Last Sunday morning, I got super honest with a friend – if I’d stayed living in her town, I don’t think she wouldn’t like me now.
Looking back on the last four years of growing and changing since moving away from her small NZ village, I can’t imagine anyone carrying the close thread of friendship throughout the journey.

I was a mess. Sobbing over boys, starting my business, struggling to define myself – it was so much to handle, I’m not even sure I’d want to be my friend.

But these women – they express themselves whole-heartedly, yet still enjoy each other – the highs and the lows. They share unconditional friendship and love on a level I haven’t let myself understand before.

That’s where she stopped me.

Not because I’m not worthy of being loved for whom I am. But because I misunderstood their relationships entirely.

It turns out it’s not that my small-town circle of women love each other unconditionally. It’s that they’ve committed to something larger than any of them – the community.

Implied within that commitment is the desire to make the community work. Sometimes that takes adapting. Sometimes that takes allowing. But it always takes accepting.

Accepting who we are at our core – people trying to figure out this thing called life the best we can. Sometimes that’s going to make us incredible, interesting neighbors. Sometimes that’s going to make us arrogant, obnoxious pricks. But small towns make room for it all.

Because communities allow us be seen – in all our unapologetic, unkempt glory. When the boundaries are tight and clear, we actively bounce against them, exploring how to define ourselves. And everyone else is along for the ride as well.

We may vacillate between extremes, but others see the constant underneath the exploration. They accept us for our strengths and limitations. They accept us for who we are.

And that’s how laying on the floor next to my yogi friend, sharing our philosophy on life, I was given one of the greatest gifts of my life. Her knowing look that I’m not perfect and that’s okay.

That she’s happy I’m here and understands when I’m not. That she’s not attached to who I am today, but who I can be for her.

Because at the end of the day we’re all connected. It’s what we manage to create together – the depth of experience we’re willing to allow each other to have one-to-one, you-and-me –  that matters.

So reflect on your community – your family, your friends, you neighbors. The people who carry on, even when you’ve lost it – even when carrying on looks like temporarily stepping away.

Where can you set down the mask and allow yourself to be really seen?
Where can you offer more acceptance and see others as they are without condemning them?
Where can you love and be loved by just being you?

Because being seen and accepted as you are – and seeing and accepting others as they are – regardless of life’s ups and downs, is truly the biggest gift you can give.

Be free. Be brave. Be YOU!