When my best friend, Lauren Franklin, and I were in high school, we’d write notes to each other. Daily, almost. In pink gel pen, scattered with doodles and hearts and highlighter, we’d include inspirational quotes and verses along with detailed recaps of our inevitably dramatic days.
One of those days one of us stumbled upon The Message interpretation of a very familiar passage of Scripture. So popular in fact, it’s often quoted at weddings and noticeable to people of any faith. 1 Corinthians 13. “The Way of Love.”
The Message version, however, in all of its controversial glory, twisted the words in this memorable verse JUST the way Lauren and I liked.
“Hope unswervingly. Love Extravagantly.” it read.
Lauren and I ate this up. We were giddy with relevance. We were blindly driven to do it, and self-righteously motivated to hold one another accountable. It was hyperbolic and extra… just like us. Unswervingly. Without doubt or fear or squiggle. A straight and narrow hope. A naive, silly hope. Extravagantly. Obnoxious in its existence. Overabundance. So much you feel like you shouldn’t. We loved it.
We loved it so much, in fact, that we began incorporating it into our daily gel-pen-handwritten notes to each other. And when we graduated and I went away to Kentucky and Lauren joined the Air National Guard it was our grand sign off each time we’d correspond. I remember tearfully handwriting it in letters to her at basic training, and in emails when she was deployed in Afghanistan. It was our check-in. Like when your mom asks if you’ve been taking your vitamins or your boyfriend reminds you to lock your doors. “Have you been hoping unswervingly and loving extravagantly?”
Eventually, we got tired of writing and typing out “unswervingly” and “extravagantly” and our mantra became “HULE.” It was personal to us. A reminder of our foundation. Of our faith and our friendship. It became so synonymous with “us” that it became a part of “me.” I identified with this weird, unidentifiable acronym as much as I identified with being an Ohioan or an Arsenal fan. It was just who I was and what I did. I huled. We huled. Certainly others huled, but only Lauren and I put a label and an intention behind it. It was our secret. Our code. Our way of life and our message.
To this day, when I write out my personal, career, and relationship goals, HULE is always incorporated. Maybe muscle memory from high school. Maybe total subconscious. But it always gets written down. How unswervingly hopeful can I be when it comes to everything I do? What will change about my attitude toward life when I do this? How extravagantly can I love the person next to me? The person that the world tells me least deserves it. The person least like me. These, when I find the time to look introspectively, are my KPIs. This is how I evaluate myself. These are the true markers of success.
And you know what? They’ve never failed me. I have never regretting putting this into practice.
Just as Lauren has never failed me, nor have I regretted our extraordinary friendship. Somehow, in my infinite naivety and self-righteous youth, I managed to find some wisdom that I’m confident will carry me through every stage of life.
So… yesterday. I’m in Austin, Texas attending SXSW. I’m lightyears away from where I thought I’d be in high school. Hell. I didn’t think I’d be here at 24.
Anyways, I am sweating on the streets and blinded by the sun. It’s March, and back home in 15 degree Ohio, I’m begging my beloved to try to keep from turning on the heat in our apartment. I began to contemplate this contrast and note that it’s a bit extreme. That my life seems to slant on the side of extreme. Of extra. Of extravagant. Of course, not in the sense of lavishness or wealth. But in richness of experience and relationship. Of quick changes and of a fast pace. And as I’m considering all of this, the annoying sweat on my forehead becomes a bead of gratitude. The scorching sun on my exposed back is burning me with insatiable drive and motivation.
Unsurprisingly, I think HULE.
Michelle, my friend/coworker/travel buddy, and I see a tattoo shop. I don’t ask her if she’d like to go, but instruct her that this is something that is happening. “I’m getting one.,” I say to her. She pleasantly agrees, soaking in the spontaneity. But as the woman behind the counter asks if I know what I want, Michelle realizes that this was not spontaneous at all. It was always in my mind and my spirit.
About three people ask me if “I’m the HULE girl” and “what does HULE mean?” while we’re waiting. I’m happy to oblige. They accept my answer as if I’ve just told them I want to get “live laugh love” around my belly button. I throw in a short tidbit about Lauren’s stint in Afghanistan to deflect their judgement. It seems to work.
The artist tells me that he’s from San Antonio and is only helping the shop out to deal with the current influx. “South by,” he says with kind of an eye roll. I appreciate the idea that I will never see this man again, and vise versa, yet he will be permanently connected to me. I ask for HULE to be placed on my left wrist, adjacent to a cross tattoo I already have. The placement is sort of strange. I know that I will have no choice but to face this tattoo everyday, unlike my others that I often forget about and can easily conceal. “Confidence,” on my rib, which I often choose to ignore, and the thin cross on my wrist often hidden by a watch or bracelet.
He tattoos the “E” first. I laugh at the irony. Then he works his way to the “H.” The “L” is next and when he gets to the “U,” he is sure to tell me that “this is the tricky one.” I nod at him and tell him not to worry. Internally, I am thinking that he has no idea how right he is. Being unswerving on anything is nearly impossible. But particularly our hopes. My hope to make a meaningful impact on the souls in my life. My hope to work for myself, one day. My hope to be with my beloved for the rest of my life. It’s silly and naive. The world and everything in it tells me otherwise. As educated people, as mature and intellectual citizens, we are supposed to entertain doubts. To maintain realistic thoughts and expectations. However, I now have a very obvious reminder on my body to be disciplined in my hopefulness and wildly generous in my love.