I was on a train in Florida with Carl. We had started dating a few weeks earlier. But he could fly standby because his dad works for the airline.

I got him from the airport. Floating down the escalator in a red plaid shirt, his eyes perked up when he saw me in that subtle way of his. He gave me a small trinket. A DNA ring he made out of wire for my biochemist self.

We were on our way to Miami. I didn't know the train system well, so we got on the wrong train. I realized it 45 minutes later.

I felt my nervous system amp up, expecting anger and shame. I felt so stupid and bad. How could I have messed this up?

His response?

"It's okay. Just more time to spend hanging out!"

I thought my heart would break. I have ADHD and a history of child abuse. My mistakes are as legendary as they are painful, even when they weren't mistakes.

It's amazing how hard it is to love yourself when people have been pointing out your flaws for so long. Then someone walks right up and says you're perfectly okay the way you are.

I wish everyone could have that moment, at least once in their life but preferably more. I think the closest way to get someone else to have that moment for the first time, so they know it's possible, is to share it happening to you. My friend Jenny shared an acceptance story from her past, which reminded me of this memory from almost a decade ago.

I'm leaning into these moments now. Whether they are my stories or yours. To remind myself I can make mistakes and ask for help and still be loved.

This year has been... this year.

It's okay to pull from the past to stabilize and comfort yourself. I've known Carl for a decade now. He is my favorite ex. My memories of him and my service dog Franklin are home for me in a way I'm not sure I can explain. Except to say thank you to the world for giving them to me.

[Header image of a light skinned man wearing a stuffed fake space helmet with a little headset inside at Disney World. He is looking sideways with an amusing stance, like he is determined to explore a new planet. He is wearing a black zip up hoodie with sleeves pushed up with a grey cartoon T-shirt that says "Silver Surfer" on it.]