I never wanted to be this way. It wasn’t anything I asked for. You’re too soft. You’re too sensitive is all I have ever heard since I was old enough to understand. And of course, when people tell you who you are or what you are for so long, I guess you just start to accept the label they create. In my case, I accepted it and have seen it as a crippling hinderance in my life to this day.

The constant fear of rejection and failure seem to follow me around attached to my heart no matter how hard I try to thicken up my skin. As a child, I was distant and enjoyed entertaining myself more than engaging in any kind of interaction, knowing that if I did, they would find something wrong with me.

I would be too much. I would overwhelm them with my emotions and my constant need to fit in and be accepted. This never changed the older I have gotten.

Just a look on someone’s face or the change of tone in their words sends my body into overdrive. I begin to breath heavier. My heart rate increases. My skin starts to feel hot and sticky. Did I say something wrong? Did I come across wrong? Did they notice I looked away as they were speaking for a split second? Did that make them mad at me?

These are all just a few questions that run through my mind and in my body during any interaction with anyone to this day.

In the worse situations, that I feel I always create, I never interact with the person again. This, of course, is to my detriment as most interactions are completely “normal” and are never as devastating as I believe they are.

I have lost a lot of relationships over the years because of overanalyzing situations and accepting them as a fault of mine. Something I didn’t do good enough. Something I didn’t try hard enough for. Things I gave up on too quickly, because they made me feel I was coming out of my skin.

Loud noises, too many people, and too much multi-tasking will send me over the edge. And the more I try to not let any of that bother me, the worse it seems to be. It’s a never-ending battle with me against myself every day.

I have always been very discouraged at myself for being me. Not knowing if anyone could ever accept me for who I am and if I could ever contribute anything to anyone or anything else in my life.

Would I always be this sobbing shell of a person that took everything to heart? How can I be of any value even to myself, if I couldn’t learn to control this part of me? I just know I will continue to run people off or run away from people as long as I live. It is similar to a fight or flight response in my spirit, I guess. And it seems like it's always on. At times, in overdrive it seems.

And as irrational as a lot of it seems to others, it has always been me. Surely, society will never have a place for someone like me.

But one day, I met a man named Brady at a retirement home. Brady was 78 years old, but his mind was the mind of a child. He was born with a disability that kept him from living the kind of life that most all of us take for granted every day, including myself.

Brady wheeled around in a wheelchair, not because he needed to, but because it gave him speed. His hands never touched the wheels, and he flew back and forth down the hall by pulling himself and the chair with his feet and legs. He loved baseball caps and getting his picture taken with me every day if I would let him. I would take it and then print it and then hand it to him.

He would smile from ear to ear and take off in his wheelchair out my office door running into doorways on his way out. A few minutes later, he would be back with his little photo album asking me to put the picture in it for him. By the time I left there, he had around 20 pictures or so of just me and him together smiling in that special album of his. I had a few hanging up in my house and at work.

Brady didn’t speak really well, but for whatever reason, I could understand what he needed most all of the time. So instead of going to the nurse, he would come to me. He would point and make gestures with words only he and I knew. He knew he was being heard and seen by me.

His sad eyes would let me know when he didn’t feel well, and he would always take off his baseball cap and slap his leg with it when he was irritated. When he was in an especially good mood, he would turn my light on and off and we would both laugh out loud.

I would give him big hugs when he asked for them and I would look him in the eyes when he had to have a “serious” conversation with me about the lady being mean in the kitchen.

He waited for me every morning by my door until I got in and my face would light up just as much as his in that moment. I was his friend, and he was my friend. No age or disability would ever change that for us. I depended on him as much as he depended on me to be there every morning. When he cried, I would cry. When he laughed, I would laugh. He was one of the best friends I have ever had.

He had a sister that would come and check in once a month or so, but he didn’t seem to care or notice when she visited. Other than that, Brady had no one. He had his stuffed animals that he won at Bingo, his baseball hats, and his photo album. I suppose that’s all Brady needed to make him happy.

My days were made brighter by Brady every single day. When I cried, he cried. He gave me hugs when I needed them. He laughed when I laughed. I’ve never met anyone like him before or since.

The relationship I had with Brady made me realize that there are all kinds of people that are here for all kinds of reasons.

My emotions and feelings may have been too much for some, but for Brady, they meant everything. I was never too much for him, and I always seemed to be able to help him out and be there for him for whatever he needed. Being able to communicate with someone like Brady was a special gift for me. And it was almost never just about the words or lack thereof. It was a facial expression.

It was a tone. It was a baseball hat being slapped on the leg. It was what he needed more than anything else, and I was able to do that for him. It made me realize that the big emotions I felt were not a hindrance to living this life, it was a blessing. To feel for others and be able to help them in some way is a remarkable thing.

I never thought any part of me could make someone more comfortable and understood since I was so misunderstood. But it in fact helped me to know how to love the misunderstood and to bring some kind of acceptance and peace to them.

It was heartbreaking leaving that job because of Brady. So, I would go visit him every weekend and bring special things to him and have someone take our picture. He was always so excited to see me, and it tears me up now just to think about it. I found out that Brady got pretty sick, so I got him a card to take to the hospital with our picture inside.

He had been released back to the retirement home before I got the chance to take it to him. I had made plans to go by and visit when I ran into his sister at a local store. She let me know that Brady had passed away. To say I was devastated is an understatement. She filled me in on the arrangements and I left the store in tears after saying goodbye to her.

I made it to the funeral and was able to put my card with our picture inside with him before he was covered up. My heart was broken, but I knew my sweet old friend had been near me the whole time. There was something about him. Something that made me think he was a lot like me.

I think everything played out the way it was supposed to in those few short days. I wouldn’t have been able to see Brady that sick and it not consume me. He knew that. I know he knew that.

He made it to where I would see his sister and be able to come say my goodbyes. I have never looked at others as terrifyingly since I met Brady. I knew now he was in complete peace and wholeness and would never be misunderstood again.

He taught me that my quirks that I thought were so awful where what made me special, because they helped me see the special in others and to help them recognize it in themselves.

October 13, 2023 21:10

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09:56 Oct 15, 2023

Beautiful story. And relatable to me. I sympathize with the MC a lot. It's hard being 'different'. Small typo in last paragraph, where instead of were. Thanks!


Shannon C.
13:26 Oct 15, 2023

Thanks Derrick for liking it. Appreciate the comment and the catch.


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