Katie Wilson, age 17
This is a true story based on personal experience. I wrote it during a program called The Moth All Country, which is run by the nonprofit The Moth over Zoom. Writing this was very rewarding for me because it put to words all the feelings I’ve had.
This story is about love. No, not romantic love, but friendship love. So start thinking “My Little Pony.”
When I moved to California, many things about my new school struck me as odd. For one, it was a much smaller community. The entire student body at my new school was less than my entire grade at my old school.
Secondly, everyone was really friendly, or at least the people I surrounded myself with were. And no, not “friendly” like they smiled a lot and rolled their eyes when I wasn’t paying attention, but genuinely friendly.
One day in theater class, we were learning about the spoken word and analyzing a poem. After class, one line stuck with me: “Love with reckless abandon.” I had to ask myself, did I love with reckless abandon? Thinking back, I wouldn’t truly understand what that meant until later on.
After considering such a terrifying question, I assured myself: Yes, I love my family. We’re an affectionate bunch, and going a day without hugging or saying “I love you” would be foreign. I love my dog like a nephew (not like a son because my sister takes care of him more). I love my future boyfriend whom I’ll hopefully meet and marry one day. I especially love my friends, each and every one of them.
One thing pestered me, though. I let my family and dog know I loved them, and sure, one day I’ll admit that to Khad with a K (that’s the name my friends have designated for my male equivalent) that I love him too. Yet, I’d never dare to say that to my friends, even if I felt it. What was holding me back? This weird invisible force that told me it’d be awkward to say that. Thus, I never did.
I have two friend groups I generally chill in: my lunch table and my theater bunch. In my freshman year, I spent most of my time with my lunch table and my after-school time with my theater friends.
One day changed my perception of relationships forever. It was chilly, which was nice for California because it usually stays cold only for an hour in the morning then immediately moves into hot territory.
We were taking photos in the gym for a collage for the school musical. I had gotten there early, and none of my friends had arrived yet. I can’t remember why, but while waiting in line, I became sad. It clearly wasn’t that important since I can’t remember why three years later, yet I still remember that crushed feeling.
By the time my friends arrived and my photo was done, I was pretty bummed. I wasn’t super sad, like Eeyore. I was more of a Charlie Brown. Anyhow, I had an extracurricular to get to so I started to rush away.
My friend, whom I’ll call Dawn, especially noticed my sadness. So you can quickly have an idea of who she is, you should know that the day we met, she hugged me. That was her introduction – a hug, and a really good one! While I was on the stairs, before I was out of earshot, she said, “I love you.”
Those three words had a greater impact than I first thought. Sure, I’d seen her say it to our other friends when they were down, but me? I was shocked, almost fell down the stairs but somehow found a way to keep my balance. My response was the perfect representation of my mental state: staring silently for a solid ten seconds, shaky finger guns, an odd grin, then hurrying away to my extracurricular.
Dawn didn’t stop saying it and eventually, one day, after many more uncomfortable interactions, I gained the strength to say it back. It was wonderful! I was more vulnerable but ultimately happier. I’d tell all my theater friends I loved them all the time, but what about my lunch-table friends? I loved them just as much but never said anything.
Later on, in an assembly, my friend Jude was minding her own business and without any warning, I said it. Now Jude is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. If you don’t know her, from afar, she may be intimidating because of her quiet intellect. However, the second you have the pleasure of talking to her, you’ll see how much of a sweetie pie she is.
On this day, I just couldn’t help but notice that she was bummed about something. Similar to what happened to me, she was very surprised. Pointing at herself, she said, “You never say that to me.” Time stopped for a moment, and I realized in order to shield myself from the rejection of my lunch-table friends, I was hurting the ones I cherished most. I gasped to myself and let that thought sink in.
Now I tell all my friends that I love them. Some adapt to it instantly and hug me. Others will without a second thought roast me mercilessly. And some squirm like I used to.
But I don’t need them to say it back. As long as they know I love them, that’s all I need to “love with reckless abandon.”