An old fun fact crossed my mind the other day: Your taste buds change every 7 years. It's random, sure, but I sort of love when my mind throws little facts my way. It's strangely comforting.
I love this one because I remember wishing to love onions as a kid. That's right—I wanted to like a vegetable that I didn't. I'm a weirdo, I know. I've totally embraced it.
My parents have always been very open-minded when it comes to other cultures' food and I have always admired them for it. I grew up eating things most adults still wrinkle their nose around. So, naturally, I wanted to like onions because I didn't want to be picky—I wanted to be like my parents.
Sure enough, once high school hit, I was ordering my own bowl of French onion soup and chomping on bright purple ones in ceviche and sautéing them over my medium rare T-bone steaks. I was officially in the Onion Lovers Club. I know, what a sad club to be in—literally. We just sit around and cry. (Terrible joke intended.)
I'm sure you're thinking to yourself right now: Why in the hell is Charlotte still talking about onions?? It's a little bizarre, I know, but I have a point. I promise!
You see, the reason the fact about taste buds popped into my head is because I had a friend visit me last week that I had not seen in 7 years.
We met and built our friendship while we both lived in NYC and, seven years later, we are both living in our hometowns now. I am in Arizona and he is in Nigeria. To say our friendship has changed over the years is a bit of an understatement.
On my way to pick him up, I was wondering what he was going to be like all of these years later. I knew that he was successful, thanks to the world of social media. He had always had the heart of an entrepreneur. He's cut out for that world.
I also wondered what he might think of me.
Am I successful enough? Do I seem different? Am I carrying myself well? Once he meets this "me", will he wish he had his old friend back?
He was one of my very best friends during that time in my life. But a very different girl was about to pick him up than the one he once knew.
Then, I was a 21-year-old, bright-eyed girl that was following her wild dreams and partying until dawn. A feisty little thing who had a wardrobe worth mentioning and an apartment in the center of the heart of one of the greatest cities in the world—things had changed a bit, to say the least.
Had more than just my taste buds changed this time around?
For whatever reason, my inner-critic wanted him to be proud of the girl I am now.
And that's where I had it all wrong.
You see, he wasn't going to be reuniting with that same girl because she had grown into a woman. And I have fought pretty damn hard to become her. So, why be ashamed of her now?
I was still running toward those wild dreams—just in discounted heels.
Of course, once we caught up, we saw that not everything had changed. He still had the same wide smile and contagious laugh. He was still extremely picky about his coffee and a total snob when it came to bourbon or any other spirits for that matter.
His eyes wrinkled with a little more wisdom and there were definitely a few new and deep scars on his heart that life naturally brings us all to bear—some still healing, but healing none the less. His spirit, though, it remained the same.
This made me so happy for my friend. I expressed all of this to him and he smiled and agreed that he had changed so much and, sometimes, not at all.
Then he looked at me and said:
Well, look at you, Charlotte. I hardly know this person in front of me. You are nothing like the frightened and depressed girl I remember. You have truly grown into yourself.
Scared and depressed? Is that really what he remembered? What about the fun and spirited party girl I had painted in my mind from that time??
We got to talking some more and, of course, there were stories of that girl I had fixed in my memory. We did have some hilarious and wild times to recall. But, once we really dug our heels into Memory Lane, I got a glimpse of the girl he was talking about.
The girl who would lock herself in her studio apartment for days because she felt the weight of her hometown and so many unrealistic expectations on her back.
The girl who sobbed in front of a blank screen because she was terrified that no one would ever think she had anything relevant to say.
The girl that kept the pillow over her head because the light of a new day with no new opportunities was too much to bear.
The girl who had decided she had failed before she even gave herself a fair chance to start.
Oh, yes. Now I remember that girl.
And, as much as she was key to my growth as a person, I am so, SO happy that she did not show up to pick up my old friend that day—No matter how great she looked in her designer mini-skirt.
I think we all get caught up in changing too much or not changing enough. We all want to be seen, and remembered, by all of the "good" and "better" versions of our past selves that we hold in our minds.
But we forget that the way others see us, and themselves, changes too. The way they choose to see us in the present, or in the past, is not in our control—and it shouldn't be. We can only control the way we view ourselves.
Don't get caught up in how you used to be viewed in someone else's eyes. An even more dangerous trap is holding onto the way we used to see ourselves. Whether it is good or whether it is bad, it does not matter. It matters that it's gone. That we have learned from it. That we are growing into the person we want to be because of it.
You know how I decided that I was going to like onions when I was a little girl?
Well maybe, without even realizing it, I decided to like something else the next time the 7-year change came around. I think I decided that I would like myself. That is, after all, what I have been pouring my heart into since I saw my friend last. I have been learning to love the only body and heart I am ever going to get: My own.
Just like that damn onion, I was on my menu now.
That's what I think was so different about the woman that picked up her old friend from the girl that he once knew:
She had finally acquired a taste for herself. More than that, she thought she was the best damned thing on the menu—even when someone else decided to send her back.