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My oldest friend in the world is Laura.

She’s not old. By that I mean is that we were best friends from the first day of 7th grade. I am in Piedmont, California right now visiting her (and teaching a class in Oakland Friday). I got this card from her a few weeks ago:

“We are friends for life

When we’re together the years fall away

Isn’t that what matters?

To have someone who can remember with you?

To have someone who remembers

How far you’ve come?”

—Judy Blume

I’m sure she bought the card not only because of how applicable that quote is to us, but also because Judy Blume was our favorite author when we were in 7th grade. (We not only read all Blume’s pre-teen books. I confess we also peeked in the adult section of the library at the naughty parts of her adult novel.)

Inside the card, this is an excerpt of what Laura wrote after telling me she’d been toting that card around in her purse for 4 weeks, apologizing that it was a little grimy:

“I do remember where you came from. A girl SO determined to be mainstream in every way . . . to now, a phenomenal woman who really doesn’t care that much what people think. In a really good way.”

Isn’t it great to have friends who’ve known you through all the weirdest phases of your life and loved you through them? Because they can remind you how far you’ve come. Laura thinks it’s a riot that I used to bleach my hair with Sun-In in high school and spend hours tanning and always had to have a boyfriend in college– that I cared so much about frivolous things.

And ironically, that now I run a web site devoted to being counter-culture.

I’m glad I care so much less, now, about what people think. In your 20′s, you figure out who you are. In your 30′s, you negotiate relationships and have your rough edges bumped off. In your 40′s, you know who you are and have nothing left to prove. Time to really live!

I have a lot more conviction as that woman, who doesn’t worry about what others think, than as the girl of 12 doing what everybody else did. Just because everybody else did it.

But I don’t deserve much credit. How much does it help to have a community? It’s immeasurable, really. I feel like I have plenty of friends who agree that just because pop culture embraces it doesn’t mean I have to.

Thank you all for being that community for me. It makes living a life of abundance, against the grain, so much easier.

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