My Awesomely Random Life (and Everything in Between)

Posts tagged ‘relationships’

Confessions from the Friend Zone

The Friend Zone.

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It’s a place we’ve all been at one point or another in our lives. Some of us (*cough ME *cough) have been there so long, we might as well take up a sublet and get a parking permit. If you’re one of the lucky few who don’t know what it is, the Friend Zone is a kind of relationship purgatory where one party is in deep like/love with the other party, but the other is only putting off friendly vibes. Basically, it’s the saddest party on the block. Or at least it feels like it at the time.

Let me preface this by saying that I am ALL about being somebody’s BFF. I place a lot of value on friendships and am always up for the opportunity to add another pal to my posse. But when you start to develop feelings for said other person, real feelings, and not have those feelings reciprocated, it can definitely be a blow to the heart. In fact, it sucks. Because no matter what you say or do, this other person will only ever see you as their friend.

The Friend Zone is a place I know all too well. I’m the Norm of the Friend Zone, the Mayor  McCheese of the Friend Zone, that “one pesky zit on your face that will never leave” of the Friend Zone. Most of my relationships have started and ended the same way: I meet a great guy, stomach is filled with butterfliespterodactyls, sparks are a flyin’ (at least in my mind), texts are exchanged, amazing dates are had and I begin to think, “Damnit. I really like Bob/Joe/Jim/Moe.”

Annnnd then it happens.

The dreaded “I think you’re a really cool girl, but…”, “You’re really great, but…”, “You’resosweetandIovedhangingoutwithyou, but…”

But…

But…

But…I just don’t like you like that.

Ugh. Friend Zoned.

I’m not sure why I’ve had the pleasure of frequenting this place so often. I mean, on the one hand, I’m flattered that guys think so highly of my mad friendship skills, but on the other hand, sometimes a girl just wants to be looked at as more than that. Be it the optimistic romantic in me, I like to think that this will happen. And I know it will. One day. And it will for you too. But that doesn’t mean that in the moment, it doesn’t suck like a vacuum any less.

While being given the “Friend card” isn’t exactly the most ideal of situations, it’s also not the end of the world. Take it from me, your [self-proclaimed] Friend-Zoned love guru, it can actually present itself as a somewhat positive thing, albeit a somewhat positive thing dressed in some pretty impressive camouflage. But a positive thing nonetheless.

Here are just some things to remember in order to help you get off of that dating bench and back into the game.

  1. It’s not you; it’s them.

Yes, it’s the cliché to beat all clichés. But it’s a cliché for a reason. The toughest thing you will face when put into the Friend Zone is the how and why’s. You will more often than not spend an embarrassingly amount of time wracking your brain wondering what you did, what you didn’t do. At what point did I go from this person’s potential SO to just their “pal”? HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?! The truth is, you may never know. As much as you would like to change how someone sees and feels about you, you can’t. The only thing you can change is how you see and feel about yourself. If the other person in question doesn’t look at you the way you look at a burrito, then it’s time to walk away and find someone who does. Because burritos are delicious.

  1. Take this opportunity to actually be just friends.

Just because the opportunity for any kind of romantic relationship is out the car window doesn’t mean that you can’t get a pretty amazing friend out of the deal. After all, you liked this person for a reason, and them you. You began as friends and if you’re lucky, you can still retain that after all of the awkward dust settles. Some of my most meaningful friendships stemmed from the dreaded (but really not-so dreaded) Friend Zone.

  1. Recognize how much of a kick-ass friend you really are.

When the other person tells you how “great” and “cool” and “awesome” you are, listen to them! In the moment, of course these compliments of true authenticity go in one ear and out the next. And understandably so; you just had your heart broken. All you can think of are the things that you aren’t. But when the dust settles a bit, realize that these things that this person is saying are true. You are funny and caring and smart and funny and witty and one heck of a great person! Never, ever forget that!

  1. Use this experience as a learning opportunity.

I am a firm believer in everything happening for a reason. Like just this morning for example, I woke up late and didn’t have time to eat breakfast so I stopped by Starbucks for a quick bite. Turns out they were giving away free bagels with any purchase of a coffee. Being given free food is the ultimate reason to believe in serendipity in my opinion. The same rules apply to relationships. Use this opportunity to learn from your experience. With each relationship you have, you grow. You find out what it is in another person you like and what you don’t. You become more confident and self-assured. Ironically, you’ll on occasion, if lucky, be given free food. Full circle.

  1. Get back on the horse!

It’s natural and completely normal to be sad, to wallow a bit, drown your sorrows in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and an endless loop of Nicholas Sparks movies. Let it out, have a good cry, contemplate becoming a crazy cat lady/man. But then put your big girl/boy panties on and get back out there! This particular relationship may not have worked out, but that just means that there is one even better out there that will! Don’t lose hope. Focus on having the best life possible, spend some quality you-doing-you time, and just at the exact moment when you’re not looking for it, it’ll happen. Another cliché, but it really works. Or so I’m told; I’m still busy not looking for love in order to prove this point.

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The Heart of the Matter

 

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I was recently asked by someone if I had ever been in love. When I was forced to admit my honest answer, no, it made me think.

Granted this conversation was after one three glasses of wine, and Moscato has a sneaky way of making me get just all of the philosophical. I once had a two-hour conversation about the deeper meaning and lessons behind the Monty Python films. Hint: it involved a lot of me talking in a terrible British accent and Spam. I wish I was joking.

I’ve been on this beautiful Earth for almost 30 years now, and I’ve had many incredible life experiences, but what this particular person made me realize was that I’ve never really experienced the feeling of “being in love.”

Sure there was Kody Kremsreiter, my first “love.” We were both five, lived across the street from one another and both had the same obsession with Saturday morning cartoons, The Berenstain Bears and chicken nuggets. In 5th grade, it was Jason Kopp. He shared his War Heads with me on the playground and always picked me first when playing kickball in gym class. Guys, if that isn’t the making of true love, I don’t know what is.

I’d like to say that my dating style improved as I got older, but that was not the case.  My middle name is awkward (actually, it’s Joe, but potato poe-tah-toe) and I never aced the whole flirting thing. I still haven’t tbh. I never really had a steady boyfriend. Sure, there were guys who I dated in high school and college and even within the last few years, guys who definitely gave me the butterflies, who I would stay up late talking to on the phone eliciting all the nervous laughs and palm sweats, guys who I thought were “the one.”

But the truth is, I’ve never had that deep down, feel-it-in-your-toes, over the moon, head-over-heels, soul-gripping and down right amazing love feeling. This isn’t to say that these guys weren’t wonderful people. They were incredible! Funny, kind, smart and big-hearted. This also is in no way a rumination seeking sympathy, and it isn’t to reflect on some kind of deprivation. My life has been anything but deprived. In fact, this is just the opposite. It’s the appreciation of how full of love my life has been.

I think what my friend was asking was if I had ever experienced that stereotypical romantic love, the kind of love that makes you reminisce over who said “I love you” first, the kind of love you hear about from grandparents who’ve sustained their relationship for over 50 years, the kind of love that makes you cross continents just to be with someone. No, I’ve never personally been in this kind of love…yet. But just because I’ve never been in love, doesn’t mean I haven’t been surrounded by it.

And when I say I’m surrounded by love, I’m not necessarily referring to seeing friends getting engaged, or sending my parents an anniversary card every year (HI MOM AND DAD!!!). I’m referring to the non-stereotypical, unromantic, and yet completely unconditional love that has helped to make my life complete. I’ve never said those three magic words, “I love you” to an SO, but I have said them to people who I do in fact love, and I think those three words hold just as much meaning whether they’re said romantically or not.

I know without a doubt that this romantic love is indescribably fantastic–I’ve seen it in my grandparents, in my parents, in the relationships that my friends and other family members have.  I’m sure that there are others who are both younger and older than me who have never truly had it, but that doesn’t make their life any less complete than those who have. Don’t assume that the absence of romantic love makes the presence of loneliness that much more apparent. I don’t feel empty because I’ve never loved someone romantically, I feel grateful because I have been lucky enough to have loved and be loved in so many other ways.

When romantic love has let me down, unromantic love has been there to pick me up. When a friend understands you better than you understand yourself, that’s love. When a parent endlessly supports your passions even when you question them, that’s love. When your sibling consoles your broken heart even if theirs is hurting too, that’s love. When your dog or cat rushes over to you, tail wagging after a long day, knowing just how to cheer you up with a sloppy lick of the face, that’s love. Y’all, my life is full of love, and while it may not be romantic, it’s whole.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t incredibly excited to feel those feels one day. I think anyone would be. Being in love is an amazing thing, it’s one of the things that drives us all.

But until that happens, I will cherish the love I do have in all the different ways it presents itself. 🙂

Brave

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The Oxford dictionary primarily defines ‘brave’ as the following: Ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage. I would also add to this definition: attempting to wear white at an Italian restaurant, grocery shopping on an empty stomach and listening to Hanson in public (YOU CAN’T NOT DANCE AND EPICALLY KAROKE WHEN LISTENING TO HANSON, Y’ALL!!! It’s literally physically impossible.)

But back to my good friend Oxford. According to its definition, me thinks that there are two primary parts, two very crucial ingredients to being brave – the ability to endure, and courage. I might add that when one is brave, two of these qualities have to co-exist, and they are both of equal importance.

In order to understand bravery, one must first understand its opposite – fear.

Fear. That dirty, four-letter word. It’s a creeper, a prohibitor. It is an enemy, and a cruel one at that. Most people don’t like to get to know their enemies, but I am of the opinion that one must not only know their enemies, but also understand them.

Like a lot people, two of my biggest fears are that of rejection and failure. Oof. Those things give me the heeby-jeebies just in mentioning them. Which makes sense, because they are supposedly the two contemporary greatest human fears alongside spiders, and running out of Oreos, and spiders, and tornadoes, and spiders and did I mention spiders? Okay. Maybe these things are just what I tend to fear on the regular, but you get the idea.

Search “overcoming fear” on the Googles, Pinterests and other areas of the inter webs and you are bound to be hit with a kajillion quotes (I love a good cliché, but for all intents and purposes, I will spare you).  The most profound thing I have learned about fear in my almost 30 years of life is that there really is no escaping it.

But knowing that fear is inescapable is exactly why bravery is of utmost necessity in life.

Fear is the thing that paralyzes, while bravery is the thing that frees. Fear is the thing that chooses mediocre, while bravery is the thing that takes the risk of chance, a chance that could bring greatness or defeat. Fear always leads to regret, while bravery leads to knowing.

Bravery requires endurance because it requires persistence and perseverance  – that thing that keeps you going after the proverbial fat lady has sung and the show is over. Bravery requires courage because first you must make the choice to be at the show, and then to get up and rock out with your bad self too.

When I think of all the people in my life who have been brave and who continue to be brave, I realize that bravery means many different things in many different situations.

Sometimes bravery means being the person who stands out in the crowd, who speaks up, and who must be a voice, either the voice they need to hear, or a voice for others. Sometimes bravery means having the prudence to pause, to sit in silence and to just be okay.

Sometimes bravery means putting up the fight of your life, and fighting till the very end. Sometimes bravery means raising up that white flag, accepting defeat, and finding the will to move on from that defeat without resentment, and with wisdom.

Sometimes bravery means to search for the things and the people who make you feel alive; to take risks, to be a long shot and an outlier. Sometimes bravery means to be grateful and content and satisfied with the state of your right here and right now.

But bravery, whatever it is some of the time, to be authentic, to be able to endure, to be an act of courage, must also be an act of love.

Whether of a thing or of a person or of a place, bravery must be manifested through this love. And to be brave you must accept that the great love of anything may result in heartbreak and pain and disappointment. To be brave, you must be willing to risk the possibility of a terrifying ending.

To be brave is to be alive and to live in such a way that the world knows you are afraid, but you love more than you fear.

Bravery rocks, kids!

Almost as much a plate full of Oreos. 😉

Why It’s Okay to Feel the Feels

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Hi there, friends.

Happy Friday to you all!

So there’s something I’ve been meaning to get off of my chest. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about toughness. Being tough, being strong, being resilient, being scrappy, being brave, being stubborn, being unfazed and unrattled and unshakeable and relentless.

Being confident.

All of these things are synonyms in places, overlapping like a weird venn diagram of words and emotions and feelings. These are all good things to have, great in fact! They work as assets no matter who you are or what you do. Everyone and their second cousin twice removed on their mom’s side faces criticism and critique at some point, and everyone has to rise again from their setbacks and road blocks. That’s just how life works. It ebbs and flows.

But of all of these tools in the spectrum of human emotion that help you get from valleys to peaks and back again, I just don’t think I want to have a thick skin.

For a long time, I tried to hide the fact that I was perhaps a little bit more sensitive than other people, that I took things to heart, cared almost too deeply about other people’s happiness, their pain and struggles and triumphs. I tried to squash that part of me; after all, if I didn’t feel, if I didn’t allow things to “get to me”, there was a far less chance of me ever getting hurt.

Pretty solid plan, no?

I thought so at the time.

Don’t get me wrong; I really admire people with thick skin, people like my sister who can tell it like it is, who can walk around with this air of confidence and a take-no-shiznit-from-anybody attitude. She’s tough (and strong and resilient and scrappy and brave and stubborn and unfazed and unrattled and unshakeable and relentless) and I love, love, LOVE that about her.

But the truth is, I don’t want things to just bounce off of me. I want to feel. Even if the feeling sucks. That feeling is just a simple reminder that I’m human.

We all are.

In some ways, thinking you’re not human–maybe invincible–is helpful. It’s the adrenaline that pushes you through something scary and challenging, and makes you think that you’re stronger than you are. It gives you courage, and that isn’t a bad thing. But it’s also important to recognize that you have the right to be scared at times, to worry and have doubts and be sad. So much has changed in the past 10 years alone; we live in a time where people, complete strangers can judge you and develop misguided opinions about you from a simple Tweet, a posted Instagram photo, a Facebook status. Even the news seems to be reporting on another tragedy or atrocity every single day. Violence, war, people shaming others simply because of what they look like or believe in. Life would, in theory, be so much easier if you felt and reacted less to all of this.

But I don’t think that’s the way to go about it. Often, telling someone else to grow a thicker skin is to excuse the actions of everyone around them. “People are awful, don’t let them get to you.” But of course awfulness is going to get to a person. Of course it will bug someone. That’s human nature. You can’t tell a person to not feel, just because it keeps the status quo intact.

And okay, some people can be hypersensitive about some things, but they have the right to feel any which way they choose. You can’t tell them a feeling is wrong. (You can tell them that the concepts on which they’re basing their feelings are misguided, but feelings in and of themselves are not right or wrong. They’re just feelings.) And excusing the actions of other people–that oh, people are just overwhelmingly shitty, grow a thicker skin, move on mentality–that’s to excuse that shittiness and let it keep happening.

Sure, you can only control your own actions and not the actions of other people, but your actions also include taking other people to task when their actions are bad. You don’t have to ignore, and you don’t have to roll over, and you don’t have to simply accept things as they are. You don’t have to grow a thicker skin.

You can and should be resilient. You should stand your ground as much as you can, and especially when it’s for things that are right. But don’t grow a thicker skin. Don’t teach yourself how to not feel.

Let things affect you. Let things get under your skin and crawl up your veins and sit uncomfortably with you until  you do something about them. Call people out when they say mean things to you. Or to those you love and care about. Stand up for yourself and for anyone else you see being bullied or put down.

We may mostly be grown ups, but we’re still not so far from the playground. And sometimes on the playground, you’d skin your knee and it would sting and you’d get gravel and grit in the cut, and it would hurt like a mother, but you would remember that sting and you would learn. Sometimes it was your own damn fault. Sometimes it was Billy Splinter who pushed you off the jungle gym. But just because it was somebody else who pushed you over doesn’t make it hurt any less. And sometimes, those scrapes left scars–I’ve got a few of my own, each telling a different story. Those moments of vulnerability though more times than not lead to lessons and breakthroughs. Those moments of weakness often tell us who we really are.

Be strong and confident and believe in yourself. By all means, be stubborn, and be smart about the fact that some people are just going to say and do stupid things just to hurt you. Or will say and do things without thinking or meaning any harm that will hurt you. It’s often smart and intuition to ignore these feelings, but having that wisdom is different than having a thick skin. Don’t confuse the two, whatever you do. Don’t grow a thick skin, or at least, keep parts of it vulnerable.

It’s okay to love deeply, care strongly and forgive.

Feel.

Be human.

Be imperfect.

Be alive.

Thoughts every girl has on a first date

Let’s talk dating, guys.

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but just thinking about it makes me break out into hives. Dating in general is the fucking worst. And yet weirdly pretty damn awesome. And nerve-wracking. And just all of the awful. And pretty much the best thing ever.

And first dates?! Psh. Don’t even get me started. They’re a whole other beast, my friends.

A weird and awesome and nerve-wracking and awful and best-thing-ever beast. I think we’ve all been there before. We’ve all had that one first date that makes you want to crawl into your blanket fort and never, ever leave again. And we’ve also had that one first date that makes you ridiculously and annoyingly school-girl-crushy. That one first date that gives you hope, gives you just all of the butterflies pterodactyls, and makes you think that maybe, just maybe, this dating thang isn’t so bad.

First dates are arguably one of the most unique (read: awkward) experiences we will ever encounter, each complete with their own set of highs and lows, failures and successes. Take it from someone who has pretty much seen it all and then some.

To all of the fellas out there, listen up. I’m not necessarily speaking on behalf of all female datees out there, but generally speaking, here are just some of the many thoughts that will likely pass through our beautiful minds the next time you find yourself across the table from your next Sizzle date. (Yes, we now have a dating app for bacon lovers. This is a thing. An actual thing. Because ‘merrica. And because bacon.)

  • It’s 7:03pm. Does three minutes constitute as fashionably late?
  • Shit. This place looks really fancy. Should’ve maybe rethought the Ninja Turtle t-shirt.
  • No, it’s cool. I’ll look chill, like I just threw this on and looked effortlessly fabulous.
  • 7:06pm. All right, cover me. I’m going in.
  • Aw. He’s cute! From all the way over here at least.
  • I mean, he doesn’t look like a serial killer.

1

  •  He’s already sitting. Dammit! I needed to analyze his height compared to mine!
  • Handshake? Hug? Kiss on the cheek? I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH MY HANDS!!
  • Why am I so awkward? Like, I am the most awkward person ever. I should just go ahead and apologize to my date right now.
  • I’ve forgotten how to speak.
  • Say anything.
  • ANYTHING!

2

  • The weather? Really? That’s the best you could do?
  • Wait. It’s okay. He’s smiling. Just breathe.
  • You know what? He’s actually cuter in person. That’s an unexpected bonus I will gladly take.

3

  • Okay. Let’s cover the basics: work, hometown, college attended, siblings, favorite way to eat an Oreo.
  • Just pretend you don’t already know everything about him from stalking his social media. Act surprised!
  • Yep. Nope. Definitely acted way too surprised.
  • Oh thank God the waitress is here. Saved by the menu!
  • I’ll have everything in the “snacks” section. Self-control!

4

  • Umm, yes I’ll split the fries! I thought you’d never ask. #soulmates
  • This is going well.
  • Does he think it’s going well?
  • We’ve hardly had any awkward pauses.
  • Am I talking too much?
  • OMG he hates me.
  • Oh hot damn. The food’s here. Try not to look too excited.
  • Yep. Nope. Definitely looked way too excited.

5

  • Okay, it’s really hard to eat and avoid lulls in the conversation at the same time.
  • What if I’m an ugly eater?
  • I kind of have to pee.
  • Yep. Nope. I really have to pee!
  • DAMMIT WHY DID I WEAR A ROMPER??!! This is going to be at least a 20 minute ordeal.
  • I’m just going to hold it.
  • This dude’s pretty funny.
  • Wait, was that a joke? I don’t want to laugh if he was serious, and I can’t not laugh if he’s trying to be funny.
  • So the obvious solution is to make a creepy half-snort/half-grunt. Nice, Wendi. Nice.

6

  • Great! He’s going to the bathroom. Now, I can check my phone and actually eat my food in peace.
  • Wow! We survived made it through an hour already.
  • Selfie check! I still look cute.

7

  • Has he been in the bathroom a while?
  • Maybe he has stomach issues? Or he’s climbing out the window?
  • FUCK! He’s coming back. Don’t stare!
  • Hopefully he doesn’t notice I just shoved my face while he was gone.
  • Another drink? YAASSSS.

8

  • Is he playing footsie with me? Nope. That’s the guy at the table next to us. That’s not awkward at all.
  • I do think he’s flirting though. He’s laughing at all of my jokes. I’m not that funny.
  • Wait. What am I talking about? I’m fucking hilarious!
  • I kind of like this guy. But who am I to say, really? I def have to debrief w/ my BFF (and mom) later.
  • Oh shit! The bill. Dun, dun, dun.
  • Let me grab my purse and at least try to pay.
  • No, no, no. He just spent way too much money on me!
  • Awe!! But it was really sweet. Crap.
  • And he wants to drive/walk me home? SO SWEET! CRAPPPP!
  • I really do like him!
  • We’re getting really close to my building. What’s it gonna be??
  • Just be cool, Wendi. Stop doing that awkward thing you do with your hands and feet and just follow his lead.
  • There’s not even a name for the part of my face he kissed. Somewhere in the no man’s land between my cheek and my lips. Yep. That just happened.

9

  • Did he really mean “Let’s do this again soon”?
  • Going home and NOT recounting every last minute of this glorious night to my roomie dog while I wait for his text.
  • Yep. Nope. I totally am!!!

And this is why I don’t date, y’all.

This is why.

For the person who leads with their heart

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When you think about the person who has a big heart, who cares deeply and cares hard, it probably conjures up a lot of assumptions.

They cry at movies and get weepy at commercials (this Google Chrome spot has the ability to turn anyone and their second cousin’s best friend’s uncle into a blubbering hot mess) without concern if someone is looking. They care about strangers more than you thought possible, light up at the possibility of helping someone–even if they have nothing to give them in return–and feel things so strongly and so deeply, that those feelings often make their decisions for them.

They lead with their heart instead of their head.

You might mistake this person for being impulsive, for a ‘leap before they look’ kind of guy/gal. And in a way, you’re right. Because the head says ‘wait’ but the heart says ‘go’. And they’re not the kind that can ever sit still when their heart is telling them to run somewhere.

But painting them simply as someone who has too many feelings and too big of a heart, who doesn’t have enough of a head on their shoulders to really think things through isn’t giving them enough credit. It’s writing them off as someone who is just feelings. As if feelings aren’t valid or strong or worth noting.

The truth about the person who leads with their heart instead of their head that you’re probably too afraid to admit? They’re braver than you.

The person who leads with their heart instead of their head isn’t afraid of the possibility of failing. They’re too busy chasing, loving, and giving to worry about the repercussions that may come back to hurt them. They’re more concerned about doing what feels best to waste time weighing and outweighing options that may never even see the light of day.

They’re too busy loving, and in turn living, to unnecessarily linger on the possibility that something might be the wrong choice.

The truth about leading with your heart is that it’s the scarier choice. It’s the riskier option. More can go wrong when you leap instead of look, when you love instead of hold back, when you feel instead of giving into fear. It’s the bolder choice; the choice that leaves more open to come back and smack you with negativity and pain.

Which is why it is a choice that should be commended, not shamed.

So to those who lead with their hearts and not their heads, who are constantly giving without expectation of receiving, who unapologetically have those hearts on their sleeves for the world to take a piece of: I commend you. 

You are brave in a world that so often tries to make souls like yours afraid of what they’re feeling. You take risks in a world where doing just that is an act of rebellion. You put yourself out there when everything realistically is pointing at you to do exactly the opposite.

You remain loving in a world that is often so unkind.

Never apologize for being that person. Never make your love smaller to protect yourself. Never repress what you want to shout from the rooftops.

Because you are someone who leads with their heart and not their head, and that is brave.

And that is beautiful.

And the world needs more people

just

like

you.

I’ll Stand By You

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As a little kid, I quickly earned the title of Playground Defender – which I get totally makes me sound like a mini Buffy, but if you’re imagining some bouncer-to-be or heavy weight champ, I’m gonna stop you right there. I was puny, y’all. I was tall and gangly with sticks for legs and blunt, uneven bangs (thank you mom for that one) that always clung together in a sweaty, hot mess. Nothing about me screamed, “Oofta, better watch out for that one!”

…But don’t let that fool you, my friends. Yeahhhh sure you betcha I was every bully’s worst nightmare. I was a Robin Hood: 2nd Grader in Tights, swooping in out of nowhere to help the poor and downtrodden. I’d appear with my tiny fists in the air as a warning, yelling to leave whoever was being picked on alone. I roamed the halls like an elementary school sheriff. No kid was going to get their Little Debbie Swiss Cake Roll stolen at the lunch table, or be stuffed in a garbage can. Not on my watch!

No one really knows for sure how it started. My parents said I was always feisty and full of sass. But when my kindergarten best friend started routinely getting teased by one of the more aggressive boys in class (Bobby Stinholf I’m looking you, buddy), I wasn’t having it. I’d demand that he stop. I started off using my words, like everyone suggested. And when that didn’t work, I channeled all my miniature rage and smacked the boy with a wooden building block, leaving am impressive welt on his mean, smug face.

I still remember the ride home after that incident, worried about the reaction and punishment for my actions that was inevitable, only to have instead my mom and dad secretly sneaking me high-fives from the front seat.

People soon learned if you were going to mess with the people I loved, I was going to make them wish they didn’t. Small or not, I could pack a punch. Sure, I (thankfully) graduated past the physical–the block to the face incident was the one and only–and now, as a fully-formed adult (or at least fully-formed adult adjacent), I’m not likely to pull at your hair for being mean to my friend or other loved one. I’m not going to smack you with a library book (because that would just be book abuse) or a wooden building block (though Mr. Stinholf stopped making fun of kids after that incident sooooo….). But that doesn’t mean that protective instinct doesn’t still exist inside me. The Playground Defender, the Robin Hood is a part of me. A very real, instinctual part.

There are very few things that get my blood boiling: mean people, the Cubs, mean people, paying full price for a pair of jeans only to have them go on sale the very next day, mean people, a bag of chips that 99.9999% air and mean people.

Especially mean people who are mean to the ones I love. As weird as this may sound, I don’t like confrontation. I’ve never liked confrontation. In fact, I avoid it like the plaque. I don’t like seeing people upset, hurt or in any kind of pain. I get very uncomfortable, start sweating and break out in hives. It’s not an attractive look, guys.

But there’s something different that comes over me when the ones I love are in the line of fire. My Mike Tyson patronus comes out and is ready and willing to defend, stand up for and protect. I would literally do anything for my friends and family (okay mayyyybe not anything—my hair is epically on point today so anything having to do with wind or humidity is off the table).

To those I love (you know who you are):

I know I can’t save you from this world.

Rationally, I know that. No matter how hard I try, something out there is going to hurt. You’ll have your moments of disappointment, discouragement, when you feel like everything is stacked against you. A failed relationship, the loss of a loved one, job stress or challenges to your health. I can’t stop those things from happening. My love isn’t enough to keep you forever safe from all the things.

But that doesn’t mean I’ll ever stop wanting to try. I love you, so that means I’m going to do what I can to help you, to encourage you, to be by your side and fight with you. The Defender has your back. Even when you feel alone, I will be in the background. You just have to look in my direction. I’ll still be there. I’ll still be doing what I can to protect you.

Because that’s just what I do.

Because I love you.

Because you weaseled your damn way into my heart and there’s no turning back now.

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