Liberated.

It’s been a while since I’ve contributed anything here. My emotions have run the gamut these last few months as politicians have dominated the airwaves, cases of police-related violence have shown up in media, two hurricanes have blown through this region, people have been…well, people, I’ve learned the sex of my new baby, and had a momentum shift at work. I’m in a very good place, but that doesn’t automatically spell ability for me to articulate exactly what I want to say next on this blog.

My identity has changed quite a bit over the last few months as well, and that’s called into question my presence on most social media platforms. Most people who follow me on Instagram see me as a coach and fitness guru. I wouldn’t consider myself those things anymore. I change outfits so often, for some it’s hard to keep up. But underneath whatever my new focus may be, I am still ultimately me. Most folks don’t have the patience or power to see that, and that’s okay.

Lately, I’ve been exchanging valuable lessons with my counselor – she was appointed to me through the program my OB’s office offers for expecting mothers to help with parent education, mental health and stress management, and other psychological services. What I love about getting to meet with her each week is that she affirms a lot of the realizations I’ve had about myself and my relationships with others recently, and not just because she’s my friend and loves me and wants me to feel supported, but rather because her professional opinion reflects a stance in support of the changes I’m making. These two items (my choices and changes and her professional approval) exist separate of each other. I don’t kneel before her each week asking what the next step to take is…rather I’m just taking steps, following the path that feels right, and when I open up to her about it, she meets me with praise.

The person I used to be was someone who was in survival mode. Especially when I look at that girl who lived in California from 2008-2014, I definitely see someone who just wanted to find a good place to be so that she didn’t have to be alone or on the outs. My family had left, and though I had my boyfriend/husband, he also had a life, a career, and an identity of his own. I needed (or felt like I needed) certain people around to not feel so alone or abandoned.

Now that I live here, closer to family and raising my own small family, that need for others has waned significantly. I still value friendships and people for what they bring to my existence and what they allow me to offer to them, but I don’t seek to make new friends or know new people now. I know everyone I want to. I’m close to who I want to be close to. That circle is drastically smaller than it’s ever been, but it’s also the most appropriate it’s ever been. There are people who aren’t included there who don’t like it. Fine. There are folks I kicked out because I didn’t deem them worthy anymore. Fine. (and no, that ain’t some Mean Girls shit; I don’t have time for one-way relationships anymore) There are folks who don’t like me but choose passive-aggression over stating their feelings plainly. Enjoy. This life reset has been about refocusing on what’s important, letting go of what’s not, and emotionally detaching from things (and people) that just aren’t worth the investment. And from where I’m sitting, it’s working.

View More: http://collectionbyclaribelphotography.pass.us/antoinette--july-2016

I always feared isolation because I thought it’d make me sad. The truth is, the smaller I keep my world in terms of association and affiliation, the happier I am. I would rather be alone and content than surrounded by a sea of people who claim to be on my team but constantly hurt me through being obliviously self-absorbed, or strapping me with unfair expectations. I’ve found the courage and power to say no, to keep the door locked after others walk out of it, and to set fire to the bridge myself if I know I won’t need to cross it again. None of this emerges from an angry or bitter place, but rather one of protecting my true happiness. And yes, it leaves me feeling liberated.

Friendship

I just got done catching up with an old friend on the phone, which is fueling my inspiration to write this blog post tonight. A few updates: my Facebookless life is going well so far – I am accomplishing more at home and at work (which are the same place HA!) I am happier in my marriage and other relationships, and my ability to focus has improved. I still have anxiety, but I had that well before Facebook so we won’t blame that social media monster for it. I’ve also got a better handle on how I want to run my coaching business moving forward.

friendship meme

Truth be told, you could put these two on ANY meme, and I would laugh. #StepBrothers

On to the topic at hand: Friendship, and all the business surrounding it. I appropriately named this blog after the period of time I am progressing through on my personal timeline, and I’m really glad I had the foresight to do so. My thirties have been a contrast to my twenties; I’m sure most adults in their thirties and beyond would say the same. When you’re just starting out, you make mistakes because you don’t know any better. After you’re experienced, you have a better idea on how to side-step a lot. One area among many that I’ve seen a metamorphosis in is my concept of friendship.

I think that my current idea of friendship has been heavily influenced by two things: the fact that I am a female in western society, and the fact that I am a black, not-hood-whatsoever female in Western society. Whether I wanted to or not, I fell into a certain place socially because of these traits. Men may look women up and down, but ultimately, women go hard on judgment of other women. It’s just a fact. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is just oblivious. Though men can have social pressures and expectations placed on them, the more rigid sex is definitely female when it comes to appearance, attitude, endorsement, and affiliation. Women are socialized, bred, and trained to have expectations of each other, which are most often ridiculous:

*If you are my friend, then you cannot be friends with people who I view as “enemies” (usually established by catty circumstances such as a slam book or someone starting a rumor or someone dating someone else’s boyfriend freshman year of high school).

*If you don’t act the way society says you should, you cannot be my friend.

*If you refuse to devote time to me when I ask for it, i.e. phone conversations, attendance at a birthday party, staying in with me because I have nowhere to go even though you might, then you are a bad friend.

*If your life doesn’t accommodate mine across circumstantial lines, then you’re an unsupportive friend. For example: Why can’t you come on this booze cruise even though you’re married??? Or, not understanding why you’d feel awkward at my baby shower as the only single girl among married ones.

Because most girls grow up wanting to be desirable, lovable, and admired, we do things that we think will earn us these traits by trying hard to fit in, sticking with cliques, adopting certain fashions or trends just because they’re fashions or trends, and, at times, even being something we really are not because we think it will boost us somehow. My experiences in dance as a child, in high school as a teen, in a sorority in college, and as a young adult in my early twenties all brought me to this conclusion. Some women will step completely outside themselves socially for the sake of trying to appease a crowd. There were many “kickbacks” and other social events I went to throughout high school and college that I felt I needed to in order to remain “cool” with everyone else. A portion of this can probably be attributed to my belief in people-pleasing that I had as I matured from a teen to young adult to now thirtysomething, but the social pressure was there, and I believe that being a female was a large culprit. Boys don’t have as much to think about in that regard. Their social game has fewer rules.

When it comes to my own way of thinking in the present, at just over 32 years of age, I see my favorite and most cherished friendships as the ones that ask absolutely nothing of me. They’re the ones where the other person gives me permission to be exactly who I am without judgment or need of explanation. I am not lazy in friendship, so when I mention that I appreciate relationships that ask nothing of me, that isn’t so that I can sit back and reap special benefits from anything. The friendships I’ve had, I have given a deep part of myself to. I think that’s why it hurts so much to reflect on the ones that have crashed and burned – I’ve had to come to a place of acceptance sans harsh criticism and guilt over what was, and learned to be grateful for what they’ve taught me. But as I move forward through my life, and develop new friendships with the people I bump into during each experience I have, I’ve learned to side-step the arrangements where expectations that I’m not comfortable with are placed on me. This is tough in some situations; people I used to bend over backwards to try to impress or stay in contact with might be wondering if I’m even alive anymore now. In every circumstance where there is a gain on one side, you can always count on there being a deficit on some opposite end. In my case, I’m gaining better control on my emotional, time, and personal investments, and those are more valuable to me than making everybody happy…which is an impossible feat anyway. My favorite friendships were and still are the ones where I can just be accepted for who I am –  a woman with flaws who is still trying to figure herself out while also balancing her changing roles as a woman. Sometimes, I might forget to call. I may not always want to talk about what’s bothering me. My “next move” may not make sense in your eyes, but it’s what I’ve decided on and so I’m going for it.

I should point out that my shift in how I regard friendship has definitely also exposed to me the relationships where I made unfair expectations of other people which consequently didn’t serve me or the other person involved in any way. I think that our world could benefit from more people loving each other as they are rather than drawing up lines and opposition over everything we aren’t to one another. My place in anyone’s life isn’t to criticize or give endorsement where it’s not needed. My place is to accept the people who are in my life for all their imperfections as well as strengths and be here to listen silently when they need me. That hasn’t been an easy lesson to grasp, but one that I am surely thankful for.

One mantra that I’ve come to adapt through this life reset journey I’m on is that if something no longer serves me, I have to let it go. People-pleasing (though I haven’t been a chronic people-pleaser in about five years now) definitely wasn’t serving me, and it’s one thing I’ve been able to shake off since stepping into 2016. But when it comes to friendship and any relationship really, if you feel like you’re asked to act in ways you normally wouldn’t, to endorse things you don’t believe in, or to participate in something you don’t really want any part of, I challenge you to speak the word, “No,” in defense of who you are. I believe all of our future selves will thank us for it. Also, if something isn’t serving you but still occupying space in your life, find a way to let it go. Our time here is limited and therefore precious and shouldn’t be wasted.

Sullen Girl

“Is that why they call me a sullen girl? Sullen girl…
They don’t know I used to sail the deep and tranquil seas.
But he washed me ‘shore, and he took my pearl and left an empty shell of me.” –”Sullen Girl” by Fiona Apple

Anxiety sucks. I’ve only recently become acquainted with just what this feeling is that’s hovered over me in much of my adult life past age 27. If I had to come up with a metaphor for what this emotion feels like, I’d say it’s probably similar to what Sri Lankans felt like on December 26, 2004 as they watched the ocean menacingly encroach upon their habitat, helpless against the raging onslaught of water that would devour their homes, places of business, streets, cars, friends, and family. Anxiety washes over me like a tsunami, and all I ever wanted to do was bask in the sunlight or sail peacefully with the wind in my hair.

It’s typically been my nature to be open and inviting to others – I’m not this way anymore. I used to enjoy social settings, meeting new people, and putting myself out there. In place of those things I’ve been busy building walls, withdrawing from relationships, and trying to patch up really old wounds that I thought had healed. I always thought that when I reached a point like this I would find myself sad about the shift in my attitude and behavior, but I’m actually really comfortable being this way because it minimizes my amount of emotional risk. I used to scoff at risk before, but now I refuse to take risks. I don’t want to be vulnerable to anything or anyone anymore.

The only place I feel truly safe and calm is at home. If I could lie in bed and eat yummy food and watch Netflix all day without consequence, I would. But someone has to let the dogs out. These papers aren’t going to grade themselves. I don’t want to be arrested for child neglect. Eventually, the groceries in the fridge will run out and I’ll have to go to the store to get more.

When I can’t sleep, I like to sneak into Kennedy’s room, grab her from her toddler bed, and lie down with her in the futon guest bed – there’s something so comforting about getting to snuggle with my baby who isn’t really a baby anymore. I’d do the same with Fabian, but since his body is bigger, he controls the cuddling. I can just grab Kennedy and snuggle with her and she’ll fall asleep no matter how we’re tangled up. Plus, I enjoy the tickle of her soft curls against my chin and nose. I want to soak up these moments now because one day she won’t want me anymore. When she’s a rebellious teenager, she’ll probably tell me she hates me because I won’t let her dye her hair pink or stay out ‘til 3am with her boyfriend. I just hope that by then I’ve found something else to comfort me that isn’t cocaine or excessive drinking or heroin or PCP.

Now, I know that the Christians and religious folks probably wonder, “Why doesn’t she just hand these troubles over to God? Why doesn’t she pray more? Doesn’t she know Jesus can save her?”

My answer to that: I do pray. I do read The Word. I do have a relationship with God and Jesus – a strong one. It is naïve to think that just because a person is going through troubles, they must be lacking in faith. Trials like these are where faith is tested. So-called good Christians are not free from troubles. Don’t look at someone else’s life and assume that everything must be okay just because that’s how it looks to you.

As with all stages in life, this one will pass too. Perhaps it will be in a few months, or maybe it will take me decades to dig out from under. Until then, the walls, distance, and mistrust remain. I’ve been so burned and shit on and it’s finally all catching up to me. I almost wish I could go back in time to 1992 or so and warn little young, bright-eyed, hopeful, friendly Antoinette that she should probably just stop it now, because it’s only a burden to have to keep up later. When you’re the person who is good at offering an ear to listen and a heart to care, all anyone is going to let you do is listen and care; they won’t return the favor. When you’re upbeat and lighthearted, nobody will allow you to be downtrodden or serious. Nobody ever asks the friend who’s a good listener if they have anything to say. Nobody ever reaches out to the girl who’s constantly reaching out to everybody else. Don’t exhibit strength or power in overcoming obstacles because then you’re never allowed to be weak. Helping make someone else’s bad days good means you’re never allowed to have bad days.

Sorry, not sorry!

Burlesque dancer and model Dita von Teese once said, “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.”

This quote didn’t resonate with me until about three months ago. As much as I have accomplished, I’m still guilty of allowing others to define me with their words and actions. Especially given the world of change that’s happened in my life over the last year, it seems like no matter what choices I make, what words I say, what I do, there is always someone out there who has a problem with it. But that’s really okay…

I’ve never been popular or in with the “cool” crowd. Growing up, I was a nerd (Oh who am I kidding? I’m STILL a nerd!). I joined a sorority in college only to leave a year later because I didn’t get along with any of my “sisters.” I’m also an only child, so being the odd one out really isn’t anything new to me. Something else that isn’t new is the concept that other people will use your actions or words as a scapegoat for what they decide to do, say, or think. I’m only just now, at 31 years of age, becoming intimately acquainted with this phenomenon.

I can’t explain the motives of others. I don’t know why people think what they think or say what they say. I only know what I’m doing, or saying, or feeling. Just as well, what I do and say seems to really irk folks at times and I get the sense that there are people out there who feel that I should be ashamed, be more tactful, that I should tone it down, or that I should say sorry.

The purpose of this blog post is to explain that I am indeed, unyieldingly not sorry.

Nope.

I’m not sorry that I moved away and found a new life for myself with my husband, my daughter, my mother, and my father.

I’m not sorry that I made new friends.

I’m not sorry that I decided to buy a Groupon to a pole studio here in town and then fell in love with the art. I’m not sorry for wearing short shorts and a sports bra. I’m not sorry for posting videos of myself pole dancing in my house.

I’m not sorry for working out and taking care of myself. I’m not sorry for posting videos or selfies of it. I’m not sorry about becoming a Beachbody coach. I’m not sorry about asking people to join me on my fitness journey.

I’m not sorry for embracing my faith and telling others about it. I’m not sorry for choosing to put God first and telling others about it. I’m not sorry for carrying my devotional book in my purse each day so that I can pull it out and get some spiritual rejuvenation in a world overflowing with assholes.

I’m not sorry for being a work at home mom and proud of it.

I’m not sorry that a year after moving away I don’t want to go back to San Diego.

I’m not sorry for having dreams and believing in them.

I’m not sorry for not being your picture of a perfect mom.

I’m not sorry for being proud of my 4.0 in school.

I’m not sorry for enjoying cooking and sharing that love with others through recipes and videos.

I’m not sorry about being candid at times about my marriage and the rocky places it’s been in the last 18 months.

I’m not sorry for waiting until my marriage was fixed to consider having a second child.

I’m not sorry for calling myself a professor. I am one. Can’t be sorry about the truth!

I’m not sorry that I believe that what’s my business isn’t anybody else’s unless I make it so.

I’m not sorry for calling people out who are disrespectful to my family and friends.

I’m not sorry about the friends I lost in the move. They were fraudulent people anyway.

I’m not sorry for not caring about cable television.

I’m not sorry for being me. No really, I’m not.

If you’re waiting for some sort of apology…you’ll be waiting a while. I hope you’ve got Netflix!

#NotSorry

not sorry 2

Kthxbye!

More Lessons I’ve Learned (in no particular order)

I haven’t blogged in a while, so this is a bit of a conglomerate post. Part of the reason I’ve been away for so long is because every time I sat down to write something in the past month, my message began to take on a stance of criticism and negativity cast toward other individuals, and as much as I’m a supporter of free expression and cleansing through the release of feelings and emotions through words, I didn’t set up ThirtyReimagined to be that kind of blog. First and foremost, this blog is a chronicle of my journey through life after my 29th year, and I don’t wish for that journey to include berating or self-aggrandizement. On occasion, I will rise to the defense of people or principles that are important to me (see Leave Karlesha Thurman Alone Already or Cold Tofurky), but this blog is mostly centered around the ways in which my life has changed in my thirties.

This includes the many, many lessons I’ve had to learn – the most salient of which I will dispense now:

  1. Be kind.

There are many versions of me – the hilariously witty Antoinette, the quiet and pensive Antoinette, the adventurous “try anything” Antoinette, the no excuses Antoinette (mostly exhibited in classrooms), the hardcore bitchy Antoinette (mostly exhibited in situations of extreme hunger), and the super sensitive Antoinette. Many of these versions overlap, but I’m never just one way all the time. By far my favorite version of myself is the kind, spreading positivity, keeping her head and shoulders held high Antoinette. Though I prefer to be kind and compassionate, that’s not to say I don’t get met with opposition, criticism, judgment, and ridicule. Many folks don’t agree with the choices I’ve made for the path my life will follow; it’s unfathomable that a woman can be a mother, be a wife, be a musician, be a student, be an educator, be a pole dancer, be a fitness coach, be GOD FEARING, be an ally to gays, lesbians, and transgendered individuals, be a mentor to former drug addicts, be a fan of rock, country, rap, and pop, etc. Not everyone else gets it, and that’s really okay. But no matter how many people choose to whisper negatively, smile in my face while thinking the worst, or even label me as less than worthy, I plan to carry forth with kindness. Chalene Johnson, a woman I’ve come to admire a lot through my Beachbody journey, is constantly driving home the message that we should lead with gratitude. I’d much rather lead that way than with crudeness. My feelings will be hurt, but they will heal. We attract what we emit…

  1. Count and cherish ALL of your blessings.

Recently, my daughter spent some time in the hospital. She’s well now and back to herself, but during the two days she spent there – with tachycardia that confused the doctors, a high fever that was tough to break, with tubes and monitors and other devices attached to her limbs and chest – I had a lot of time to think. As I struggled to sleep on an uncomfortable pull out chair while monitors and machines beeped and pulsed next to her bed, I found myself missing the most simple elements of life. It’s been a journey to restart after the move, but even our humble home is still our home. I longed for our tiny living room and the Powerpuff Girls DVD playing in the background. I missed my own bathroom sink, tub, and shower. Even something as small as holding my baby girl and pacing became a norm I longed for as her mobility was restricted to the length of the telemetry monitor cords.

At times, as parents we become really frustrated with our children. I spend the 40+ hours most adults do working in offices working from my home with my daughter’s antics happening behind me as I desperately try to satisfy my obligations to the 50+ students who are in my classes, as I correspond with people who are desperate to regain their health back, and as I try to maintain some sort of order to our home as Kennedy throws toys and sippy cups about. I lose my patience with her at times, but I’m working hard to modify this behavior now. Trust me, your kids can be annoying as they run around and knock over your pictures and don’t listen to what you’re saying or cry incessantly because of one slight request like “Put on your socks,” or “Eat your peas,” but in those moments when you want to lose it, find some shred of gratitude that at least they have the energy and ability to be a kid in those moments. Believe me when I say it’s much better to have an overactive toddler who goes nuts watching Sophia the First at home than it is to have to a toddler who looks like this:

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I’ll take a hyper Kennedy at home over this distressed version of her any day.

  1. Just because one or two friends may have burned you, that doesn’t mean you can’t still have true friends.

My best friend of 16 years wasn’t my friend anymore when I moved from California to Florida. I’ve chosen not to speculate on the reasons why, but found comfort in knowing that though my actions in our friendship were never perfect, I did all I could to be there for her and honor the tenure of our relationship. I wasn’t always met with the same level of dedication, but that didn’t matter to me after a while. Anyway – I came to Florida determined to be a loner. I figured that if I couldn’t trust her, then who could I trust? Well, you’d be surprised. We talk all the time of how we can’t trust others and how you shouldn’t reveal too much of yourself to others, but God’s way calls for us all to help each other, trust one another, and look out for one another. I’ve learned that the people who show up and prove that they’re on your side are the definition of friends. It’s not always in how long you’ve known someone. I still keep my inner circle tight, but in the past month there are people who have gone to bat for me who I need to give a lot of credit to.

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They’re fellow coaches like me, but they’ve also been there for me when I was down and in need.

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My pole mama, and the first friend I made after moving to Gainesville. She challenges me to do more and be more.

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Words of love from my success partner, Dorilin.

  1. Treat your marriage like a flower. Water it with love, kindness, and support, and it will grow and blossom.

In our journey from bad to good, I’m really grateful to have my husband as my MVP. I’ve mentioned it before on here, but I will say again that I’m really, really glad we stayed together.

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On Women and Friendship: The Girls’ Locker Room Mentality Never Really Falls Away

I can remember being 12 years old and full of fear on my first day of middle school. It was a whole new environment for me with new classes and new teachers and new experiences. However, the most daunting and intimidating aspect of the leap from 5th grade to 6th grade, for me, was having to change clothes in the girls’ locker room for physical education class.

The girls’ locker room was one of those unofficial battle grounds similar to the lunch room – people self-segregated based on social groups, meaning if you were alone it somehow signified that you didn’t belong anywhere, and social groups were somehow expected to be at odds with each other for one reason or another. Never were they allies. Only, in the locker room, new elements were added to make things even more awkward – changing clothes and letting other people catch glimpses of what your body looked like when you weren’t wearing your favorite dress, or your overalls, or your smiley face t-shirt, or your flare jeans. Some girls wore bras and filled them out. Some of us just wore bras. If you forgot to shave your legs that day, and your gym outfit included shorts as the bottoms, be prepared for some comments. Ever present were the locker room comments, and laughter, and gossip, and ridicule. Overall, the experience was nerve-wracking for me as an adolescent.

Even as I progressed from 6th grade to 11th grade, though I became slightly more comfortable with the process, I still kept my time in the locker room short and to the point. I would talk to my friends, but I didn’t like the idea of sharing conversations with people in an area where the amount of ears per square foot were quadruple the number that’d be listening when we were walking home or through the halls. And one detail still remained in high school: the social lines of who was friends with who were clearly drawn, and rarely crossed. Out on the blacktop it’s a different story. You may get some high fives from girls outside your circle for your killer rebound during the basketball game, or for having great form while serving a volleyball, but in the locker room, those blurry lines become clear. The pretty girls were in the mirror refreshing their makeup, while the so-called sluts (who barely broke a sweat) were rushing off to meet the boys as they left their locker room. The athletic girls all changed and affixed knee or wrist braces and grabbed large duffle bags full of equipment, and the overweight girls usually changed in a bathroom stall to avoid embarrassment. Everybody stays in their place.

But it’s our “place” and staying in it that’s killing us.

Much of my fear of the locker room was that I didn’t want to be judged. I didn’t want to be looked down upon because my body looked different, and I didn’t want to be cast aside for being different. Friendship is born out of putting yourself out there, but most people don’t like to put themselves out there for reasons similar to why I loathed the locker room. But somehow, friendships are formed every day and we don’t live in a world full of loners. The fear of judgment doesn’t stop, though, even after you take off your high school cap and gown.

Women judge other women for forging friendships outside of their designated social circles, and they use a mob mentality for controlling the actions of their friends. It’s just like the locker room cliques.

Even in established friendships, women in particular withhold being honest with each other because of fear of repercussion or fallout. I believe this is what leads to much of the passive-aggressive behaviors that have taken place in past friendships of mine, which are direct opposites of assertive and honest communication. It takes courage to be honest with people, and to stand up for oneself. I’ve seen that many people don’t have the level of courage that I’m seeking in my friendships – at least not with me. If you can’t be yourself with a person you’re supposed to be friends with, then why are you friends with them? Conversely, if you aren’t willing to invest the same amount of time and consideration you see someone else doing in your relationship, why stay in the relationship?

I’ve said it so many times before, and I truly mean it now more than ever: if you have someone in your life who you claim to be friends with, but you avoid spending time with or communicating with, you’re doing that person a favor by simply telling them full out that you don’t want to have them in your life. You don’t have to give them an explanation (though it’d be nice), but saying that is enough. Does it sound hurtful? It is! But trust me, that’s going to hurt so much less than if you continue to lead them on and give them false promises of support, companionship, and integrity. When you reach the point of doing that, you’re nothing more to them than a liar – useless and faulty.

It’s taken me a long time to find my way to a place where I can stand firmly and comfortably in the truth that not all friendship is for me. That I am not a woman of multiple close friendships that date back decades, that can be relied upon to fill a banquet hall at my surprise birthday party or homecoming. I only have a handful of people in my life who are capable of friendship as I understand it, and the rest are acquaintances to me. Ultimately, it wasn’t me who chose, but rather it was them, and I honor every person’s right to choose. I also appreciate straightforwardness, and reciprocate it as a policy. I just wish the rest of the world would do the same.