This girl and I go way back. We met in middle school, didn't like each other because I thought she was weird and she thought I wore too much mascara (didn't we all??), but then we became inseparable as soon as I started attending her school in 9th grade. We started hanging out between classes and quickly decided it was time to take our friendship to the next level and have our mom's drive us to meet up on a weekend for a friend date of good pizza and shopping in Cleveland's Little Italy. Providence would have it that we found ourselves in the same little spot over ten years later, still giggling and talking about life, boys, and food. I love this girl more than words can describe, and it is hard to imagine life before her. She brings so much joy to everyone around her.
I left Cleveland to attend North Carolina School of the Arts for the last two years of high school, but unlike many other teenage relationships inhibited by distance, our friendship never wavered. I remember one particular conversation when my dear friend/roommate at my new school and I were discussing Cassie's recent visit. The two of them had just met for the first time, and my roommate said something that always sticks with me. She said, "You always talk about how beautiful Cassie is. And yes - she is DEFINITELY gorgeous and I could see that. But now that I've met her I know why you are always so emphatic about it. That girl has the most beautiful soul. She's just so full of joy!"
That is exactly how I describe Cass now. She is a beautiful human, no doubt. Those blue eyes and curls, and her tall leggy self? DANNNNG GIRL. But what I now also always include when describing her is that she is the most joyful soul that I know. No matter what the circumstances around her, no matter if the world seems to be falling to pieces, no matter if someone has personally harmed her or her loved ones, she loves everyone around her fiercely with compassion and with joy. She will talk to anyone, but her conversations involve much more listening than talking. She asks to hear people's stories. She wants to know where they come from. She asks how their day is going and genuinely wants to hear the answer. Cass lives in India now, saving the world and working to make India a safer place for women and children (Check out the Fearless Collective!). She also leads an initiative that takes underprivileged teens from the U.S. on a trip to India so that they can have a global experience and learn about the diversity and complexity of our world (Check it out, too! 360+ Leadership Collective). She gives and gives and gives, and loves and loves and loves. If all of us could bring half as much joy to our surroundings as she does, our world would be much happier. Let's try today, shall we?