One of my biggest fears is being forgotten. Being so un-memorable that I couldn't be recognized in a crowd or even a small group.
In high school, I had friends. I considered the people I spent my time with my friends. But once we all graduated and headed off to college it seemed that our views on friendships were skewed. I considered them my friends, but the feelings weren't reciprocated. To this day I can't tell you the reason. I've come up with countless ideas for why my only friends suddenly abandoned me, forgot about me, ignored me. It wasn't just growing apart with age and experience. I tried. I would call, text, email, no response. After a few years of trying to keep in touch and being met with crickets I stopped.
I stopped with them but I also stopped with making new friends, meeting new people. I got so good at not making friends that I became my worst fear. I became forgettable. Just by being afraid of rejection again, I created a persona for myself, a routine for myself, that allowed me to be so forgettable that I couldn't be rejected; because I never let anyone get that close.
It helped having young children and moving around the country so much. It was easy to chalk it up to that. But it wasn't that. It was my fear of rejection, my fear of getting hurt, lost, forgotten.
About a year ago I hopped on a plane with no idea what I was walking in to. I honestly to this day can't understand what made me get on that plane for a weekend-long retreat called Wild Hearts Weekend in Denver. I decided for that weekend, for those few days in a strange city with a bunch of strangers, I would let them see me. I would open myself up just a little bit for connection that I had previously cut myself off from. Just a little bit.
After day 2 these strangers in Denver cracked me wide open and I let them all in. All the way in. I let them see me in a way I hadn't let anyone see me since I met my husband. I let them remember me, I kept in touch, and they reciprocated. It was like a whole new world. Even though these women flew off to different parts of the country after knocking off my hard exterior, they didn't forget me, because I had allowed myself to be unforgettable.
Over the course of the past year I've been slowly letting more people in. Letting more people see me, not hiding at events, the park, while waiting in line. I've made it a fun new game to meet as many new people as I can. Not for the sake of making tons of friends but for the sake of practice. The more times I let someone see me, the better I'd be at opening up when I met someone I truly wanted to develop a friendship with. And it's worked. I spent the last few days at Yellow Conference meeting new people, reconnecting with old friends (some of the ones I made in Denver!), but what was most surprising was the number of people who walked up to me already knowing who I was. Not because we had already made a connection, because we were already friends, but because they had seen me before at some event or another or even in an online space, and I had allowed myself to be seen, and they remembered. At least 15 people over the last few days remembered me. Made me feel seen and loved and worthy of their time and energy and space.
I will always be an introvert. I'll always need to recharge alone, in my home, away from people. I'll always need space to regroup and gather my thoughts and emotions. But I also now know that I need friendships. For the first time in nearly a decade, I have friends. True friends that know me and love me and for once it's not a one-sided thing. And what's more: I'm not done. I've learned how to create and cultivate friendships and meaningful relationships with people. I've learned how to let someone in, let myself be seen, and remembered. And I've learned how to mindfully keep in touch with someone I want to be better friends with. Making friends as an adult is already hard, but once I had turned off that switch for fear of being rejected and forgotten, it was impossible. But all because one night in a hot hotel room in Denver, Colorado where I let myself be seen *just a little bit*, I can say I truly have friendships that will last.