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Friendship has never been a simple topic for me. In my adolescent years it couldn’t have been more confusing.  As much as I yearned to be an average girl or even an average kid for my age, I never was.  I was spinning within the confines of my mind trying to make sense of the world around me.

Luckily, my parents were wonderful.  Extremely open-minded and kind, they allowed me to experience the world in her best shades.  They never pressured me to be anything but happy. They encouraged me to think independently.  My opinion was nearly always asked. It was always considered and their decision explained.  I rarely felt slighted or undervalued. I felt loved.

Having such a solid family foundation, it was difficult to relate to children who were mostly judgmental, spoke frivolously and were extremely concerned with impressing others.  Eventually I caved and began to fit the mold.  I had grown tired of standing out and not having close friends.  I made the effort to make friends, and it worked.  I listened to how they spoke, how they acted, dressed and I emulated them.  I faked it until it became my reality.  The real me was always there, but with a pretty little facade I had so carefully crafted to cover my true identity.

For most of my preteen, teenage and young adulthood I shied away from sharing my deepest thoughts.  I only allowed a select few to hear the inner ramblings of my untamed soul and shadows of my mind. Everyone else was happy to know the filtered me.  The one presented to them on a platter of trained responses and stifled thoughts.

Eventually I grew tired and began to speak my truth – to gradually show my many shades to the large group of friends I had obtained.  I distanced myself from the ones that were inhibiting my growth and shared myself more with the ones I had always connected more deeply with.  Surprisingly, my thoughts were welcomed with open arms.  Well, not always, but the majority of the time.  Being the most honest and pure form of myself has brought me such great joy and an amazing sense of connectedness to the people with whom I have chosen to share myself with.

I now find friends everywhere I go. What, may you ask, do I consider a friend?  Someone who is honest.  Someone who tells you how they feel.  Offers an ear to bend, a shoulder to lean on and advice when asked.  Someone who helps you because they want to see you succeed, not because they will benefit from it. Someone who accepts you and loves you for your unique and quirky self. I offer this freely now.  Those that appreciate and reciprocate are like family to me.  I have so many amazing friends and the list is growing.  They fill my heart, enrich my soul and hold my hand from miles away.

I am so thankful for the friends in my life – family included.  The honesty we share binds us.  While it is sometimes a struggle and I fear for the response to my honesty, it really is best.  When it comes from a pure place of love and compassion, the receiver will know it.  Being vulnerable is where it’s at!  Vulnerability is not a weakness – it’s a strength.

Thank you to all my compassionate, thoughtful, passionate and vulnerable friends.  You make my days brighter. I love you.

Yours truly,

Erin Terese

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