My post today is dedicated to someone who I have known longer than I haven’t known her. Today is her birthday and she’s one of my most favorite people on this earth.
Funny enough, we met at the ripe age of 10 or 11, and for me – it was instant dislike. After all, I had just moved to a new town and finally secured a friend to play with during Conservation Camp (I was a total social nightmare in elementary/middle school). And then, who is this tiny person trying to steal my one friend away from me? And why did I even think that Conservation Camp sounded fun? Although, that is a totally different story.
It just so happens that this friend stealer lived in my neighborhood, just down the street. Great. Now I was basically forced to be friends with her because all the girls in my neighborhood hung out together. We proceeded through middle school and managed to hang out without really being good friends. More like acquaintances. Then one fateful summer afternoon during a bike ride with our neighborhood group we decided to go to the dead end at the back of the neighborhood that for some reason seemed scary and creepy. My not-friend was ahead of me a-ways, and I saw her take a nasty fall from her bike. Adrenaline surged through me and I literally jumped off my moving bike and took off into a run to be at her side. In that moment as I came to her “rescue” and helped her home with skint knees and random bruises, we realized we kind of liked each other after all.
From that day forward, we were friends. And pretty soon after that, best friends. She became a regular at our kitchen table, coming over and drinking half a can of Sprite and leaving it out for my mom to find and complain about. She started coming to church with me, and pretty soon, almost everything we did involved each other. Many times when we’d go to parties or an event without each other – people would think something was wrong. We always joked that we were like a pair of shoes, it just felt and looked weird if you only had one.
She was the one person in my life that truly knew everything there was to know about me. We talked on the phone despite having just left each others houses, or sometimes would walk with our cordless phones to greet each other in the street. We shared a mutual love for alternative music, mainly BUSH, Pearl Jam, LIVE, MB20, & Our Lady Peace and we would literally sit for hours in my bedroom listening to music trying to interpret the lyrics. I still have church bulletins filled with notes back and forth – mostly lyrics that had special meaning for us as it related to what was happening around us.
When it came time to pick a college – we both thought we’d go to the same place and room together. But somehow all those plans didn’t come through and we both ended up going somewhere totally different and hundreds of miles away from each other. We struggled that first year of college – it was sort of like losing an arm. We just didn’t know how to do things without each other. But as each semester passed, we learned how to still be friends from a distance even though it wasn’t the same.
As the semesters passed, our friendship remained. We would get together whenever one of us was back home, and she visited me a few times at my university. There would be long stretches
of silence sometimes…and I could feel us both panicking that maybe we wouldn’t make it through this time apart. But we just kept trying and making the effort and eventually we graduated. But life took us to different places – I moved abroad and she moved to DC to pursue her dreams. Despite the distance, we still fought to remain connected through email updates. I remember sitting in my cubicle in New Zealand, emailing her and us making plans to move back to Kentucky together. After all that time, perhaps we’d end up in the same place again.
Life never has a way of happening the way you intend it to…and she stayed in DC and I came back to Kentucky briefly. And about the time I left Kentucky to move for another full time job in NC – she moved back to KY, our paths missing each other by only a thin line.
We are working on about 13 years of maintaining a long distance friendship - and while it’s certainly not always been easy, we’ve adapted. But one thing that has never changed is how important her friendship is to me. I remember introducing my now husband to her, in person, and was so happy to hear that she was happy for me and that he was exactly who she thought I should be with – that sort of opinion is valuable from someone who has known you for most of your life. She was part of my wedding party, and she is absolutely still a part of my extended family. My parents still ask me for updates on her and how she’s doing.
When she had a really bad accident awhile back, I went to DC to help her and I would do it again in a heartbeat because she would do the same for me.
Today as she celebrates her birthday, I just wanted to say that sometimes the people in your life that seem the most unlikely to be a friend are sometimes the very best candidates. I’m so glad that we found each other and while we have not been able to celebrate a birthday in person for quite some time – it’s important to me that everyone else knows how awesome she is and how much happiness she deserves in her life. Happy birthday, StephieJ!