Candle in the Dark

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It's very hard to think of a time in my life when everything was in its place and functioning in an understandable way. Likewise, I find it very hard to think of a time without having certain people in my life. Sometimes I stop and think, "Hey, where would I be today if I hadn't met this person?" The truth is... the answer is sometimes more complicated than the question implies. And sometimes, I find myself not wanting to know the answer. Questions and answers are like locks and keys; a lock is significant, but without its key, that lock is about as worthless as eating soup with a fork. Once that lock is open, however, you're done. Whatever is seen can't be unseen. Similarly, once a question is asked, you're finished. Whatever is said can't be unsaid. When thought about, it's pretty intense.

We've all heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason, but do we really believe this? No, not until it personally happens to us. That's true with anything, though. The saying, "I'll believe it when I see it," rings true in most any situation. How do we know who's in our lives to teach us a lesson? I guess we don't. We don't know until the time is right, until we meet that one person who makes us feel good about ourselves on the toughest of days. That's when we know.

Of course, we don't always meet this person right away. It takes many tries with many people. Things must go wrong before they go right, and someone must walk out for another person to walk in. My life is a crowded movie theater; when the plot gets monotonous, some people will walk out in boredom and never come back. As that occurs, though, different people fill in the empty seats. These people sit down, and maybe they'll stay for a little while. Maybe they won't. It's hard to tell. They might just be in it for the delectable, buttery popcorn or the cheesy background music. In the middle, they might have to go to the bathroom. But those people will be back. They won't be gone for long.

Life doesn't wait for anybody. Much like a bus, it keeps moving forward, even if you're not ready for it. As the scenery changes, so do the people surrounding you. People are not who they said they were. Friends you were once so close with betray you. But just like this bus, life goes on. I've learned life won't stop during a dilemma. You have to be the one to press fast forward and move on. Comparably, life won't catch a breath during a happy moment in your life. You have to be the one to press pause and hold your happy memory because life sure won't do it for you.

There are some people in my life that I hope will stick around. I hope they decide to unpack their bags and stay for a while. I hope they put their feet up on my coffee table and make themselves at home. Nancy is one of these people. She's the director of my movie, the driver of my bus. Without her, my bus would hit a dead end. Backing up would only bring me farther away from my goal in life, back to where I started. But with her in the driver's seat, my bus is moving at a fairly quick pace. It's in motion. That's exactly what it should be.

In my movie, I'm the starring role. Sometimes, though, I forget that's true. I forget that my life is about me. I forget that what I want may be different from what the neighbor across the street wants. But Nancy, she keeps me in the action, keeps me as the main character. She reminds me that my movie, without me, is nothing. There wouldn't even be a movie without me. And you know how that makes me feel? It makes me feel special. For once in my life, I feel exceptional, extraordinary, amazing. I have finally realized that I don't need certain people in my life to make me feel happy; I can make myself happy.

I didn't always feel this way, though. In class, I was continually the odd one out. I never had a partner like the other kids. I never could read like the other kids. I never finished work fast like the other kids. Like the other kids. LIKE THE OTHER KIDS. OTHER kids. Other KIDS. Nobody told me why this was. Nobody even told me this was okay. Nobody smiled at me. Nobody noticed I was alone. Nobody even acknowledged my presence. Nobody, Nobody, NOBODY.

How did this change? In class, I'm still the odd one out. I still never have a partner like the other kids. I still can't read like the other kids. I still never finish work fast like the other kids. But something has changed. This time, somebody tells me this is okay. Somebody smiles at me. Somebody notices I'm alone. Somebody acknowledges my presence. Somebody, Somebody, SOMEBODY. That person is my role model. That person is someone I look up to. That person... is Nancy.

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"Take your time; don't rush," she says.

Taking a break, I look up from my test and out into the distance. I put down my magnifying sheet. Nancy looks away from the teacher at the same time and glances at me sitting there, the last test taker still in the room. Seeing the pained expression marked on my face, she smiles and waves at me. That gives me motivation. That gives me hope. Pencil and magnifying sheet now in hand, I look back down and continue my test.

"All done?" She smiles. I nod. "That's good!" Somebody... somebody actually didn't judge the time I spent on a test. Somebody didn't question my magnifying sheet. For once, I didn't feel that sharp embarrassment for being the last one done. My classmates didn't matter to me anymore. They became blurred out images, black and white figures, silhouettes in my life's movie. Maybe, just maybe, I felt it wasn't such a terrible thing to be slow. Slow can be decent. Slow eventually gets me to the proper destination. After all, the tortoise did win the race against the boasting hare, didn't he?

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It was a day when I was feeling down. When it seemed like no signs were pointing up, I could feel myself start to crumble like that stale cookie nobody wants to touch. I was the evidence of a disintegrated teenage girl, a girl lost at sea. People knew I was missing but didn't bother to look. No search party was held. I was slowly drowning.

I don't think people realize that the little acts of kindness really mean the most; they could really change the course of a lifetime. During that time I was drowning at sea, all I needed was a hand, a hand to lean on, a hand to grab. Nancy was that hand. She was the person that pulled me into safety. As I coughed up ocean water, I also coughed up the past. Every burden inside of me left; the worries that drowned me were no longer.

It was just a smile. The corners of her lips curved up, and my life was ultimately at its peak.

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I love those pointless conversations: the ones when even though you have nothing left to say, you keep talking. Those entertain me. They make me feel jolly inside, like those magical Christmas mornings when you find everything but coal in your stocking. They make me feel as refreshed as a crisp walk at the beach. They keep me going.

After her not being in gym that day, I spot Nancy in the cafeteria. She waves at me all energetically.

"Where were you?" I ask. Still chewing her food, she waves her hands around, motioning that she would speak soon.

"College visit," she says.

"Oh, well I missed you! I was so alone today!"

"Awwww! Was Sabrina there?" Well yeah, I guess she was, wasn't she?

"Yeah, but--" I drone on and on about nothing in particular.

I don't know what makes me remember this so much. It might just be the fact that somebody cared enough to notice me sitting alone. For the first time, I felt important. I felt like somebody actually wanted to talk to me instead of was forced to talk to me.

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Usually when people notice my existence, it's a bad thing. It's either because "Hey, she looks different! What's with those big papers, and why does she get 'special treatment' from every teacher?" or "Oh, she's smart! I'm going to ask her to be my partner so I'm sure to get an A!" When people say my name, I get this burst in my heart, like, "Oh my gosh, somebody wants to talk to me!" The burst sizzles out, though, when I figure out the reason why they called my name. It's no different than the past. Nobody wants to talk to me for me; they just want to dig deep into my grades or accommodations. Not one, "Hi Julia! How was your weekend?" escapes their mouths.

That was before I met Nancy. Of course, this still occurs, but to know that somebody out there willingly talks to me cancels out the negative power enforced by my peers.

I had climbed the wall in Gym. Although I don't get embarrassed easily, I must admit, this was the one thing that tore me apart in humiliation. Not only did my shirt fly up, but it was also stuck there for four minutes. Being in front of the whole class didn't happen to help my level of mortification.

"Here, I'll help you down," Nancy says as she walks over to me. I rub my eyes. Everything in view seems blurry and double. Mentally slapping myself for going into a point of visual stress, I look down at the ladder. It's all going downhill from here.

"Turn around and step down. Okay, just put your foot down a little bit more. There you go." It's so encouraging to know that she's standing next to me and helping.

"I'll be right here next to you the whole time, and I'll catch you if you fall." The way she said it made my nerves calm down and my thoughts stop swirling. In life, we may fall flat on our faces a couple of times, but that doesn't matter. What matters is who's there to pick us up and dry the blood.

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It was Nancy's birthday.

"Did you forget my card?" asks Nancy as she continues to spot me on a wooden board.

"NO! I have it in my bag!" I say, turning around to look at her. This conversation occurred after I had told her I thought I had some type of memory loss coming on. Surprisingly, though, I remembered. I remembered to bring her card to school. On the scoreboard of life, that was one point for me.

"It's somewhere in here. Sorry." I had put the card in my bag that morning. When I find it, I pull it out and say, "It looks like a three-year old made the front, but--"

She cuts me off. "Thank you! No, it doesn't. It looks awesome!" Well... you know.

Opening the front of the card, she smiles. Like a chain reaction, I smile. She starts to flip through the different flaps in the card. This makes me nervous. My nerves start to calm, though, when I see that same smile is still plastered on her face.

"Awwww! You are my favorite! Aw! Come here!" Nancy pulls me into a hug.

This meant so much to me. I had never been called someone's favorite before. Nobody had ever showed this much appreciation toward me. No matter how many birthday cards I've made before, nobody had reacted in a way quite like this.

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As far as I'm concerned, I'm a closed book. I have my own section in the library. Not noticing this, people pass right by me, and head to a well-known section. It's better off this way. Without my permission, people can't add anything to my book; I remain sealed. From the time I wrote her card till now, Nancy has opened me up. She is slowly leaving her mark on the endless amount of pages, transforming into a co-writer. She figured me out. That's more than I can say about the majority of people in my life.

Nancy shines. She's that star in the sky, the one always with me through every step I take. She's that candle lighting up the room when its too dark to see. But most importantly, she's that role model in this thing we call life.





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