The people who met me in middle school or earlier are shocked I live in NYC, work at a women’s publication, and will gladly share my opinion about most anything. The people whom I met after the age of 13 — well, they probably wish I would just shut up at least once a week. A large part of this change is because of one of my dearest friends — Chris Octetree.
As a child I talked to my parents and sister non-stop. I knew that they cared about what I had to say, or at least that they had to pretend to. I didn’t feel like I mattered outside of my small circle: I rarely spoke up, I doubted myself even when I knew the answers, and I wouldn’t share my opinion unless I knew you wouldn’t fight me on it. The truth? I was scared of so much, and really didn’t know how things were going to turn out. Then, during 8th grade, right when everything in life feels like a superlative, I met “my brothers.”
They were all members or advisors for Finley’s Leaders’ Club, which I joined that year. They listened. They cared. They wanted to know my opinions. They showed me how to be a leader, and how to be a friend. They taught me everything was going to be alright. Hell, over the course of the last 10 years, they’ve probably taught me more than anyone besides my parents. Simply put: they shaped me into the woman I am today.
Chris O was one of those “brothers.” He was an adviser of Leaders’ Club, so in many ways it was his job to listen. But, he also challenged me. He didn’t belittle my questions or my thoughts, and when you are a teenage girl, that means everything. He saw me as the adult I would be, long before I saw it in myself. He became one of my very best friends. And, he was always the first person I went to when I needed to hear someone say, “everything is going to be alright.”
In some ways he will always be connected to my youth. He will always be the person that wrote to me (even though he hated it) my freshman year because I needed someone to talk to. He will always be the man that spoke the truth when i was dating a complete asshole in college. He will always be one of the first people who told me that my writing was powerful, to encourage my dreams. And, he will always be the person who protected me and defended me during the trials of my teenage years, which at the time seemed like the end of the world. But, luckily as we’ve grown up, our friendship has grown with us.
And, this weekend I got to watch him get married. It was weird at first. I walked into Cafe Luna (their gorgeous wedding venue), and he walked over to hug me. In that minute I was 16, and he was telling me everything was going to be alright. In the next moment, I saw a room filled of the adult faces of my most favorite people, my childhood friends. I saw some of my “brothers” sitting next to their wives, some playing with their children, and some just sitting quietly during a whole ceremony (which would have never happened 10 years ago). Most importantly, I saw one of the men I love most in the world smile, so excited to get married, and so in love with the beautiful woman walking down the aisle toward him. And, at least for the day, I didn’t need anyone to tell me it was going to be alright. I knew it was.