Taking A Second Chance

“Some people comes into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.”

Last July I reconnected with an old high school friend from my past. We originally met in Choir class, and we sat next to each other. He was a freshman, and I was a senior. It was fair to say at the time with our age groups and having only 1 class together we didn’t connect on a deeper level. Nevertheless, we were friends for a school year, and when I graduated I tried staying in touch with him. Unfortunately, our friendship was short-lived, and we soon ended our connection on bad terms. I don’t remember all the details or the reasons as to why, but I do remember how I felt when it happened: sad, upset, anxious, reluctant to end it, and feeling a sense of loss.

I didn’t quickly ‘get over it’ or ‘move on’. I beat myself up over it, and it became a focus of mine for an extended period of time. Why? Because I took everything that happened very personally. To paint a bigger picture: this wasn’t the first time in my life I’d reacted or felt this way towards the end of a friendship. This was history repeating itself.

As I type this I admittedly find it difficult to come back to these painful emotions. But I also believe it’s important to not be fearful and to acknowledge my past with all its darkness as well as its light. What was this darkness? I had a deep-seeded fear of losing friends. I was afraid of becoming worthless, afraid I was no longer going to matter, and afraid I would no longer be appreciated. With these fears, I would cling to whoever I believed I felt close with, whether it was built on authenticity or not. My old friend here was one of these people.

I’ve observed my past actions, past words, and past energies between him and other old friends. I see how I unintentionally self-sabotaged my friendships. It’s because I was driven by more fear, not love, and it manifested in one form or another with each person. I’m not saying the other parties were faultless, but I take responsibility for my actions I made and how I reacted to the situation. I accept that I didn’t fully understand before and that I do now.

Anyways, I didn’t expect to talk to him again. I hadn’t done so with any of my other former friends, so I didn’t assume he would be an exception. But as of late I’ve often heard the phrase about life happening for you, not to you. And last July I believe I saw an example of this.

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In April I received notice that my high school show choir was ending. Back in school I was a former member, and it was a meaningful part of my high school memories. When the announcement was made I already started to hear much negativity in the air, and I know that misery loves company. And at first I felt disappointed too, but then I decided to trade in my negativity for appreciation. I decided I was going to channel my energy into a more empowering and loving way to the group. Over 2 days I created and edited a commemorative video to the group’s legacy. I went through dozens of group photos for the video, seeking to find images I felt would resonate with the most people.

Eventually I came upon photos with my old friend. We’d both been members of the group, but at different points in time. I remember seeing these photos and faintly feeling the same anxiety and loss I felt way back when. But I had to redirect my focus back to the video I was making. This video was for the group, not about my friend or our past. I stayed the course, and I created a video I’m very proud of. I felt that whatever love I wanted to convey would hopefully show through my video. (Video: An Ode to the Buffalo Grove Expressions)

I received a positive reception from many associated with the group, and I was very happy seeing how others enjoyed watching it. With an increase in confidence, I excitedly started reaching out to former group members to reconnect with. I wanted to see how and what everyone was doing since high school. It was around this time I also decided I was going to try and reach out to my old friend too.

I saw his social media. I barely recognized him anymore. This idea of my past connection with him became a quaint memory in comparison to who I now saw. Similar to myself, he was also on a path of spirituality and personal development. An old friend or not, our interests now paralleled far more than they did in high school.

Admittedly it took some time for me to finally reach out because I feared of being rejected again. The worst-case scenario lingered in my mind. I was nervous, I was hesitant, and I questioned if even trying was worth my time or the possible negative emotions I would feel after. At some point I told myself that whatever happened I’d accept it, that at least I took a chance, and that I at least gave it a shot rather than none at all.

I sent him a personal message. I told him I was at a new point in my life, and I saw he was too. I said I wasn’t looking to focus on our past but on the idea that we may now connect as like-minded individuals. The moment I sent the message was the moment I made the decision for myself that I wouldn’t let my past or my fears define my future.

As I said, life happened for me, and he accepted my invitation to reconnect…

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This past half year has been quite extraordinary. If I have to describe what Joe and I have developed over this time, in the simplest of terms, would be a soulful connection. We are indeed friends again, but it now revolves around a deeper, more personal, and more spiritual level. Sometimes I don’t care to use the word “friend” anymore when speaking about him because of how loosely I’ve used it before. Our connection has more meaning to me than simply “a friend”. We’re not in a relationship, we’re not romantically involved, and we don’t even share the same sexual orientation. But our conversations are intimate and we are supportive of each other’s personal growth.

Early on when reconnecting we established the importance of trust, honesty, and openness with each other. We knew if we were going to continue to grow as individuals, hiding behind our old habits and fears would impede on that progress. Our idea was to pull out any weeds by the roots before they grew any bigger. And at first we did run into this issue at the beginning. It was a bit rocky. As much as my initial focus at the beginning was to put our pasts behind us, we both still had baggage we were carrying.

Remember the childhood fear I mentioned before? I not only had this fear of losing him as a friend again, but I was still troubled by the fact that I also personally found him attractive back in high school. I negatively judged myself for this. In many ways, Joe helped me work through this. He helped me further understand these feelings of mine and that this shame stemmed from fears. Crushing on someone is not an unusual thing, and I shouldn’t be ashamed of my honest feelings. I’m glad I was able to address it with him, and then I was better able to fully put it to rest. The more times we’ve been transparent with each other in general, the more times I’ve felt a feeling of weight lifted off me.

We’ve also held each other accountable for what we say and what we say we will do. We encourage each other’s personal strengths and we provide “tough love” when it’s needed. If it’s not initially clear why we are thinking or feeling a certain way, we may coach each other with questions to discover why.

Our connection may be unconventional and profound. Again, I describe it as soulful because our connection has challenged me in ways I’ve rarely done with someone for an extended period of time. We both acknowledge that we’ll make mistakes, and we’ve surely made many we’ll continue to address. But we also know that neither of us are perfect, that we will nonetheless continue to see it through and smooth out the rough spots. I’m very grateful for the time we’ve gotten to share, however long or temporary it may be.

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Perhaps we simply weren’t ready in high school to know each other. I believe we are now. And I still occasionally think about how none of this would’ve happened had I not decided to reach out to him, had we not both decided to give each other a second chance, had we not let our personal grudges or baggage dictate our futures. If there’s an insight I can provide to my readers: Don’t be afraid to take second chances on new possibilities. You never know until you try. We both tried, and what happened was beyond anything we could’ve imagined.

Joe Cavaiani: you are a beautiful friend, individual, and soul. You have a lot you’re going to continue to give and offer this world, this life, and I know this is only your beginning. You’re opening a new page, just as I’ve been myself, and I’m very grateful you’ve been a key part of my life’s journey. Much love to you and wherever life will take you, my friend.

Namaste.

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Author: Donald "Nugget" Arteaga

Living to transcend labels, to share my insights, to inspire others to move past the generalizations and stereotypes of society. Was diagnosed with autism, but autism doesn't have me! <3

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