There are two things I wish I could say weren’t a part of my life — judgment and guilt.

But let’s get real; that’s just not how life works. Judgment is real. Guilt is real. And you know what, I feel guilty for judging people.

When I first met Stacey Godbold the judgment was definitely there. I didn’t want to; she seemed nice enough. But I judged; I couldn’t help myself.
Actually, that snap judgment of one of my now close friends was that I kind of hated her. She was gorgeous, well she still is. And what is worse is that I met her just a few months after she gave birth to triplets. Gah! Beautiful hair, wonderful smile, tiny waist and oh so fashionable. I still call her my “fancy friend.”
And it wasn’t just her looks that made me want to hate her — it seemed like she had the perfect life. An adorable son, precious triplets, a handsome husband and a gorgeous house. Seriously, she had it all together.

I guess that judgment was partially about jealousy. While I was happy in my marriage and adored my wonderful son, my husband and I had been trying for several months to conceive a second child with no luck, and I was starting to lose hope. We were living in a teeny-tiny dump of an apartment saving up to buy our very first house after relocating to Evansville. And I felt far from “fancy” or gorgeous. Instead I felt dumpy and plain.
As much as I wanted to hate her (OK, hate is a strong word, but you get where I’m going with this, right?) after talking to Stacey for just a few minutes I started to realize that she was human and oh so kind, caring and sincere. And while life for her was good, it wasn’t perfect. Whose is? She had struggles just like we all do.

Although our lives and our appearances at first glance seemed to have absolutely no similarities, I quickly realized we had a lot more in common than I first thought. We discovered many connections and kind of struck up a mini-friendship.

I finished my reporting duties that day and left her house with a sense of joy of connecting with someone I truly enjoyed but also guilt because I’d so quickly and harshly judged her. I left it at that, until she sent me a Facebook friend request about a week later.

After we exchanged in a month of casual Facebook liking, she reached out to me for help with some editing for Project Reveal. She founded the website, and it was something that I immediately knew I’d be happy to be a part of and help in any way I could. Editing a thing here or there quickly snowballed to where we are today — work spouses as Stacey likes to call it.

Our working relationship is easy and fun. We respect each other’s opinions even if we disagree. We’ve both allowed ourselves to be vulnerable and have seen that we are so much more than those first impressions or those exterior appearances. She has fears, insecurities and struggles that are parallel to mine and many other women.

Me, Erin, and Stacey

Although we make great work spouses, our friendship has become so much more than that.
And if I’d never given Stacey a chance — immediately written her off with that snap judgment — I wouldn’t have this amazing friend who’s provided much needed insight and support in my life. I never would have discovered Project Reveal, something that has given me a renewed passion and purpose.

This judgment of Stacey wasn’t my first, and unfortunately I’m sure it won’t be my last. But it has provided me with a lovely reminder and some perspective. Although I can’t promise I won’t judge ever again, I’m going to try. There have been several interactions where my first instinct was to shoot a quick Polaroid image of someone and keep it in my head. But when that urge strikes, I remember my friendship with Stacey and am much more willing to take my time to develop a picture of the people around me.