Twenty years is a long time especially when it means you’ll get to reunite with people who were your world during the teenage years. In the midst of the angst, hormones, competition and navigating moving from childhood to adulthood the struggle is real. I recently attended my twenty year high school reunion and as we huddled the bar for some liquid courage before we waltzed over to meet with 300 other Libertyville High School grads of 1996 we laughed about who was who during those short four years. We lessened the social anxiety that was very embedded for some and reminisced about our foolish mistakes, our broken hearts and our bruised egos. We were growing up, shit most of us already had crafted a life with a partner, had children, real jobs and had moved out of our parents homes. It was an interesting time and definitely fun to rekindle some of the relationships that had at one time been central to my existence.
The most impactful “ah-ha” moment of the weekend happened while we were watching the colorful fireworks light the sky when an old friend looked at me and laughed, “Kelsey, you are just the same.”
I paused and said “what do you mean, what was I like?”
She was confused as I had caught her completely off guard. Yet, she responded, “kind, loving and funny.”
Wow! I didn’t know she had thought of me like that. In high school, I had a nightly habit of writing about my woes and how horrible my life was. I had convinced myself through my angry diary entries that the world was an ugly place and that my life was doomed. I had plenty of friends and certainly wasn’t a loner and according to Kathleen I was kind, loving and funny. What would I do to have believed that while I struggled with lies my ego had convinced me of while growing through my teens. It’s taken me a long time to begin to dismantle those embedded stories and as she shared with me who I was to her during that time my heart sung, I felt seen for who I was. She had seen my truth not the troubled stories that I had convinced myself of.
After arriving home to Austin, I went out to dinner with a friend and fellow yoga teacher, we spent the evening getting real, laughing loudly and devouring french fries. Somewhere in the midst of our conversation I mentioned “…the way you teach.” She paused and then asked, “how do I teach?” It reminded me of that conversation on the boat yet caught me off guard, realizing how seldom I actually ask or get asked for clarification when something is said that is so broad it blankets the opportunity to deepen the connection. And so I shared with her how her teaching authentically felt to me with the hope of letting her see how her classes impact me as she probably had the same curiosity I felt around how am I impacting others.
This curiosity is universal. We are tribal creatures by nature. We want to know and understand where we stand in this wild and crazy world. Humans want to feel connected and the desire to impact people is real. When we reserve how we actually feel and think we leave a lot of interactions lacking of depth and realness. Yet, we can shift this: we can instantly deepen a connection by opening up and saying what’s really going on, what we are authentically feeling and how this individual has touched our soul. Authentic connection means that it springs organically out of conversation because we yearn to know more. It is not the same as saying something a certain way to get a certain result or desiring to make someone feel a certain something. Courageous openness stems from our heart and flows through our words rippling without premeditated thought. Courageous openness will bring about a deeply needed shift in our relationships to others and the world at large.