we’re all in the dark. we’re all in the sun

There’s this story I tell about my childhood.

I was in first grade and I’d just learned how to read. I was super excited about it. Even at six, I was all about the next goal, about being perfect, always moving, never standing still or being satisfied by mediocrity. The six-year old version of a type A, headed for burn out, overachiever.

We were assigned to these reading groups in class based on how far along we were and the shining pinnacle of achievement was the big red book. You knew you’d made it once you reached that big red book.

Anyway, that’s not the story. The story is that I had a crush on this boy. In my memory he had red hair and freckles, but maybe that was just from something I read. He lived down the street. He didn’t know how to read. He was in the very first reading group. They were reading whatever was the opposite of the big red book.

One day, I went over his house to play. I brought flash cards. I was so excited about being able to read and the thought of not being able to was just tragic to me. I had to help this poor boy through the terrible, dark jungle of non-reading and bring him into the brilliant sun of literacy.

He was frustrated, struggling, despondent. If only he could figure out how to read. And here I was to help him.

Only that’s not how he felt at all. I brought out the flash cards. He responded with the opposite of gratitude and affection and hopeful anticipation: “I don’t want to learn how to read.”

I took my flash cards and went home. I couldn’t fathom it. Didn’t want to learn how to read? Crush over.

In the version of the story I tell, I was, even at six, ever helpful, eager to share with others, selfless. I knew, way back then, who my soulmate would be: a boy who loved to read and learn just like me.

So, really, my version of the story is all about how obnoxious, delusional, and judgmental I am.

“Here, let me help you be more like me.”

So what if he didn’t want to read? I don’t want to skydive or climb Mount Everest. We all like stuff and don’t like stuff. Maybe the point of a soulmate is to find someone who compliments you, not someone who is exactly like you.

Maybe people don’t need my help. Maybe they’re doing just fine. Or maybe we all need a little help. And we’re all doing just fine.

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