Every once in a while you get a privilege in life. It happens with such obvious force, that you know immediately when you recognize a woman that isn’t a mean girl. It’s her behavior that inspires you to be a better person.
Carolyn was my grand opportunity as well as my grand situation that popped up unexpectedly. She was the situation to beat all situations.
Carolyn Suero is my best friend from high school, and I lost track of her my entire adult life after my family died. Having compassion within myself now, I realize that I was too busy to keep up with a friendship and was busy being responsible for the burial of both my brothers, mother and grandmother who I lost within four years. While others went to college and explored the newness of freedom that adulthood has to offer, I had to face mortality. The oddest part is that I can honestly say that no extended family helped during my loss or grief. Although Carolyn was not blood family, she was there throughout the insurmountable grief in my life.
What I didn’t realize is that as I moved on through life, Carolyn was left in my tail lights.
There is a funny expression that you have to give up everything in order to get everything, and that is exactly my experience. Having my family released from earth’s plane so swiftly gave me huge freedom in my life, although I didn’t understand that in my early twenties. As I grew older and even as I write this, I am eternally grateful that I didn’t have such deep attachments to nouns: people, places or things. Family can be a real illusion set up for disappointment if you cannot find the growth. Through the lack of family, I became fulfilled within myself and comfortable in the ugly monster called “alone”.
I met Carolyn at Highland Park High School, but I can’t remember where exactly. I think we had a class together and I sat in front of her, but I could be wrong. What I do remember – now – is that she occupied every thought, laughter and tear during those precious years of high school. I told her every secret, showed her my ugliest side only to have her love me in return. It was a mutual friendship that grew into a deep bond that words can’t really describe or explain.
Losing track of me was painful for her and I had no idea as I floated through my own life. For years, Carolyn would dream about me and wake up to reality, unsettled. In each dream, we’d be reunited and she would find me. Waking up each time she’d wonder what ever happened to me.
After more than two decades, I got a private message on Facebook from Carolyn. She was extremely respectful and stated she didn’t want to intrude on my life in any way. She mentioned she had looked for me for years. Looking for me is an understatement. It haunted her and she was being very vulnerable by reaching out.
I read the post over and over again, stunned.
After all these years, what would I say?
There is something very freeing about not having a past and having few connections from your past. You can grow and no one can remember you when you did something totally stupid and hold it against you. The pain, hurts, tears and fears can remain yours and yours alone. It’s privacy at it’s best, and now being in the public eye, I value and crave privacy. My favorite guilty pleasure is showing up at Starbucks with no makeup on in yoga pants and being anonymous. My profession as a writer allows me that. Inviting Carolyn back into my life opened up the ghost of the past, and someone who knew me better than anyone, other than my husband.
Would she judge me?
Would she be impressed with where I am today?
Would it surprise her?
Why do I even care?
I watched all the nonsense in my head and pushed it aside and called her that day. Within three months I boarded a plane and met her and her two kids. I already knew her husband because I was there the day they met. That’s how far and how deep I go back with Carolyn. Our history is cavernous.
Carolyn looked exactly how she had in high school. Life had not hardened her, as it does to others. In fact, life had made her softer and deeper, and I longed to know her as an adult.
The most amazing part of the reunion was this:
No time had passed. I may has well have seen her last week, instead of 24 years ago.
Not a thread of competition or jealousy was keyed off in either of us.
There was no comparing my life to hers or vice versa. There was no nosy sense of wondering who did better, who had the happier marriage, who had the bigger house.
The whispers and secrets we had back then led to us spending days together and baring our souls once again around subjects of our guilt, our pleasures, our truth and our fears. I still love Carolyn deeply. To this day, I cannot believe someone looked tirelessly for me and I’m extremely humbled by the thought. Carolyn never gave up.
Witnessing her life humbles me in many ways. I could never do what she does in life and I know that if I had her life, I’d be a hot mess. The fact is I don’t have the personality or temperament to do what she does and for that I have awe. Watching how she navigates life is staggering to me, and if I think about it too much, I get so humbled, I weep. It’s an honor to be her friend and get to witness her life especially after all these years.
Carolyn isn’t a mean girl. Never was and never will be, and I know that all women have this deep capacity within them. Part of it is we need to give women a chance and start to see them as our sisters.
Reuniting with Carolyn made me see the value of never being mean again. I learned that isolation isn’t power. Isolation is a silly notion that the mind creates to enforce more division.
Carolyn taught me sisterhood and the beauty of reaching out, coming together and being united.
I urge you: Reach out to one another. Laugh, cry and come together as only two women can. It is such a precious thing to be a woman and be able to cultivate such deep feelings of love.
And if by chance, if you see someone like me, on the sidelines, reach out.
You just never know.