I keep a note on my bulletin board at work. My mom had cut it off of one of my grandfather’s cups from Starbucks — it’s back from when they were printing inspirational quotes for you to carry with you through your day.

The Way I See it #141

“I used to feel so alone in the city. All those gazillions of people and then me, on the outside. Because how do you meet a new person? I was very stumped by this for many years. And then I realized, you just say, ‘Hi.’ They may ignore you. Or you may marry them. And that possibility is worth that one word.”

Mom had written a personal note to me on the back of it, and only I know what it means. And receiving it in the mail on the day that I got it changed my whole outlook on the world.

You know, when you’re having deep conversations with your friends, oftentimes the question will come up about what your biggest regret is. And while I love to say that I have no real regrets because I wouldn’t have ended up where I am today, I do have one regret. A big one.

Picture it, Sicily 1912 Pittsburgh 1993. On the bridge that connected two buildings at my college. Answering someone who wanted my attention. Had I just walked away, my life would be completely different. Better, probably. Filled with less pity and aggravation, absolutely. Oh, to rewind my life 13 years. …

But I can’t and, quite honestly, I wouldn’t want to. Because I wouldn’t be the hardass, no-bullshit broad I am today without every painful step that got me here. I stand tall when others would fall apart into a million little pieces. I am PROUD of myself for that.

And so, the quote above means the world to me. Because I have gotten into the habit of hiding, of taking that song lyric by The Fray to new extents (“He smiles politely back at you / You stare politely right on through”). I have tried so hard to avoid getting close to people during the last few years — I’ve been burned mightily by giving away trust far too easily.

And today? The good guys win — I win. I take back my power and say enough. I smile back at the strangers who try to catch my eye. I will finally give that poor boy my phone number. I will finally go up to the one who makes me want to hope and dream again and say this is it, take it or leave it. I will not spend another moment feeling anything less than fantastic.

And I won’t be crushed if I don’t hear the answer I am hoping for. Because there will always be another stranger who’s hoping that if he smiles at me, I will smile back. And that’s where it all starts, really … and we never truly run out of beginnings if we’re always open to having new, better memories take the place of the ones we can’t leave behind soon enough. …

So, “Hi.”

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