It was a Sunday in November of 2007. I sat on my couch as my mom asked me if I had made up my mind about going to Taylor’s sweet sixteen that evening. I called my friend Steph to see if she was going; she wasn’t. I debated my options. I ultimately decided that it would be too much effort to go to the party. I wouldn’t know any of the other guests; I would have to take the train into New York by myself; I would be out late. At 13, it all felt too intimidating, and I lacked the confidence. What I did not know at the time was that this would be Taylor’s last birthday party and my last chance to see her. I knew she had cancer, but at the time she was in remission, and I never imagined that she might not be around forever.
If I had one do-over, I would go to that party. I would have been more confident in myself, and I would have never taken for granted an opportunity to spend time with someone I cherished. Looking back, my reasons were reasonable for someone my age, but that’s the point. It’s easy to marshal reasons to stay put, to avoid the new or daunting, to procrastinate. At the time, going anywhere without a friend seemed completely overwhelming. Now, I have the confidence and sense of independence to go anywhere and do anything. That missed party seven years ago serves as a constant reminder that if the opportunity exists to spend time with others and connect on an emotional level, whether for frivolous fun or to help someone in need, then take it. I recognize that human connections must be nurtured with the same effort that I put into the responsibilities of life and that they are worth the sacrifices that may be required. Missing out on some sleep, passing on a professional lunch, or rescheduling a meeting are small prices to pay for the warmth of human connection.