“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.” Anne Shirley
– Anne of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
My teenage self was an awkward chameleon. By blending into different social circles, I played with who I might be. I went to live music shows with those who did drugs and skipped school. I went to sleepovers with the rich kids whose homes had games rooms and vast liquor cabinets. I studied with the nerds and organised social functions with the popular kids. I had friends whose families still did home baking on the weekends. I had friends whose parents beat them.
I found having a diverse social circle suited me although pretending to be someone else, didn’t. I shed my chameleon skin and instead took to the world with the idea that everyone has a story to tell. And, like Anne Shirley, found the world full of kindred spirits.
Shona is one of them. Our lives intersected four years ago when I began a working at the high school where she was the caretaker. She captured my attention with her striking look; mohawk, heavy jewellery and copious art embedded in her skin.
I have also always loved a person who can drop a good f-bomb in polite company.
Shona was recently given three small photographs by a family member. They are the only photographs she has of herself as a child. We found it hilarious that, as toddlers, we both had ruler straight haircuts and clothing that showed off chubby knees. We talked about other similarities like having siblings to torment and both parents in the house.
As adults, Shona and I are like chalk and cheese, physically and in our experiences. While I had been marrying, divorcing and raising children, she had been battling her demons with dark coping strategies that included drugs.
Had I judged Shona on first meeting her, I would have missed the deep kindness in her eyes. If I had been scared away by the tattoos, I wouldn’t be inspired by her daily commitment to stay clean. Had I been offended by her potty mouth, we wouldn’t get shushed by our colleagues because our laughing is too loud. Fortunately, she recognised the kindred in me and let me into her world.
Getting to know someone whose life has been different to mine and by showing up without the chameleon skin, has given me something profound.
The point where human connection thrives.