She likes me for me...

This past weekend I attended my 10 year college reunion. There a lot of things I loved about my college experience but hands-down, the best thing about those four years was finding my people.

Fun fact: I'm an only child.  I didn't always feel like an only child because I grew up with cousins and my family is really close so we were always together.  So that whole only child stereotype thing didn't really ring true for me.

Other fun fact: I have always been an old soul.

Maybe it's an only child thing.  Maybe it's a {me} thing.  

When I was growing up I had a really hard time making and keeping friends, especially with girls.  I was shy, unsure of myself, and I never felt like I fit in. I wanted to be liked so badly that I ended up unknowingly creating masks so that I could try to get by.  When I got to high school I had become a pro at keeping these masks secure so that I had friends but I still always felt out of place; like I didn't belong.  

I spent four years at an all girls high school jumping from different friend groups. I so keenly labeled myself  a "floater".  What it meant for me at the time was that I was so insecure about not having moved into high school with a set 'ride or die' group of friends that I just made this my social class designation. By this time I had perfected my different masks so that wherever I went, I could just sneak in and be that version of myself.  

 Now don't get me wrong-I didn't have a negative experience in high school. It was more about how I showed up. It was about feeling like an imposter and having this deep knowing that I wanted to have real, true friendships that weren't surface level and where we could all just be ourselves. All this mask wearing was exhausting, lonely and confusing.  When I look back at that time in my life, there was a lot going on but really, I just wanted to feel like I belonged. I craved to be myself without conditions, to be accepted by a group so that I could start accepting myself.

When I arrived to my beautifully brick clad university that fall, I decided that I was ready to have a cliche fresh start and try to start living my life without the masks. I was excited to start over and this time see if anyone would notice if I just showed up me without any masks to hide. Because c'mon, it was college, I could finally be whomever I wanted to be.  But the ironic thing was, I didn't really know who I was.

That fall of my first semester, I met my soon to be bestie Chrissy over our common love for our home town. We bonded with our fellow floor mates over Sunday 'Sex in the City' episode watch parties. Chrissy and I ended up being roommates throughout college.  We played on a kickass intramural team where I met some other amazing women who gave me permission to show up as myself.  That year I also met Brigid-my twin soul, partner in crime, travel buddy who I moved to Hawaii with my sophomore year. In Hawaii I found my courage. I was forced to get to know myself like I never had before. It was in my senior year that I ended up connecting with Lindsay and Kelly who instantly became like family. 

When I graduated from college, I walked hand in hand out into the big, unknown world with some amazing people-my people.  I met the most incredible friends in college {friends that I call family}.  I met them without a mask on, without the facades, without the need to try and be someone else.  Instead, I just allowed myself to be ME.  I explored and discovered who I am.  It was messy for sure, but it was my own mess and it was a beautiful evolution that has led me to where I am today.  I didn't figure it all out in those four years, but what I did figure out was that I can be myself and still be accepted and loved unconditionally.  

This past weekend as I roamed the streets of my college town, I felt a sting of sweet nostalgia and deep, visceral feeling of gratitude.  Meeting these four soul sisters was one of the biggest gifts that I received in college. Each of them showed me what friendship is all about. They stood by me in all the phases of my personal evolution and have had my back {always}.  They have seen me at my very best and my very worst.  And each time they have loved me unconditionally for me. 

Better yet, these ladies taught me what female friendships are all about. They allowed me to be a true friend and showed me that I am worthy of having amazing people in my life just for being myself.  Lady friends are different kind of magic in the life of a woman.  We need that kind of bond to help nurture our soul. Self love + sisterhood will save the world.   

And when I think about that little girl in grade school and high school who craved that deep connection and desire to be herself, I would give her a squeeze and tell her it would be okay.  That those experiences, albeit challenging, made me savor and hold on tight to what true connection is all about.  And hell, look at me now! I am surrounded by incredible women who continue to lift me up and in turn allow me to raise them up as well.  It isn't an accident that Soul Connect is founded on redefining how women connect to themselves and each other.  It isn't a coincidence that my work as a soul coach is to help guide women to coming alive to their authenticity and live bravely as themselves. 

So as I sit here still basking in the joy of all of the laughter, dancing and celebrating with my original girl gang and all the others I was able to connect with during reunion weekend, I can't help but think about these stories that I held onto about authenticity, courage and connection.  Waves of memories of old stories are coming back and it isn't a bad thing, it is a remembrance of what was and an honoring of what it has evolved into. I will be sharing more on this to help debunk our stories of how we connect to ourselves and other women this summer.

But for now, gratitude on gratitude on gratitude. 

Katie Kurtz