Something was wrong.
I could tell from the moment she came into the restaurant.
It was in her eyes, in her smile, in her walk. When you're good friends with someone you just have a sixth sense for these things, no matter how long it's been since you've seen them.
"We need to order a bottle of wine pronto," she whispered in my ear as we hugged.
I didn't need convincing, and after a few glasses of vino and some well-needed catching up, my dear friend started to tell me what was wrong.
Work had been terrible lately, she said. Actually, not just lately. For years.
I could attest to that. I'd watched her go through it all. The insane hours. The crushing workload. The, let's say, "difficult" boss.
But no matter how tough things got, my friend never stopped fighting. She had a dream and she was going to make it come true. Nothing and no one was going to stop her.
However, things had been especially bad lately. Her boss, though a nightmare, was manageable. She could deal with that.
What she couldn't deal with was when a client told her that he was losing faith in her ability to complete a project, one she'd been slaving over for months.
That took its toll on her.
It made her feel like she didn't have what it took after all. After everything she'd been through, maybe this was it. She felt like an Olympic runner tripping at the starting line, a failure before the race even began.
A tear ran down her face, then another. She took a breath, wiped her eyes, and appeared to compose herself.
Then she began to weep.
It made me want to cry along with her. All I wanted to do was help, but all I could do was take her hand.
I asked her if she was sure that this is what she wanted to be doing. Did she even want that dream job promotion anymore?
She wiped her tears and looked like she was thinking it over. "Yes. But I don't know. Maybe they know better than me and I should just give up."
My heart sank for her. It's hard to see such a tough, effervescent lioness of a woman appear so defeated.
This all reminded me of something that happened with my youngest son Haydn. Hoping to simultaneously distract and inspire her, I told her the story.
Haydn has always been extremely artistic. As a child every notebook or scrap of paper had doodles or drawings on it. He loved to sketch, paint, and write the most elaborate short stories.
When he entered grade 8 he had to choose his high school for the next year. Of course Haydn wanted to go to an art school.
In order to apply, he needed to submit a portfolio of his work, a letter of recommendation from his art teacher, and numerous referrals from people in the art community.
Our first stop was meeting with his art teacher.
When we walked into his classroom I couldn't help but notice the walls were lined with art work. I nudged Haydn and asked if some of the pieces were his.
He grinned and said yes. Five of them.
The teacher and I sat down, and after exchanging some vapid pleasantries she asked Haydn what high school he wanted to apply to.
Haydn excitedly answered that he wanted to go to Rosedale Heights School of the Arts.
"Well that's an ambitious thought," she quipped.
That didn't sit right with me. What was she implying?
"I'm sorry. Can you explain what you mean by that?"
"You need to understand hundreds of kids apply every year and Rosedale only accepts the MOST talented individuals." Oh, the way she said it. The most condescending tone you can imagine.
"Haydn is very talented."
"You're his mom. Of course you would think that."
I was shocked and appalled by her answer! I looked at Haydn, and just like my girlfriend in the present-day restaurant, he looked defeated and miserable.
In this moment my momma bear instincts were kicking in. How dare she say my son isn't talented!? I wanted to leap over the desk and rip her face off, hang it up on the wall next to all the other art. I call this piece "Justice."
Somehow I resisted. After all, I didn't want to see my son's future art through the glass partition of a prison visiting room.
So I took a deep breath, tried to compose myself, and calmly asked her to point out some of Haydn's artwork on the walls and to explain why she thought my son wasn't talented enough.
She stared at me for a second, scoffed, and then scanned the walls looking for his work. After about a minute she crossed her arms and said that she didn't know which art was his. It was very difficult for her to know each and every student's creation, she explained.
I looked at her in disbelief. I couldn't believe her audacity. She'd been so certain that Haydn wasn't art school material, and yet she had no idea what his art even looked like.
I turned to Haydn and asked him to tell her which pieces were his. He pointed out five paintings hung throughout the classroom. They were brilliant.
To my surprise she actually came down off her high horse and agreed that three of them were quite amazing. Good thing I let her keep her face, I thought.
Haydn was grinning from ear to ear.
So I slid the recommendation form at her and politely asked her to reconsider her first response.
She signed the form, and Haydn applied to the art school he wanted. Six weeks later he received a letter from them. He'd gotten in, of course, just like I knew he would.
I used this experience to teach Haydn that he should never let another person's opinion dictate his life choices.
If you believe in something and you love it, then just do it. Don't ever listen to them, don't ever doubt yourself. 'Cause you know what? Haters gonna hate. They're not your problem, and like my son's teacher, they often don't even know what they're talking about.
I finished my story and told my friend that people will always judge or criticize us, but that she shouldn't be so quick to listen to them instead of her own instincts. Why would you let other people decide your choices or dreams?
If you don't believe in yourself, who will?
What do you think some of the most successful people have in common? People thought they were going to fail. Instead, they triumphed.
I asked her, "Besides, who's living your life?"
With that, she wiped her tears, raised her glass and yelled, "I am! And I'm not giving up!"
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