The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, etc., etc., etc., Bullshit. The first step is having someone, a relatively new friend, call you on it and slam it right in your face and then for good measure, slam it in your face again. Ouch.

You see, I suck at letting my guard down. Add in a healthy bit of introverted-ness, and you’ve got yourself a mysterious, quirky, weird (just a few of the nicer words I’ve heard used to describe me) individual who is more often than not, misunderstood.

I grew up hearing “don’t let anybody in; they’ll just disappoint you” and “be careful what you tell people; they’ll use it against you to have power over you.” The rest is history.

I’ve always had a difficult time fully trusting people. Combine that with a few other sketchy events from over the years (break-ins, etc.), and you end up with a nice sturdy fort around your life. I’ve compensated for it in various ways in the past – money/gifts to friends and family and grand gestures. I’m “Aunt Shell” to 5 sweet girls of my three best friends, and I will confess:  I love those 5 girls just a little more than other friends’ kids only because I hope their parents know that is my way of giving a part of myself to them.

Ridiculous? Sappy? Crazy? All little of all three?

All of that to say, I recognize this “fault” about myself. I’ve been working on it for several years but stepped up my efforts last year after leaving my hectic agency job and getting my groove back. Last year while standing on the beach my friend Jenny said to me “Micheal, why don’t I know you?” I responded with confusion “what do you mean, of course, you do.” But you know, we’d had a half a margarita (or seven), so maybe Jenny was tipsy? Then she said “no, I mean I don’t REALLY know you. I don’t know what makes you tick.”

Mic drop.

I vowed at that moment – September 15 9:17 p.m. – that I would change that. I am awesome and more people should get to experience that. Geez, I’d known Jenny for five years at that point, and her words shocked me. I started changing that weekend. I will never forget our small gang from that weekend (Mike T, Bruce, Jenny, Megan, Andrew, Tara, Jimmy, Saunders, two bottles of Fireball, 17 bottles of wine and 1/2 gallon of tequila). I’ve intentionally put myself in situations where I’d be forced to be vulnerable. I’ve deepened relationships with friends and shared more in the recent year than I ever had. Er, maybe even over shared. Sorry about telling y’all about my colonic.

I’m still not perfect. It takes me longer than others would prefer to open up and be vulnerable which is okay when it’s people who know and love you. When it’s someone new, they tend to think you’re dramatic or playing games which couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve recently experienced the latter, and while it dealt a blow, it served as a reminder that I still have work to do (I hope I always have work to do because I always want to be a better me tomorrow). Next time you encounter a friend who’s “closed off” be the kind of friend Jenny was to me and ask. And then shut up and listen – that’s when the magic happens.

“Look after someone little; we’re all little.”