One day I was skimming through the rack of shirts at the local thrift shop when suddenly I felt a hand grab my ankle. I screamed and looked down to see a pair a circle glasses perched right above a smile which quickly erupted into hysterical laughter. “OH MY GOSH, MITCHELL!!” I yelled, as he climbed out from under the hanging clothes, chuckling and beaming with pride from successfully scaring me. “That wasn’t funny!!!” I said, as he ran off yelling “WEEEEEEEEEE!!” arms flailing behind him in classic superman style.
Let me introduce Mitchell: best friend, adventure enthusiast, and inspiration. We grew up next door to each other and for years I noticed he was “different.” He was diagnosed with autism in 6th grade but I never really understood what autism was or why he acted the way he did. Our friendship didn’t form until about 8 years ago, but today I call him my brother. We’ve shared many adventures together from scooter-ing down a parking garage downtown to walking around the city with him painted gold for his golden birthday. Our interactions are a string of inside jokes, cracking each other up, trying to scare one another, giving each other crap, but most importantly trying to figure out our next adventure.
Mitchell continues to inspire me with how authentically enthusiastic he is about life: everything is exciting, everywhere is an adventure, and everyone is worth meeting. A lot of people miss out on the small beautiful details of life, so to be friends with someone who completely embraces them is life changing. While I’m not Mitchell and will never be able to completely see the world as he does, I have learned a lot about authenticity from him who embodies it to it’s fullest potential.
It’s so easy to subtly merge into adulthood building up walls around ourselves, desensitized to the thrill of life surrounding us, becoming increasingly overwhelmed by the stresses and anxieties of society. In my own journey, I’ve found that embracing the whole of who you are and acknowledging that you’re authentic-self will be different from everyone else’s, is the first step. Of all the authentic people I’ve been blessed to meet, this seems to be a crucial aspect of living authentically; accepting your flaws but being proud of where you excel, loving how God created you even if there were things you wish you could change, and not being afraid to say to the world: THIS IS WHO I AM AND IT IS GREATTASTIC!
This of course doesn’t happen overnight and I am currently in this stage myself so I’ll keep you posted…
In the meantime, check out Mitchell’s blog