Home > Friends, FTIAT, Love > FTIAT: The Pogues and Parcheesi and afternoon strolls through IKEA

FTIAT: The Pogues and Parcheesi and afternoon strolls through IKEA

Mackenzie (Brights Strange Things) means many things to me: late nights listening to Gary Jules and Common Rotation at the Hotel Cafe. Long drives up and down the Pacific Coast Highway in which we talked about everything under the sun. Improvised text message verses to the Common Rotation song “Fortunate.” Awesome book covers for my novels. The goodness of knowing–through having been there and done that, countless times over–I can safely tell her anything without her thinking less or more of me because she already sees and loves me exactly as I am.

It’s been eight years since we lived in the same town and a year since our last visit, but Mack is an ever-present feeling of love in my heart. I think you’ll see why as you read her words below.

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The Pogues and Parcheesi and afternoon strolls through IKEA

There are many things which have come easily to me, in the course of my life. I took pretty effortlessly to drawing things, and writing, and getting through school with an absolute bare minimum of effort, and I am also, for the record, pretty good at knitting potholders. Things that I am not so much good at include talking, telephones, arguments, coping with ghastly color schemes, and anything to do with relationships of any kind.

It’s not like I was a feral child raised by particularly unsociable dingoes, but it is fair to say that my family could’ve formed our own local chapter of Hermits United. During my formative years, when my classmates were learning how to strengthen or destroy friendships, fomenting drama amongst themselves, and taking every opportunity to practice their fornicating (I’m rather sad I missed out on that part), I was lost in my own mental worlds, for the most part content to completely avoid any sort of human interaction. I had a few friends, certainly, and was on good terms with pretty much my entire graduating class, but I had made a strong and early habit of keeping everyone at arm’s length. I also had what I then would’ve called “quirks” and my mom called “moodiness” which I now would probably classify as an amount of anxiety verging on clinical disorder. These and other factors are why, when I decided to move away from home and across the country after high school, things did not always go well.

It wasn’t that I was stupid. It was just that I was about as well-equipped for independent adult life as a penguin is equipped to survive in Death Valley.

Luckily, I had T. T was my first roommate, and probably my first truly close friend. T is older than I am, and to say that her experience of the world is somewhat broader is a vast understatement. She was well traveled and had gone to college and for some reason random strangers really liked to just walk up and talk to her, whereas I’d never even eaten at a real Mexican restaurant. T invited me to parties, towed me along to dinners, got me out of the apartment and generally did her best to socialize me. It was a fairly thankless job. I was walking social strychnine and I wasn’t always easy to live with, either. I was largely oblivious to everything from basic social cues to table manners to flatsharing etiquette. And yet, somehow, even at her most exasperated, T managed to gently cajole me toward adulthood without making me feel like I couldn’t also be myself.

When Deborah started this guest post series on thankfulness and gratitude, and asked me if I’d be interested in writing something, I thought of T first. Although we’d lost touch over the years, I still thought of her often, and by crazy random happenstance, right around the time I started writing this post, T tracked me down and got in touch again. I was delighted to hear from her, though everything I’ve had to say seems inadequate while “you’re my hero” kind of sounds like an invitation for a restraining order. Hopefully she still knows me well enough to know that if this blog is the best I can do for love letter and apology, that it’s only because I’m still a little emotionally stunted.

In those years of relative silence I’d often contemplated writing T to tell her how much she changed my life, and that I couldn’t think of a single thing I was more intensely grateful for than the friendship that she — and her own very gracious friends — had extended to me at a time when I needed it most, when things could’ve gone either way, when my choices really were to join the human race or to shut myself away from it. The changes she began laid the foundations for the person I became and am in the process of becoming. Because of T, I began to learn the tentative skills that helped me build all of the friendships that came after. And each of those people has also helped to shape me as a person in large and small ways. I carry some little piece of each of them with me, in the form of a memory, a song, a moment, a lesson, a turn of phrase, a regret, an old pain, a fresh joy.

So when you ask what I’m thankful for, I’ll tell you that I’m thankful for friendship and the way it grows, taking root in each part of a person and holding the center together. I’m thankful for The Pogues and Parcheesi and afternoon strolls through IKEA. I’m thankful for sweet potato fries, Hard Core Logo and impromptu cooking lessons. I’m thankful for cold drinks on the deck and a quiet conversation in the hay loft and messages from people who are half a world away but still so close by. I’m thankful for crashing on couches and laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe and knowing what it feels like to miss somebody when they aren’t there. I’m thankful for long meandering conversations from the driver’s seat and the crush of a crowded club and feeling that I can say anything, anything at all, and still be loved, always be loved, because there is no end to a thing that becomes a part of you.

I’m thankful for every minute of every day that another human being, motivated by nothing but kindness and love and camaraderie, reminds me that the only way to fail at life is choosing not to live it.


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  1. April 20, 2012 at 6:36 am

    Thank you for your thank you e-mail from a while back. I appreciated your thoughtfulness.

  2. April 20, 2012 at 6:41 am

    God, what a powerful post–and equally impactful writing! You are so, so right–the only way to fail at life is not to live it. Pretty simple, isn’t it? I’m glad you had T to show you that and so much more. Thank you for sharing your story! I’m moved deeply. I understand.

    • April 20, 2012 at 9:21 pm

      Thank you for reading it! I’m still not exactly what I’d call a finished product, but it’s difficult to imagine exactly how epic a mess I’d be now if it weren’t for early intervention. šŸ˜€

  3. April 20, 2012 at 7:53 am

    This is beautiful, Mackenzie! (Though I’d expect no less from such a good friend of Deb’s ;).) I had a similar experience when I was 18, also fairly naive and anxiety-ridden, and taken under the wing of an older friend (who is still my best friend), so I could definitely relate to this! I’m so happy you have friends like this, and are livin’ life!

    • April 20, 2012 at 9:24 pm

      Thank you! It’s one of my deeply held beliefs that friendship and the mentorship that can come along with it are completely underrated in our society. Our friends do so much to shape who we become, for better or worse… and usually it’s for better, I think, despite what all the peer pressure PSAs say. šŸ˜€ Plus, bearing that in mind helps you keep a zen state of mind in daily life. When I encounter somebody who’s incredibly annoying or immature or just generally clueless, I like to remind myself that I used to be all three of those things — usually all at the same time — and the fact that I’m not so much now is only a result of time and effort, not some inherent betterness. If that makes any sense. šŸ˜€

  4. April 20, 2012 at 8:51 am

    …and feeling that I can say anything, anything at all, and still be loved, always be loved, because there is no end to a thing that becomes a part of you.

    This is the part where I got choked up. I just kept thinking, “Yes! THIS!! This is how everyone should feel!”

    Such a beautiful post, beautifully written! Thank you so much for sharing it with us!

    • April 20, 2012 at 9:26 pm

      Thank YOU for reading! I get a bit depressed when I think how many people out there have probably never had a relationship that feels like that… a lot of the people who need that unconditional love the most are the ones who are most attractive to people who will manipulate, use, and degrade them. Which is why it’s so important to try to do our best by other people… and why I constantly feel so incredibly lucky to have friends like T and Deborah who have made such a difference in my life.

  5. April 20, 2012 at 9:02 am

    What a lovely tribute to a friend. Sounds like the little penguin found her way home.

  6. April 20, 2012 at 10:14 am

    Mack, this is everything it should be. I completely understand and relate to the laundry list of thankfulness that all leads back to knowing this: “there is no end to a thing that becomes a part of you” and this: “And each of those people has also helped to shape me as a person in large and small ways. I carry some little piece of each of them with me, in the form of a memory, a song, a moment, a lesson, a turn of phrase, a regret, an old pain, a fresh joy.” I love those things and am also thankful for them.

    And I’m thankful for you and Deb. ♥

    • April 20, 2012 at 9:27 pm

      Thank you SAHM! I’m glad I was able to articulate those things in a way that’s connecting with people because by the time I actually finished writing this I thought it was possible I was going to sound a little insane. šŸ˜€

  7. April 20, 2012 at 11:07 am

    “Iā€™m thankful for every minute of every day that another human being, motivated by nothing but kindness and love and camaraderie, reminds me that the only way to fail at life is choosing not to live it.”
    I’m speechless, Deborah! Great work – to say the least!

    • April 20, 2012 at 9:28 pm

      Thank you! I’ve never guest blogged before so I was a bit nervous but Deborah’s excellent at getting me through my spontaneous freakouts. ;D

  8. Mal
    April 20, 2012 at 11:20 am

    That made my heart happy in about a hundred ways.

  9. April 20, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    Beautiful, up-front, honest writing. Hope I can write like that when I grow up some day…until then I will continue to enjoy your writing!

  10. April 20, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    This is a beautiful story. None of us ever knows the full impact we have on others.

    • April 20, 2012 at 9:29 pm

      Thank you! It is seriously incredible what simple connections with other human beings can do for our hearts and mental states. Not to mention our ability to empty a dishwasher once in awhile. šŸ˜€

  11. April 20, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Mackenzie, you are a truly gifted writer! Your last two paragraphs made me tear up. I”m so glad you found T at just the time you needed her. šŸ™‚

    • April 20, 2012 at 9:44 pm

      Thank you sprinkles! I’m not by any stretch a religious person but I think sometimes life just happens the way it’s supposed to. šŸ™‚

  12. April 24, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    What a terrific tribute to the friends who really are our friends, as well as to those we pass along the way who impact our lives positively! I love it, and I love the way you write-honesty mixed with humble humor. It’s the best! And, I must inquire…is that your horse in the gravatar photo? I have just taken up horse riding with my little one as of last year, and I love it so much!

  1. April 20, 2012 at 9:02 am
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