Forty-four or forty-five years ago, sometime around when I was in 6th or 7th grade I met the person who would be my best friend for life. Sara's family had moved to the hell hole which was the small town where I had grown up during those times and at some point in time in high school, the two of us clicked. I'm not sure why. In many ways we are two very different people. But I've been grateful for years that we did indeed click. Because in many ways she has shaped the woman I have become.
When Sara met me back in junior high, I was basically like most young girls of my age who were growing up in small towns in South Texas. In other words, I was an idiot. I cared way too much what other people thought of me. I was obsessed with being considered popular or cool, something I was not in any way, shape, or form. And I didn't understand at all what real friendship was about. Basically, all I wanted back then was to fit in with people who were, to be honest, not worth fitting in with. It was pretty much what every other girl in that school cared about too. So Sara was a revelation to me. She didn't give a damn what people thought of her and being 'popular' was, to her, the definition of hell on earth. If she did actually care, she hid it well. Her philosophy was, if you don't treat me well, I don't need you in my life and if you want my respect, you have to earn it. Thankfully, she saw something worthwhile in me and we became friends, never dreaming that we would still be friends all these years later.
As it turned out, Sara had a lot to teach me. Such as how to be a real friend. And that I was more than what people, who did not know me, thought of me. She truly opened my eyes to the fact that there was a world outside of the small town we lived in and that the people who really cared about you were what mattered, not the superficial idiocies of adolescence that seemed so incredibly important at the time. She taught me to laugh at myself and, ultimately, that high school was not the high point of our lives. Real life was what was going to happen when we left that little South Texas town. Looking back, it took an impossibly long time for me to learn what she had to teach me. But she was right and I'm grateful she didn't give up on me.
Through the years we may not have been in constant contact, but we both know that the other one is there if needed. We have other friends, and what Sara taught me about friendship enabled me to make friendships that are based on respect and caring.
But Sara is a friend like no other because she is the one person who knows, not just who I am, but who I was. She knows me as no one else will ever know me because she's known me the longest. I hold that same knowledge about her. And I know, that if I ever need to, I can call her up and pour my heart out to her, just as I did all those years ago when all I was pouring out was the dregs of teen angst. And I hope she knows that I will always do the same for her.
Today is her birthday, a fact she will not thank me for pointing out to the world. Sara does not like being the center of attention. But I'll risk her displeasure because today I want to make sure she knows how happy I am she is here and that the world is truly a better place because she is here: caring about what is real and what is important.
Happy birthday Sara. Love always.