Last night I was in my office until 1:00 in the morning.

I'm not a workaholic. Not trying to convince anyone that this is something that happens to me often. Usually I have a very predictable schedule. But every once in a while the 1:00 nights happen. And last night was one of them.
I was sitting in the dark office, thinking about how strange it is that I've been in that dark office for nearly a year now. I still feel like the "new guy." And compared to some of my colleagues, I very much am the new guy.
Maybe it was because it was late and I was tired and alone. Maybe it was because of the lightening storm I watched out of my office window, a natural occurrence that tends to give the sense that bigger things than us happen. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I've had so many big life changes recently that I've been weathering more aggressively than usual, but my mind started waxing nostalgic and sentimental. Contemplative and maybe a little somber too.

I lay down on the floor in my office, using a black hoody-turned-pillow, which has been sitting in the same spot since I transported it there from home in the early spring, to cushion my pounding head. And I dozed off.
I fell somewhere into the middle of the dream. I say "middle" because it was almost like it was already happening before my mind joined the story. Maybe all dreams are that way. I guess the credits don't typically roll at the prompting of each REM cycle. But this one felt a little extra that way.
It was a different time and not that long ago. I had boarded a plane that was headed from Palau to Salt Lake City. A direct flight, I suppose. An itinerary that only exists in dream land.
But I was old on the outside. Older than I am now. I wasn't the age of my body. I was the age of my experiences. Or, rather, the age that I felt my recent experiences had made me. I sat on the plane, catching my reflection occasionally in the window and for some reason feeling the need to explain to those around me that the outside of myself didn't accurately reflect who I was.
But then a friend took the seat next to me, and it suddenly didn't matter how I looked or what I had experienced. Because this friend knew me. And this friend knew me not because of my experiences, but despite them. And I recognized in that moment that this was the true indicator of real friendship.
Most people identify us by gathering information about the things that happen in our lives. But it takes someone special to see us through those happenings and know our souls.
There was comfort on this flight in knowing that, come what may, I was cared for. I was cared for by someone or someones who I understood to be selfless enough to treat me as though they cared for me.
I craved that consistency, like we all do. I craved that consistency in the way every one of us does after spending a lifetime of discovering that that kind of consistency is an all-too-rare gem in ourselves and others. And I clasped the arm of this friend tightly with both hands, as though doing so could somehow stop the friend from turning into something different emotionally.
But it happened anyway. And my dream heart broke as the friend faded into something different. The person turned into a black hoody, limp in my hands.
I held it. And I cried. And I buried my face in it, wishing that it wasn't an item of clothing. Emotions rushed through me in a way and at a level that is atypical of dreams for me. But while I wished and hoped for that consistency in someone else, another emotion took over.
I had an unbelievable sense that I could be better at being the kind of person and friend that I craved. I could find ways to see those I love for who they are. I could be that source of comfort for them, come what may. And I felt that I should strive to be those things.
We aren't valuable because people love us. We're valuable because we love people.
I woke up after that, confused and wondering for a moment where I was. And then I remembered.
I climbed aboard my chair and continued to work while lightening lit up the sky outside my office window.
~It Just Gets Stranger