Soul Stories: Annie K.
You know those people who walk into a room and the energy seems to go up a level? Those people who you want to hate because no one could possibly (and genuinely) be that kind and inclusive and vibrant and energetic, but when you really get to know them you realize... yes, they can be?
When I moved to Los Angeles a little over a year ago, I could count on one hand how many people I knew in this town (and if you know L.A., you know that means nothing because it is so sprawling that you can know 100 people but if they don't live in your neighborhood, you are out of luck!), so anytime a friend told me, "Oh! I know someone in L.A., you should connect!" you betta believe I followed up on that connection.
Annie was one of those connections (thanks, Jen!). On our first friend date we went on a hike and bonded over our love of yoga and fitness, and before we even started the trek back down the mountain I was already spilling my guts to her because Annie is just that kind of person that makes you feel so comfortable and welcomed and accepted. And over the course of the last year she has been such a reliable person in my life who genuinely wants to connect and nourish a friendship... that is hard to find.
When I started Soul Stories, my hope was to feature women sharing authentic stories that empowered others and reminded them that they are not alone in their struggles. I wanted it to be a space of transformation and hope and personal POWER to show women that no matter what seemingly insurmountable thing you are going through, there is POSSIBILITY and LIGHT on the other side. When I mentioned this mission to Annie, she immediately jumped at the chance to share her story.
And I had no idea how powerful it would be.
Thank you, Annie, for reminding us that no matter how well we may think we know ourselves, it is so important to be open to new ideas and experiences. Thank you for being so bold and courageous in sharing your personal love story, and proving to any women out there who may have a similar situation that joy, bliss, and deep, profound love may be on the other side of that which you fear.
Thank you for reminding us that just because something has always been a certain way, doesn't mean it will always be that way.
Forget Regret or Life is Yours to Miss
I have always described myself as the "straightest person I know." Exclusively interested in boys and men and, up until 28 years old, had never even experimentally or drunkenly or "to impress/turn on a guy" made out with a girl. This steadfast sense of my personhood was immediately challenged, though, when I met my fitness trainer in grad school (we will call her "Tyler"). I had seen Tyler's photo on the trainer wall of the gym and, from a distance, I acknowledged her striking beauty, seemingly not dissimilar from that of the rest of the "effortlessly perfect" undergrads (yes, undergrads) at this university. However, the millisecond during which we made eye contact and then shook hands and exchanged pleasantries was all it took for me to realize that she wasn't just like those other students, she was actually the most gorgeous person I had ever seen.
A couple of minutes into the workout when she told me that my "quads were sexy" I realized I now might need to change the engrained narrative I had on women.
"I have a crush on a girl" I gushed/whispered (I seem to be physically incapable of actually lowering the volume of my voice, and instead attempt a breathy version of the lowest of my voice volumes: loud. This shocking admission, though, warranted this dramatic measure, as I lived as an RA for freshmen women and did not want them to hear that which I could barely believe myself).
"Oh! Well you have had girl crushes before!" My best friend replied. "That's not what I mean..." My voice trailed off and thoughts picked up and spiraled from there. What DID I mean? What did this mean? Who was I? I thought I knew myself! I came back to reality and the reassuring, encouraging, and supportive sound of her voice.
Thankfully, these same sentiments were echoed by every person I shared this with (aka virtually everyone I know since I can keep others' secrets like a champ but can't keep my own for shit). My friends patiently and kindly navigated this seemingly hopeless crush path with me as I, like my middle school self, began questioning every interaction. This torturous journey continued for months until I found out she had a boyfriend. Suddenly I was furious! How dare she not tell me sooner (we weren't even friends at this point)! I thought she was gay (she had never told me this and, frankly, it is none of my fucking business!)?! Well I guess that settles that then (but what did I actually want/expect to happen?)!
I scornfully let my frustration and disappointment simmer, but those feelings weren't strong enough to quell my insatiable curiosity.. Then, after months of her "we should hang out" gestures that I had written off completely because she had blown me off so many times before (don't worry, "Tyler," I don't take it personally and still like you a whole heck of a lot! :) ) we ACTUALLY had our first "friend date." It was a sneaker party. Yes, you read that correctly. We walked a green carpet (why green? I still don't know...), got our new sneakers, had a couple of beers (yes, at the sneaker store... Again, these questions are better off left unanswered), chatted and actually got to know each other outside the gym setting.
And then we had friend hang part two (aka Annie tries to drink like an undergrad, ends up getting kicked out of the club while she tries to "casually" — slurring and swaggering away — insist: "I was already leaving!", pukes out of a cab, and blacks out in between the drop off and wee hours of the morning). Through this series of embarrassing events, though, I discover that, by some miracle, she somehow still wants to be my friend and I actually really do LIKE HER! Our same sense of humor discovered through Cards Against Humanity; our similar interests; her generosity, care, and consideration for everyone she interacts with — including the super sweet and supportive cheerleading she provided as I spewed Fireball on the sidewalk — made me realize that maybe this was more than just a confusing crush. So FUCK. Now what?!?
Nothing. She had a boyfriend. Neither of us were "gay." I was moving to LA. She was staying put in Boston.
One year of intermittent distance friendship later and I found myself at her family's home for the weekend. Unsurprisingly, I LOVED her family and thankfully they seemed to like me just as much as I liked them! Her "hard-to-please" sister even shared that I was her "favorite person Tyler had ever brought home"!!! I passed the test with flying colors! But it wasn't my test to take. I wasn't "going home to meet the family." Tyler had no idea that I still scrutinized over every message I sent and questioned each word she spoke to me; an archaeologist desperately digging for the hidden meaning I might never find.
"You have to tell her," my friend patiently, politely, and sternly informed for the umpteenth time. "No way!" I wailed through tears, frustrated that the more I liked her, the less I was myself around her (see Cher in Clueless after she discovers she like Josh, unsure what to do with her body as she awkwardly perches on the edge of the couch pretending to care about the news).
"Do you want to live a life of regret? Knowing that you could have done something?" Regret. That word cut deep (well played, my friend)! No. I didn't want to live a life of regret. I have followed my heart and passions in every other facet of my life. I moved to LA with no job, no car, and no apartment to follow my dreams, for gosh sake!!! Why the fuck couldn't I tell someone I had a crush on them?!
So that's exactly what I did. In precisely those words. In the same dark and loud nightclub I had been "kicked out" of... surrounded by drunk and drugged youth. Tyler shouted to me over the blaring music that she had a dream I was her "sig oth" (significant other)! Compiling this nugget along with all other minutiae I had deemed as hints that the feelings were mutual, my Bud Light-induced courageous self blurted: "I HAVE A CRUSH ON YOU!" "What?" "Nothing!!!" I shook my head vigorously as if the movement would erase the words and thoughts out of my head and the space between us. We went about the night as if my word vomit never made it to the dance floor but did engage in an intense cuddle session when we got back to her place for a sleepover: (see "forking") a new one for me and us.
"You HAVE to tell her again!" My friends encouraged me over brunch the following, nay same, morning.
"So how long have you two been a couple?" Tyler's friend asked me quizzically when she left to go to the bathroom. "Uhh, we're not a couple!" I stammered unconvincingly. Did he know? Had she told him? "No, I mean how long have you two been DATING?" he pressed; a challenging smirk forming on his face. "We have been FRIENDS for a year and a half," I refuted indignantly. The word "friends" sharp like the raw onion taste you can't get off your tongue even 24 hours later (oh! That's just me?). "Oh ok so you two have been dating for a year and a half then.. Cute couple!" He nodded approvingly.
Back in our resumed cuddle session positions, my head on her chest, I felt her heart loudly and rapidly (more so than usual?) vigorously drumming in my ear and I tactfully chose my words this time: "I have a crush on you!" And immediately rolled to the other side of the bed, faced the wall, hands protecting my face. "What?" She practically laughed incredulously. "You HEARD me!" I howled. "Get OVER here!" She reached for me and reassuringly pulled me back into her arms, assuaging some of my anxieties.
We just lay there and after a beat she responded "the distance would be tough (oh yeah! We still live 3,000 miles apart — one of the biggest factors paralyzing me and inhibiting me from saying anything because, I rationalized, "what was the point?")." I exhaled and my fears that she didn't like me and, worse, didn't want to be my friend anymore abated. I ugly cried tears of joy when she texted me after saying goodbye: "next time I see you would it be ok if I kissed you?" Maybe I wasn't totally crazy after all and all of those subtle "will she, won't she" messages no longer felt insignificant but this could actually mean and be something.
The first time we did kiss? Total magic! Fireworks!! The whole shebang!!! And each one thereafter has been, too. She was right. The distance IS tough. But that is what we call a "first world problem" and gosh am I just so freaking darn lucky to have her to miss! She says and does everything I have been wanting to hear and experience for my entire life and have never been treated so well by anyone ever. I could not be more blessed or blissed out and wouldn't miss this opportunity (just because she is a woman) for the world!
Moral of the story: "no regrets" not even one letter!