A couple weeks ago, my mom and I entered a local grocery store just approaching 5pm. The store, as expected, was bustling and filled with people just finishing their work shifts, people running to pick their children up from schools and daycare and others who were running in to pick up a couple essentials, indulgences, or maybe a prepared meal. For my mom and I, our goal in that trip was to shop for a neighbor; essentials to be delivered immediately following this particular trip.
With the list in my hand, we made our way into the store, making great time despite the crowds, checking off the items on the list until we approached the frozen/dairy section. Noticing her from afar, I’d know her from anywhere. A best friend to me through the latter portion of middle school through high school, I’d come to know her as well as some family. Spending hours at her house watching favorite movies, laughing at old pastimes, dancing to music and simply enjoying life, seeing her again was a trip down memory lane, but it wasn’t all so sweet.
Seeing her in the store, unaware I was near, my immediate reaction was to run. On the few times I’d seen her or others through the years, I made it my goal to escape as soon as possible. On those occasions, I’d run as fast as my legs would carry me, feeling as though my presence would “offend” them in some way. That day, as I saw her, a part of me returned to my 17-year-old self, desperately wanting to abandon the groceries I cradled in my arms; groceries not for me, but for a family in need. Though I bravely and reluctantly made a choice at that moment to stay. Summoning as much strength as I could, I resisted the need to run, my tapping my toes as I paced through the store and soon to the register.
When I see her or other former friends, often times sadness and ruminating begins, as I wonder what happened, what I could have done better, if anything and whether they’ve ever thought the same. This occasion reminded me of the poem below, a favorite I’ve mine which has helped me through the years. It emphasizes a realistic pathway to change and overcoming what we sometimes feel we cannot. That day, I chose to walk down another street (or aisle, rather), staying and feeling the fear and apprehension I did, but reminding myself, I am just as deserving to be in that store. It wasn’t about me in that moment – it was about the family I was shopping for; it was about being brave, about utilizing the courage I know I have buried inside and working my way through the pain. Leaving and making myself invisible doesn’t and wouldn’t have made that moment any better. Staying, finishing the shopping trip and bravely making my way out of the store, is a symbol of growth and strength. I’m not 17, I am a 31-year-old adult who saw a former friend in a grocery store, wished her well inside my mind and walked down another aisle.
Today and everyday, we can choose what and who we allow to affect us. In the wise words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.”