The experience that changed my life by Viki Stoilkova

     So… we all know this story; It was all sunny and rainbowy when out of nowhere came the lockdown. We all got limiting timetables for walking outside, new restrictive rules of behavior and a lot of time to spend at home with our families. I know what you are thinking: another teenager that is complaining about random teenage stuff like not being able to have fun and fool around with her friends, but I am not your regular teenager. In order to manage with the spare time that I got, I came across this plan to start reflecting on my past behavior and grow as a person. Since I have been collecting lots of stuff like notes, pictures, tickets, souvenirs and even the toys from my childhood, in random boxes stored in my wardrobe. That’s why the self-improvement strategy had to start from sorting out those lifetime collectibles.

     On the bottom of one of those boxes I found a yellow sticky note written with neat handwriting and decorated with roses that reads: “Your lovely green eyes make me feel I know you my whole life – your secret friend, Spain 2017”. At first I didn’t pay attention till I found it again a few days later stuck on my desk under some old notebooks that I have left there. And then it hit me. I had to find the person that wrote it and to figure out what made them write me this catchy sentence. My first stop was the album with pictures from the trip to Spain in 2017, because I have a pictures signed by everyone that participated in the project. Going through the photos I started remembering things and events that happened during that time and through the middle of the album I lost my myself in the memories and forgot about why I started looking through the pictures. How many of you have felt that? And then, it happened… Suddenly you start to see some patterns and little details on the pictures. On almost every picture with me, there was this girl from Cyprus that was always looking at me or standing next to me, so there was my first suspect. This  was the first clue and I had to find a few more to solve the “mystery”. 

Obviously, the next thing I had to compare was the handwriting from the picture and the note, and then…. Guess what happened? There was another match. But I still had no clue how to contact her, because was signed only with “H”. My next step was to contact some of the people  that were there and possibly remember her or her name. As the number of people that I reached increased, my hope that I will find her degreased. One there out of nowhere I got a message from some girl named Hannah and I couldn’t believe it. It was her. Amazing, isn’t it? We started talking and connected easily. But wait, there is more…She was also looking for me for a long period of time and the thought she will meet me again kept her through some rough time. From that moment on we were texting and video-chatting almost every day and became best virtual friends.

          Some conversations later I realized how easily we forget the influence we have on people and how we take the experiences that people share with us for granted. My point is: going through life and always focusing on daily problems and tasks, we forget to slow down and think about the perfect time we had in the past and the people that we met. Аlso we are missing out on a great opportunity to talk and find motivation in other people’s stories. Take my story for example, I found a long-lost friend just by sorting some random stuff in my wardrobe and came out as a great friendship that broke the lockdown restrictions and the physical distance. Maybe your little “secret” is hiding between the pages of some old book or in that  one drawer that you never open.

      

The first impression he would give you was that of a man bored to be there. He would only take his gaze from out the window to look at the wall clock. And on top of that he kept rattling his feet nervously, like a schoolboy waiting hastily for the recess bell. While the other trainers were explaining how we would proceed and what the first training weekend would include, I couldn’t help but wonder how much money he was being paid to be persuaded to be there. Disappointing, right? Yes, I was immensely disappointed. Until he started talking.

Once he opened his mouth, it was as if he suddenly transformed to another person. Let me paint the picture for you: On his face, the most sincere smile I had ever seen appeared. His gaze, bored and distracted until a few moments ago, was now full of sparkle. His voice was so soothing it felt like a parental caress. And if that’s not enough, his words were so profound they sounded like poetry. That’s when I realized, this person would indeed shape me as a psychotherapist. And he would indeed; for the next three years, he would be a constant source of knowledge and inspiration. What I couldn’t realize at that point was how much he would also shape me as a person.

Have you ever met a person that makes you feel so safe that you can explore even the darkest corners of yourself? Someone that believes so much in you that you feel you can do anything? If not, I sincerely wish you find a person like that in your life. I’m sure you will agree with me when I say, a person like that can help you unlock potential you didn’t even know you had in you. I’m very grateful that he existed in my life for as long as he did…

When I heard the news of his sudden death, the world around me stopped for a few seconds. Or was it minutes…? My colleague’s voice over the phone was trying to get a reaction from me, or at least a sign that I was still there and listening. I was still listening. But I was not there, not all of me. A part of me died that day, together with him at that beach where he sunbathing when his heart failed him, and will probably forever stay there, splashing around in the water and making castles in the sand.

So why did I share with you this story, you may wonder? Was it to just pay tribute to a great man and give him a small piece of immortality by transforming his memory into words? Yes, but not only. For me, it all boils down to this: Let people inspire you. When you meet people that can see in you the treasures you cannot see in yourself, let them dig them out. Let them change you. For when one by one the people that feel proud of you disappear, the only way to keep them close to your heart is being able to feel proud of yourself. 

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