is. Unlike the woman referenced above, this is not a physically polished woman with a bold presence. She’s a little awkward, fashion is not her priority. She has a soft, high voice, coke-bottle glasses and shuffles when she walks.

When I put tiny pots of flowers on my desk that became a popular conversation starter with passersby, she mused, “So many people stop and talk to you about those little flowers. I’ll have to remember that.” Ohhh. My heart. And for the past few weeks, first thing in the morning she has breathlessly shared photos and updates with me on a family of robins nesting in a potted plant on her deck. “Can you believe how lucky we are that this is happening just for us,” she gushed. Today she reported that the babies seem to be trying to fly. “I’m going to be so sad when they’re gone,” said to me. “It’s like I’m going to be an empty-nester all over again. I think I’m going to put a sign in my yard every spring that says ‘Robin families welcome here.'” Ohhh. My heart. I love this woman’s innocence. Her kindness. Her ability to experience complete joy in life’s smallest moments.

“I want to be like her when I grow up,” I thought to myself.

Tonight I stopped by the grocery store after work. The guy in front of me in the check out  was purchasing a dozen tabletop air fresheners in a variety of scents. Either this guy’s house smells really good or really bad. Why does he need so many air fresheners? Is he getting ready to fry fish? Did his house flood and now it smells musty? Are these things on sale? Is he giving them as gifts? I was so absorbed in my thoughts and various scent-filled scenarios that I was startled when the store’s bagger said, “Where have you been??”

I looked up and recognized the bagger as a lovely man I’ve encountered numerous times at the store. I’m not sure what his story is, but he seems to be somewhere on the spectrum. Simple. High-functioning, but on the spectrum. He has the most breathtakingly bluest eyes I have ever seen, never without a sparkle of a smile. “Nowhere,” I said. “Where have you been?” “Everywhere,” he replied. I smiled. “I’ve been nowhere, you’ve been everywhere. That’s probably why you haven’t seen me. How have you been?”

He beamed. “I learn something new every day. And every day it’s something good.”  I was speechless.

“Don’t be a stranger,” he said as I left.

I replayed this conversation in my head as I pushed the cart out to my car.  Every day you learn. Every day it’s something good. What an amazing lens in which to view life.

“I want to be like him when I grow up,” I thought to myself.

The funniest part of this thought pattern of mine? None of these individuals have anything in common other than my admiration and that they are 100% authentic. I want to be like all of them, but they are so vastly different that they could never exist in one person.

Since I can’t be all of these people when I grow up, I will just be me and work on accepting and fostering my authentic self so that I, too, may be a benefit to others.

*photos are my neighborhood flowers and my Mother’s Day arrangement. Soooo beautiful. 

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