Monday, July 28, 2014

Where I Learned Happy

Me and my college neighbor, Dina
People who know me would say that I am a happy, positive and optimistic person.

Without question, this is true.

A recent afternoon shopping trip reminded me of where I first "learned" that behavior. It was after my time living next door to Dina McReynolds at Judson College that I learned to consistently be positive.

Dina and I were alike in many ways but we are also very different. On the small homogeneous campus of Judson College in the early 1990s, we stood out. Not just because of our infectious laughter and penchant for fun, but because we were both very confident and bold in so many ways. We were both singers who graced our chapel stage for fun and for worship.

We both had our band of sisterfriends. And we both had our stories of pain and triumph.  I was very guarded and only let a few folks in, it was a tough road to truly get to know me because of my cynicism and biting sense of humor. Some days, I think about all the people who just recoiled when I'd intentionally say something to "test" their will to become my friend.  Thankfully, those days were cut short in 1991 when our group of loud girlfriends got assigned to live next door to an even louder group of girlfriends, who were seniors in Volkman Hall.

I'd been exposed to Dina from a distance the previous two years at Judson but really did not get to know her until that school year and the following two years after her graduation in 1992 and mine in 1993. Late night chats, treks to the south side to raid her closet and a host of other fun and crazy times marked our friendship. Dina singlehandedly taught me that I am a lightweight who should never drink or party past 10 pm. The summer of 1993, my first summer as a 21 year old working at U.S. Soccer Federation, for 30 days  I hung out with Dina and our crew. The Wild Hare. The Metro. Places I don't even remember - if they were in the city and were open past 2 am - we'd paid them a visit, trust me. By August 1, it was clear that I was not cut out to "hang out." But I was cut out to be perpetually positive.

Through everything, Dina always had a smile and a positive word. Even when folks were CLEARLY treating us poorly out and about, Dina always responded with positive energy. Make no mistake, she let folks know they were out of line but she did it positively. In fact, recently I was reminded that I have a gift of telling people to go to hell while convincing them to enjoy the trip. I'm certain my time with Dina influenced that skill.

Over the years, we lost touch but thanks to Facebook, we reconnected. And over the last two years, I've really recalled what she meant to me. Her energy, her passion for life and most of all her ability to lift others even during her toughest moments influenced me for good.  Dina has demonstrated that our happiness is not circumstantial. She has been a purveyor of love even when it hurts. I admire her strength and am humbled to call her my friend.

This year after not seeing her for over 10 years, I've seen her twice. Both times, we laughed and connected as if no time had passed. As I observed her, in two different settings, with different people, I realized her influence on me way back when I was struggling to find my own sense of self and my peace. There is no way I'll let so much time pass again.  I am grateful to have spend time with the person who taught me "happy."

Thanks Dina

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