To Be Known

One of my greatest bragging rights in the world is my ability to remember birthdays.

It’s seriously like my secret talent. I have a Rain Man-like skill to remember just about anyone’s birthday once I’ve celebrated it. If you are a person in my life and I’ve celebrated your birthday, then just know it’s forever burned in my brain. I’m like a human birthday Rolodex. My friends don’t even keep a calendar anymore; they just ask me. Birthdays and song lyrics—those are the two things I know without a doubt. 

With that comes my second secret talent: I’m an excellent gift giver. Birthdays, Christmas, special occasions—you name it, and I love finding a gift for it. There’s just something really exciting about finding a gift that makes someone I love feel loved. When it’s personal to them, they feel seen, loved, and celebrated, but more than that, they feel known by me. That’s the secret sauce to all gift giving: letting the other person know that to you, they are known.

I think that’s because there’s something about being known that really makes us all feel loved. It’s what we all want more than anything from the people close to us. Sure, we want to be loved, and valued, and respected, but I think when we’re known—really and truly known—by the people in our lives, we feel all that and more. 

Being known is something I’ve come to value more in my adult years. I moved away from home when I was 18 for college and haven’t lived close to my family in more than a decade. I don’t have a family of my own yet. And as I’m self-employed, I work primarily by myself. All that to say, I spend a lot of hours in my week by myself. And sometimes, all that combined can make you feel like you’re drifting out in the world on your own. 

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about where I am in my life. And if I’m being honest, I’d tell you that I’ve been battling that feeling of being “behind.” I’m not married, I don’t have kids, I haven’t written my bestseller, I’m still paying my student loans—the list goes on and on. And when I look at it like that, it’s easy to feel like life has taken a lonely turn. The lie I tell myself? I’m not where I’m “supposed” to be, and because of that, I’m alone.

I haven’t articulated this lie I’ve been battling to anyone. I’ve just sort of privately prayed about it, talked to my counselor, and worked on processing through it to replace it with truth.

But as I’ve been battling this feeling of being alone, it’s almost as if the world heard me and decided to prove otherwise. In little and big ways, the people around me these last few months have made me feel more known than I even realized I was. It was nothing ostentatious, or obvious, or probably even intentional; it was just little moments that God gave me to show me that not only am I not alone, but I’m known. 

When I was at the movies and a scene played out on screen triggered an extreme emotional (and public) crying, my friend Stephanie just silently passed me her blanket so that I could cover my face. 

When I contemplated not buying Halloween candy for the neighborhood kids (something my roommates make fun of every year because we’re never home on Halloween to actually hand it out), my friend Tiffany sent me $5 to pay for it because she knew how much I loved having it to leave out. 

When my mom bought me Reese Witherspoon’s coffee table book for no reason other than that she knows I love Reese Witherspoon. 

When my friend Molley had her mom make extra Rice Krispie treats because she knows I think her mom makes the best Rice Krisipe treats. 

When my friend Blake drove down from Nashville just to hang out for 24 hours.

When my friend Christy texted me about something only she and I would laugh at. 

When my friend Mary sent me a picture of her voting sticker because she knows how much I love to vote. 

When my friend Jessica took me to brunch just because. 

When my friend Lindsey let me crash her trip to NYC because she knows I love the city as much as she does. 

When my friend Michelle called me from across the world just to talk on her way home from work. 

When my friend Anisa invited me over for dinner.

When my friend Chelsea tagged me in Instagram posts that she wanted me to see because she knows I’ll think they’re funny. 

When my friends Megan and Amanda let me go trick or treating with their families every year.

The list goes on and on.

My people know me, in big and small ways. That much I know is true. And to be known is to be loved. That much I also know is true. 

So even when it doesn’t look the way you thought it would, it doesn’t mean life looks lonely. Because when you feel known, and loved, and seen, and valued, life starts to look really unexpectedly lovely. 

Sara Shelton