On my 3rd day in Dubai (the day before the saga of multiplying dishes of food), I had 2 brunch dates. Funnily enough, both people picked the same restaurant as a meeting spot; I am BFFs with the wait staff now.
The first was my fairy godmother‘s niece. My affection for my godmother is such that if she tells me I should meet someone, I will, because it will be a good experience, one way or another. And so it was. I spent 4 hours chatting with her niece, about all kinds of topics: life in Dubai as an expat, democracy, the struggle of self-realization (finding one’s dream and purpose), marriage, the convoluted twists and turns of a career, misogyny. The conversation had an astonishing level of vulnerability given that we’d never met each other before – we just shared love for the same person, her aunt/my fairy godmother (my mother’s best friend who still watches over me in all her love and wisdom). That love created a safe space for truthful revelations.
My second brunch was with BlondEyes.
I did one year in MechEng with BlondEyes, before dropping out. We were 2 of the 25 girls in the 130 student class. I admired her so much. She represented everything I wasn’t and wanted to be: confident, happy, friendly, fun, smart, determined, a delight to be around, always surrounded by people wanting to enjoy her company. Meanwhile, I was paralyzed by my insecurities – I kept BlondEyes at arm’s distance despite my affection for her, because I was too ashamed of who I was and I feared she’d be unimpressed if she knew just how much of a mess I really was. (Honestly! I remember those days of deep self-hatred, and I wish I believed then what I know now: it really isn’t a big deal, we all struggle with adulting, join the party, don’t isolate yourself child! #vulnerabilityreallyisthewaytogo ). Despite this, BlondEyes welcomed me in her circle.
We kept in touch after I dropped out of MechEng in 2004. BlondEye continued to shine brightly, approaching life as a thrilling ride, determined to squeeze every ounce of experience out of it. I yearned to be fearless like her. Our lives diverged after her graduation in 2008: her career brought her to Edmonton, I was struggling to put myself through school and earn my accounting designation. That is life, right? We can’t hold onto everyone we enjoy.
Fast forward a few years (2012). I was a senior working at a Big 4. My first out-of-town mandate was in Edmonton. I posted a pic of some Albertan oddity on Fbk, and BlondEyes commented, asking if I’d be available to catch up. Yes. We went for a 4 hour brunch. She was so happy, her star still shining brightly. This time, I felt I deserved to sit at the same table as her: she was a respected engineer, I was no longer a flunkee but a respectable CPA. (Seriously. The years of unhappiness my brain imposed on me!) She told me of her relationship with her new fiancé, and uttered a phrase that I will never forget: “Vanilla, I know now that love should be easy. Easy doesn’t mean boring. You can feel more alive than you have ever felt with him, but it should still be easy and simple.” I think that might have been the most important piece of advice I’ve ever received. It had the ring of truth to it: she radiated joy. Rather than feel envy – I couldn’t, my depression dictated that happiness was not within my grasp – I felt pride that BlondEyes, at least, was succeeding at happiness.
Fast forward a few years (2017). I post a Facebook status indicating I’m travelling to Dubai to visit BossMan and IronSweetie. Once again BlondEyes commented, asking if I’d be available to catch up – I’d forgotten she’d moved to Dubai 2 years ago. Yes. We went for a 4 hour brunch. BlondEyes: happily married, pregnant with their first child, career going strong, her star shining still so brightly. For the first time in our friendship, her happiness at seeing me didn’t shame me: I too am capable of happiness. It felt like finally, after 13 years, this was the friendship that always could exist, but had never manifested itself. There’d always been a genuine appreciation, goodwill and encouragement of each other, but my former incapacity for joy had made me avoid hers. Now, my thirst for life matches hers, and we can fully celebrate each other’s stories and struggles. And celebrate we did.
Will I ever see these women again? Who knows. I really hope so.
It’s taken me close to a week to understand why that day of brunches made me SO happy: it is because I lived Moments of Truth with them.
Looking back on the three years since my mother’s passing, despite doing my best to keep the world at arm’s length so as to not reveal my messy inner turmoil, I now see that I’ve shared several surges of pure emotions with coworkers, friends, and teammates. Some of these shared moments have blossomed into friendships, and some never morphed into anything other than a momentary connection. But regardless of what happened subsequent to each moment, they are all valuable to me, as they involved an emotional connection. We shared a moment of reality, and in that brief moment we shared our true selves.
And so I begin to reconsider my struggle with truth. Perhaps my concept of knowing someone has always been too narrow: however wonderful and deep the connections I shared with that boy and my mother, they were similar to beautiful paintings, constantly getting reworked to become better approximations of reality. Without doubt, I still aspire to share that process with someone once again. But, in the meantime, as I continue to make my way through life alone, I can revel in each of the brief yet permanent connections that come from sharing a moment of truth with another person.
I feel so blessed to be free finally to connect with people, and live these moments of friendship. Deep, joyous and permanent.
I’m alive – something that was out of my reach for so long.
Recap of this trip so far:
- Solo tripcations are my new fave thing
- Dubai? Why?!
- First time on a beach
- All I’ve done is eat, chat and watch people smoke shisha
- I didn’t know vacations could make me so happy
- Where I test out this whole ‘solocation vs social anxiety’ concept
- Dancefloor drama