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  • Writer's pictureJenna Kantor

What my dead friend taught to me in hindsight

💔Tulsa (pronounced Tul-a-sa). I will not have a friend named Tulsa again.💔

🧑This is Tulsa. Alright, alright. That is not his real name, but that is what I always called Jeff Lloyd, so that’s how I’m going to refer to my friend. Tulsa was a sarcastic piece of shit who brought laughter, joy, and honesty to everyone. He really was a person who just came as himself in any situation. He had confidence and a chill attitude about life. And his talent! He was an absolute genius.🧑

For me, Tulsa is not dead. I can’t take the fact that he is gone. There is so much about him that is alive and I look to every time I step on that stage. He belongs on the stage. There were still so many, too many people who did not get to see him perform. Watching him was a gift. 👨‍🎤

👍Tulsa’s talent was apparent to everyone who either worked with him or saw him on the stage. He was a natural and a genius. I remember he had this one role as the disc jockey in the musical grease and he was to Improv on stage before the show began. He chose to purposefully say the producers names incorrectly. In West Side Story, he played a Jet and made up the line “no tengo burrito” too taunt his counterparts. For me, he helped me figure out the perfect name for my one woman cabaret I did for a few years, “Jenna Keeps It Kosher.”👍

😥During this past month or so I have been haunted by memories of my friend. Our last two phone calls started this all. The last time we spoke, I was aware that he was sick, but I did not understand how bad his health was at the time. In two long conversations that I thought revolved around the fact that I was about to get married, he was actually saying his last words to me. Knowingly. I could not have been more clueless. From those phone calls, I have learned how precious life is and to treat every day as if it is your last. Tulsa did not get to achieve the fame and family life that he deserved. And now I feel his presence very much alive within me each time I step on the stage to perform. He had such an impact on me and we haven’t seen each other face-to-face for many many years. Isn’t it amazing how a friend can be important no matter the time and no matter the distance you have from each other?

🧑Tulsa was obviously an insanely gifted human being, but knowing what I know now, his theatrical talent was not his greatest super power...authenticity was. People could be themselves around Tulsa. I am learning how beautiful and rare and POWERFUL that is. Not many people can say that about those they know. And no, I’m not saying he liked and loved every single human being he met. That will be obvious bullshit. However, people were confident to be themselves. For those who know me, this is particularly a big deal because my high energy is not for everyone.🧑

🏃‍♂️The common, initial reaction to my energy is either to enjoy it or run away. Tulsa was most definitely taken aback by my energy, but he made a point to be around me from the moment we met during rehearsals for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” in California. If anything, he ran towards my energy. He gave me permission to be myself and never got me to second-guess my personality. He loved it. He celebrated it. He gave me the name Jewbacca (I’m Jewish btw). He gave me the confidence to continue being myself.🏃‍♂️

👍👎Since leaving California, I have had ups and downs because of my high energy. I did not have my buddy around to consistently celebrate the wonder of being me. I miss that confidence I used to possess.

😵😧With the desire to be liked for my personality, I went so far as to change it for a now ex-boyfriend and a job. In my quest to seek more acceptance by making a significant change within myself, I found myself more miserable than ever. It was a false way to live. If Tulsa was there to witness it, he would have made fun of me and wittingly convinced me to talk “normally” to him.

👩Although I am not 100% happy to be me, through Tulsa, I am starting to learn the value of being myself. My energy may be high, but it exudes a confidence that makes me a strong leader. My energy may be too much, but it does not fatigue and enables me to get significantly more work done as a passionate advocate for the physical therapy profession. My energy may be unattractive to some, but they are usually negative/judgemental introverts. Realizing this makes me grateful to be a positive, energetic, and outgoing extrovert.

🔥🔥🔥It is important to have relationships with people who fire your flame. People who love you as you are should be the foundation of your friendships. Although Tulsa was not in my daily life, his undying belief in me has left a lasting impression. Because of my friend, I know being myself is fucking awesome and it would be a crime to change myself for anyone. That was hard to get out, but there, I said it. It is out there in writing and I can’t take it back. Isn’t that fabulous?

👫Tulsa has unknowingly inspired me to be more of who I am … in turn, giving those people around me, an unspoken permission to do the very same.

💕💖💝💞Wow. What a gift.💕💖💝💞

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