I think I have more friends now than I’ve had at any other time in my life. Some are mere acquaintances. Many live several states away and yet are as close as next-door neighbors. Some are “online only” friends who I have never actually met in person, and yet we confide in each other about things you sometimes can’t share with others who are physically closer to you; there’s something safe about the distance.
I didn’t have a ton of friends growing up. There weren’t a lot of kids in my neighborhood and the few that there were weren’t great to play with – the house across the street perpetually had some type of poor, shitty, drug-addled parents and any number of rug rats running around in the dirt. There was a girl around the corner I played with when I was very small, until we found out her mom was seriously and dangerously nuts – something about a kitchen knife that I don’t really recall all the details about, and then I wasn’t allowed to play with her anymore. I had a Very Best Friend throughout elementary and into middle school, and then got another Very Best Friend for the rest of my schooling, but my social circle was increasingly smaller as I matriculated through the Mansfield School System, and made up of misfits, weirdos, musicians, nerds, hoods and other fringy people who could tolerate my extreme emotions, loud, terrible mouth and delinquent behavior.
When I went to college and formally began to study theater, it was like I finally met my real family. Lots of people, many just like me, with similar dreams, hopes, wishes, and weirdness. They offered unconditional acceptance, which was really what I had been looking for all through school and had never found it. When I got the news that my father had died in my 2nd year of college, without even thinking, I gathered up my keys and walked over to the green room in the university’s theater building, knowing that someone would be there who would help me. I crumpled into a heap and they surrounded me and held me. I didn’t even know some of them very well; that’s just how theater people roll – if you are one of us, you are one of us. We are all one.
I have a broader mix of friends now. Some of them are theater people, yes, but the cross-section of the rest is so varied in every facet – socio-economic class, background, education, profession, age – that it’s impossible to group them into any one bucket except to say that they are my friends and I am lucky to have them. I had so many people contact me in the last 48 hours, to check in with me and see how I’m doing in what is a very difficult time personally, that I can’t help but cry even more, as their caring so touches me. I can’t quite let anyone in right now. I know they are there and knocking but I can’t deal with talking. My mind becomes a cotton ball, my body becomes a tornado and I’m not in control of myself or my emotions in any way. But I love them so much for loving me, for thinking of me, for accepting me, for wanting to help. It really means a lot to me. I know they will be there when my submarine surfaces. I may need a hand up out of the hole, and am lucky to know there will be several.