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When I lifted my head, my shoulders went back and I saw people and the world around me. I would see people smile at me as they pass. And they looked at me as though I were the one in control. It changed things and set me in a new direction.

I’ve never walked with my head down ever again. It’s been 34 years and to this day, if I’m walking and I happen to catch my feet, I think of Gabe, and immediately my shoulders go back and the horizon pops into view.

Looking up changed me. It actually transformed me.

It showed me that I don’t need to disappear. That there is so much incredible beauty in the world to see – and you’d be amazed at how locking eyes with someone as you pass and sharing a smile can change the day. I consider it the greatest compliment when people see me and think, He’s confident. All because I stopped looking down.

For years, I would’ve considered Gabe a bully because when I would see him coming, I always knew the interaction would be uncomfortable and I wanted to flee. But sharing this story and taking the time to reflect – I realize I was never afraid of Gabe. I didn’t fear that he was going to harm me like Doug Wilson. And he never called me names.

I now see that Gabe was simply trying to understand why I was so different from him. Without grace, his self-confidence interacting with my want-to-disappear headspace just felt like he was spitefully tormenting 14-year-old me.

I spent years thinking Gabe had been menacing me, but I see now I owe him many thanks for sharing some of his confidence with me. His nonstop button-pushing became one of the most defining, positive moments of my life.


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