Visiting with a large group of New Life friends truly is like coming home for me. Nobody but my family makes me feel so loved and safe to be myself. No matter how introverted I may be in general, I still marvel at how the loudness of the group makes me feel enveloped in a warm blanket rather than overwhelmed by noise, and their careful (for me) hugs are comforting instead of pushy.
Right now as I ride home, I have ALL the feelings, but I want to share a few of my favorite memories from the weekend as a whole.
- The joyous enthusiasm with which everyone embraced karaoke. As we all sang along and cheered and clapped and dramatically acted out song lyrics, I knew that this would be the only group where I could possibly feel comfortable enough to karaoke along. I didn't end up singing anything, but as the night went on I remembered more and more who I was with and realized that if I wanted to, I COULD.
- That quiet interval when most of the team was swimming and Jacob and I just hung out in the living room while Zach played his new songs for us, which I loved as always.
- The incredibly welcoming nature of Christian and Ashley especially. Both are always willing to ask questions for those of us who aren't convinced anyone wants to listen, and they're always willing to explain or include you in the inside jokes.
- Tim offering free hugs and getting so happy when I, who am notoriously not touchy, took him up on it. The dude gives good hugs.
- Talking even just a little bit with Jessie, who always makes me feel like she's genuinely happy I'm there. Plus she gives some of the best words of affirmation.
- How Josh always starts off his guitar-playing looking almost nonchalant, as if he's like, "Oh, this old thing? I just picked it up and started strumming," only for him to suddenly have such passion and deep sincerity when he starts to sing.
- Hearing Sarah quietly harmonizing along whenever people play songs she knows on their guitars.
- Plotting with Jacob, Jonathan and Jackie to take down Christian when we played Betrayed at House on the Hill together.
- The hours-long reminiscing session that interrupted that game, which I really didn't even mind because drama company people have the best stories. Everyone jumping in clamoring to tell their favorite music mishap story or their favorite hell tour story or their favorite Steve Pippin story (EVERYONE had one of those!)
- Introducing Jacob to everybody (though he kinda knew a lot of them anyway) and watching them embrace him as one of us.
- Watching the sweet, funny, generous Brittany marry the man she loves. That was for sure a highlight. :-)
- Slipping into drama company lingo without even noticing it.
- Seeing people I hadn't seen since I left the drama company seven years ago and instantly connecting with them even after all those years.
- Sarah's loud, distinctive laugh from the other room whenever someone said something that cracked her up.
- Sharing a vague story about there being only one person who I'm pretty sure actively hates me, and getting a slightly shocked response of, "How does anyone hate Hannah Megill?" from Clay.
- Getting invited to participate in things. It was always clear that people wanted me to hang out and do stuff with them, but there was also zero pressure, and if I said, "Nah, I'm going to stay here for awhile," it would have also been perfectly OK.
Every time I leave a group of New Lifers, I leave feeling better about myself and who I am. It's kind of amazing, the unique and beautiful bond we formed there among such a large group. Being in the presence of so many people who love and care about me and instantly accept me as one of their own... it starts to change the way you see yourself. You start to think of yourself as being someone actually worthy of that love. And when you go back and let yourself experience that again, you realize just how much of yourself had started to reject your own worth again, and you hadn't even noticed it was happening until this roomful of loud, crazy, incredible people helped to bring it back to you.