In life, a lesson can be learned every second. Don't do that again. Move more quickly next time. Be careful. Ask more questions the next time around. We learn them in high chairs, in classrooms, in our cars, at the mall, surfing the web. These lessons come together and make us who we are.
I look at myself in a photograph interacting with others, I watch a video, I re-read words I typed in a conversation and I wonder: Why do I say that? How did I learn that expression? Why did I act this way? How did I get here? And I can't help but open my eyes to the people around me in those photos and conversations, and when I do I realize just how much my friends have taught (and continue to teach) me about life.
We were college roommates freshman year, does it get anymore poetic? From day one—when Hither arrived at least 5 hours late for move in—I admired her. Her intelligence, her humor, her view of the world. I can hear her now—faint traces of her native Zimbabwean tongue in her speech–and I can see her hand on her hip and her face contorted in disgust as she chides someone for a dumb comment, an ignorant observation. Every ounce of her saying "You can't be serious. Don't be so stupid." While chronically late, misplacing things and restless, Hither is honest, practical. Complaining of a headache or another ailment, I would reach for a bottle of Advil. "Don't be stupid," Hither would say, not harshly, but lovingly—like a mother. "Drink a glass of cold water."
And to this day, I remember her words and I do just that.
2.) Act your age: Lindsey Johnson
Early on in our college career, Lindsey fell for me and my Thriller-Nights moves, and it has been love like heart-shaped chicken nuggets ever since. Lost already? I'm not surprised. Lindsey and I are such an odd pair—laughing when it's inappropriate, going out of our way to steal the attention in a room, squealing with delight, talking too much, not having the words to adequately convey just how freaking exciting, surprising, scary something is. We don't make sense. We are dramatic, silly, mostly annoying, a lot like children. But my time with her is unlike any other. I often tell her she lives in a fantasy world, and she does. I've been there. I go there with her whenever I have the strength to leave the worries, the responsibilities, the stress of life behind and just play for a while. Over the years, she has taught me to not take myself so seriously, to slow down, to laugh when things are funny and, every once in a while, when it's completely necessary, to roll around like a baby for a while.
3.) Be prepared: Emily Watkins
One of my most favorite memories of Emily is from the night of my birthday party when I was in 6th grade. After a tumultuous evening that stemmed from, well, us being 6th graders, Emily and I had some sort of falling out, and I remember laying (in my signature dramatic fashion) on our front porch watching the small, lumpy figure of Emily with her sleeping bag bunched all around her walking the less-than-a-mile walk back to her house. My birthday falls in May, so I know it wasn't a chilly night but Emily is nothing if not prepared. If she was going to walk home, she was going to have supplies in tow. That's just how she is, and oh do I love her for it. And it's not just lip balm or the occasional bobby pin when you need it, Emily is often the needed item. She is my de-stressing agent, just being around her makes me calm. She reminds me to take deep breaths, to gather my thoughts. She looks at situations from a different angle than most, always ready with a new plan of attack. She is quick-thinking and thrifty, she is a great listener and list-maker and accomplisher, and shoot—she just makes me smile.
4.) Accept the good: Rachel Smith
I can't lie, there have been times throughout our 10-plus years of friendship that I've thought Rach was too nice. Ever forgiving, ever offering another chance, ever forgetting as quick as she could, ever putting on a smile to smooth things over. As I've grown I've learned just how right she's always been in this regard, her tendency to see the best in people. To believe in them when no one else will. That's not to say she hasn't been hurt. She has endured her fair-share of heartache, but in true tough-girl fashion, she picks herself up, dusts herself off and moves on. She keeps her heart open to the people, the possibilities of tomorrow–and damn you if you think that's cheesy—cause it's true. Few people live the life she lives, because few are willing to let go of the reins and enjoy the ride. She is both carefree and caring, both daring and careful when it counts. Her optimism chips away at my cynical, cold heart whenever I'm around her, and when I feel myself slipping, her example of accepting what's good and beautiful in the world helps keep me afloat.
5.) Strangers can be cool: Shauni Goodwin & Alison Hughes
I was always an obedient kid. Slowing to look both ways before crossing the street, saying my prayers, treating others as I'd like to be treated, but I've failed my parents in one major way as I've grown into an adult: I talk to strangers, regularly. I "met" Shauni and Alison on The Knot while planning our wedding—think charming "You've Got Mail" online encounters instead of, like, the creepy "Swim Fan" kind. Despite the tens of twenties of frequent posters, we caught each other's eyes (*creepy) and continued to communicate after our weddings, and off of the boards. These girls have become two of my closest friends in recent months. With similar schedules, and at semi-similar stages of life, we can relate and connect in a way I can with few other people. They are open, funny, smart, engaging, obnoxious, emotional, irrational—just like I am. We look to each other for advice, for sympathy, for a laugh, and we always get it. And though we have actually met in real life (once), they are still strangers. But they are strangers I hope I will always be close with, and just maybe, one day, become real-life friends.