A woman of similar age to me, approached me and instantly knew my name. "JoAnna?" She asked. Admittedly, I was surprised that she knew me, because at first, I didn't recognize her. I am usually able to remember names, regardless of how long ago or how brief the interaction. It's a "skill" left over from being a salesperson, where every person you meet could be your next client.
I took a closer look at her face and discovered I did know her after all. "Katie*?" I asked, realizing that the woman in front of me was a high school classmate, and the daughter of a rather-disliked former employer. Lovely.
Katie had gained a lot of weight since I'd last seen her, and her long skirt and matronly shoes made her appear much older upon initial inspection, which explained why I didn't see who she was when I glanced in her direction. My last impression of Katie was when I heard she had slept with my best friend's boyfriend in our early twenties. In high school, she seemed to think that she was the Queen of Everything in her tight jeans. We weren't friends, only ever acquaintances. Also, I worked for her dad for 18 months after high school, and found out just what an abusive jerk he was. But I figured, first impressions, our parents bad choices and rumors from 15 years ago shouldn't be held against us now that we're adults. That's just juvenile.
I strive to be cordial and polite in all social situations, and this was especially true then, as she was holding a few of my things in her arms when she approached me. I felt our interaction should be that of a buyer and a seller, and at most, former acquaintances because really, that's all we were. Apparently, Katie thought otherwise.
My neighbor teased me for being a social butterfly who seems to know everyone, and we all shared a laugh. I asked how Katie was doing, as is the customary thing to do, and boy, did she answer.
This poor gal has had quite a rough past ten years, as she told me, at length. She spent the better part of half an hour telling me all about her rather-serious health issues, her dad's affair and her parents' subsequent divorce, her kids' struggles. Good Grief! She has had quite a go of it.
I shared a few updates, like "My daughter is ten, and my stepdaughter is fourteen. We bought this house four years ago. I got divorced from my daughter's father seven years ago and it was for the best because I am much happier with my current relationship of the past six years." Suddenly, I'm wondering if I'm the one acting like I'm the Queen of Everything. Should I fuss about my ailing grandparents or my massive student debt, just to be on her level?
I didn't make comment to her appearance, but she mentioned that I looked great, which was kind of her. I told her I am a committed exerciser, but struggle with my diet. Katie complained about her inability to exercise because of her illness, but admitted she knows it would be beneficial. The cycle of too tired to get fit is quite a hurdle, as well I know. I was very heavy in my twenties. Katie knew this about me, and was obviously impressed that I had changed to a much fitter physique. This situation reminded me that I shouldn't be constantly scolding myself for gravitating toward a higher weight than I've previously attained. I should be grateful I'm 30 pounds from ideal, and not 130 pounds from ideal anymore.
I felt somewhat guilty because I suddenly realized that though I struggle in many ways, my life has apparently taken a very different arc than hers. The gap between us was unusually wide. I know we are all prone to complaining about out lives, but this interaction gave me a truly different perspective. I am so grateful I am able to lead such a happy life. I am also grateful to know that it is within my power to create my life the way I want it. I wondered what made me different from Katie?
I don't have all the stars I'm reaching for yet, but I certainly haven't been circling the drain like some of my peers. Whether by our own choices or purely circumstance, shit happens. I see clearly now that life is what you make of it. I once found myself 130+ pounds overweight, in an unhealthy marriage, struggling in every regard of life, and still, crawled back out of that existence into a body with a resting heart rate of 50 beats per minute, a deep and constantly blossoming love, smart and funny kids, and a circle of dear friends and family who I adore. My journey molded me into a strong and capable woman who makes the most of what she has. I hope Katie finds a way to do the same.
Regardless of where I have been, I am truly grateful for the life I'm leading, and the chance to make today even better than yesterday. If that makes me the Queen of Everything, so be it.
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of others.