Tag Archives: friendships

Things have changed since you cracked my spine and settled into your beanbag chair.

This life is a book I can’t put down.

But half my readers would rather skip the part that says, “God is good,” and head straight for “The Downfall.”

In fact, they’d probably shake my by my shoulders and say there simply isn’t enough controversy in these pages to warrant any sales. To warrant a life worth living.

And I would spin them around, nudge them toward Self Help & Addiction and Jodi Picoult’s moral dilemmas and tell them they’ve come to the wrong spot in the bookstore, baby.

Because we itch our stocking and the backs of our necks when someone starts throwing words like Newness and Next Chapter around like they are good. Like progress is a problem.

The only problem is I can’t please you all.

My life isn’t a bookstore. It’s just one book in the Coming of Age section.

I am just a girl learning how to sign up for a health care plan and stock her own pantry and live in an apartment alone for the first time since you cracked my spine and settled into your beanbag chair.

And must I remind you that was twenty-two years ago? That the books we loved then are not the same as now?

It’s true that we get giddy about new chapters, but we all have different expectations for them.

She wants me to stay rooted in the Somewhere Safe she knows well, would rather I stretch to a 600-pager. I am ready to wrap this chapter up and Epilogue that sucker.

Start a new book that begins, “And then she learned how to live alone…”

Because I will. And it will not be your story. Or your mother’s. Or your best friend’s. Or your hairdressers. It will be mine. Just for me.

Maybe that sounds selfish. Us writers, we scribble stories stuck inside our heads. We are gray-seers and world-dwellers. We are so ready to scramble into the back of someone else’s car and land out butts in Charleston, South Carolina because something told us we should Begin Again.

I’m not asking you to pick me up in the middle of Chapter 22 and fall in love.

I’m just asking that someone, somewhere, have faith that I know what I’m writing today and tomorrow but in ten years? No, no no. That is for ten years from now to worry about.

We envision endings and Life Happens and a couple people read on to find out if that picture stays the same, if we learn how to not burn our grilled cheese or overflow the toilet. If we stock clogging the vacuum and if we always look like a mess when it rains all day.

But we cannot please the world. And if we could, what kind of life would that be? 

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You are doing something with this wild life of yours.

Of all the sacrifices I have made, this one surely sucks the most.

She doesn’t deserve it.

I’m whispering those words on a rainy night, windshield wipers not whooshing fast enough, clouding my view of the present and forcing me to stick with what I know—the past.

I know, so deep inside me that my stomach lurches, that she doesn’t deserve this.

Not this sacrifice of mine. The one that gives her no say in the matter.

Let’s put it this way: I am the girl who does what she does because it’s right, because it’s how she feels. I am the girl who laughs loud and smiles often and calls because she’s thinking the person on the other end of the line has a way of stringing words together to make everything feel OK again.

I am the girl who should not miss her best friend’s birthday. Should not make an excuse that sounds so sucky as it spills from her mouth that she wishes she could coil it up like a yoyo string and bring it back into her head to rethink it.

That’s not what you do for the person who never forgets.

Every Thursday before her night shift at the finest steakhouse on the East Coast, she is the person who begs you to please come home this weekend. Please please please just skip out on this little thing called college and make your way down two vacant roads to find me waiting with a monopoly board and a Wawa hoagie.

She is just the girl who makes the staying hard and the leaving harder. Who makes growing up feel unfair. Who makes sleep seem unimportant.

She is just the girl who puts forty hours a week into working so she can Be Somebody but still has time to remind you that You Deserve That, too.

She wants it all for you. She wants you to go go go faster than you think you can and hold on tight and please don’t cry and you are doing something with this wild life.

You are doing something with this wild, wild life of yours.

She will never let you apologize. Not for five hundred miles roundtrip or vacations to sunny places that don’t list her name on the itinerary. Not for living in another state when you should be allotting time for her and her DVD player.

I don’t want her sitting on her living room couch, hitting Play All when the Boy Meets World episode menu comes up on screen.

I want this girl to meet her World and leave us behind in plaid pajama pants.

Because I can sit inside my mind for hundreds of hours, but I cannot envision a life that doesn’t end with her dancing in circles, head thrown back in laughter, mind set on being the best friend, the biggest star, the first phone call from far away.

This girl will meet her world, and it will be a sacrifice I’ll never let her apologize for.

Twenty one is just another barrier standing between her and the rest of the world.

Someone was looking out for me when they threw the hypochondriac four rooms down from the girl for whom “personal pharmacy” was a serious understatement.

the hangover hospital

via weheartit.com

It’s no wonder I want to take the Red Cross emblem from outside the Emergicare Center next to Hardee’s and tack it above her bedroom door.

I wish I could say there’s some other image I picture when I think of her, something sweet and welcoming like a smile or a handshake, but no.

No, it’s the hospital, the rescues, the always-here-when-you-need-me-and-even-if-you-think-you-don’t moments that stick with me for four years and threaten to pull me back to reality if ever my feet lift too far off the ground.

She found us on Facebook. And no, I did not change my name to Girl With An Endless Sea of Problems. She walked right into that door, my friend.

Walked right into our open oak bedroom door, too. Inserted herself into our lives, demanding those four years of us in just four seconds.

I have never, well not since kindergarten, met someone with such boldness when it comes to making friends. Few of us are daring enough to plunge into icy water and break back through the surface, refreshed and almost comfortable already, even though we know it’s going to be OK.

Brooke did that. And I needed that sort of reckless confidence lying around. I needed someone to waltz into my life, promising to stick by me when the going got rough.

And oh, how rough it got. How many times she had to talk me down from cliffs when I was sure I was dying. Sure death was lurking just around the next corner, ready to grab me with its greedy little hands and pull a bed sheet over my head.

The only time I’ve ended up in the ER since my freshman year, she was fortunate enough to escape the phone call that came when I woke up disoriented and wondering how, when someone takes you in an ambulance, you get back home.

Do you walk? Do you crawl? Do you sit down on the cold concrete outside the waiting room drop-out pull-through overhang of that empty, brand-spanking-new parking lot and pray someone channels your inner being to find you?

No. You call your roommate and when she asks where you are, when she asks where the hospital is, you tell her the truth: All you remember is seeing a Sheetz somewhere out the back window of a moving vehicle. And then nothing. Nothing except that absolute terror when you come to and realize someone is wheeling you in on a gurney. Like you really are on the brink of dying.

I am so glad I never put her through that, so thankful because I know she will travel – has traveled – leaps and bounds to help me when I’ve fallen.

I know all about those people, the ones for whom a phone call or a text message is not enough. Oh no, she has to trudge across campus in the middle of a hot afternoon when she has no time, really, to stop what she’s doing. She has to find the girl in the middle of a breakdown, any breakdown, and calm her down.

She is the youngest, if we’re going by birth dates. Turned the big 21 yesterday.

But something tells me that 21 is just another number, just another barrier standing between her and the rest of the world. And she’s conquered it already, moved on to something more urgent.

The unsung hero doesn’t have to conquer the whole world herself.

 Some stories are not easy.

I have to relearn that every day, every week, and there’s rarely a moment when I can sit back and say this life treated anyone fair. It just doesn’t happen often anymore.

Instead, I listen to a friend tell me she’s waiting for test results, that she’s pulling herself up by a thread each morning just to rise from her sheets and make it to class. Because for everyone else, this world’s treating them just fine, but her family’s seen more tragedy in the entire month of September than anyone should see in a lifetime.

girls hugging weheartit

via weheartit.com

I’m standing on the other side of my car door, thankful my professor’s let us out early for once. Reveling in the joy of being able to go home, make dinner, be content, and she’s standing in front of me, smiling when she doesn’t want to smile. Keeping her head up when it’s easier to shake it at the leaf-colored gravel lot beneath our frozen toes.

When she tells me all of this, adds up her misfortunes like losing lottery tickets she won’t be able to cash in on, I know no words to make it better.

Sometimes, I decide, there are no words. Even for the writer.

I’m not sure if I’m thinking of ways to solve her problems, but mostly I envy the grace and courage with which she fights back at this cruel, cold world.

Then I come around the other side of my door and wrap my arms tight around her. We stand there, two troubled girls on a chilly Thursday evening, for what could easily be forever. At least it feels that way.

The box of penne pasta and grape tomatoes at my townhouse don’t matter. Neither does the notebook she’s gone to her car for. The reason I chose to park in that parking lot. Or why my professor let us out of class half an hour early.

Some conversations are meant to happen.

And all that matters is that she know, without a doubt, that she does not have to conquer the whole world herself. And more than that, she does not have to justify her problems to me or anyone else, stacking them up like currency.

I will not count them and weigh them on a balance. Or check them off like causes of some fatal disease.

No, it is pretty simple.

This life, this story, it is real. And sometimes, real stories are not easily told or bound in a book. Sometimes they don’t fit neatly into a collection of short stories, but instead go undetected and underappreciated.

And I am thinking now those stories need not be buried under piles of half-baked manuscripts and grocery store receipts with plot sequences scribbled on the backs of them.

I am thinking those stories need to see the light of day more often. Because it’s those unsung heroes who inspire us non-huggers of the world to act. To be better, stronger storytellers.

You define your rock bottom. (And other words of encouragement for my 16-year-old self.)

My sister’s best friend told me about this exercise. Write a letter to yourself 5 years ago, she said. At first, I thought she meant in 5 years but how could I possibly know what to tell my 26-year-old self? I can’t. If I knew that, my life would be boring.

Dear 16-year-old Kaleigh,

A lot will happen in five years. Plenty more than you will ever anticipate.

You’ll want to forget to be strong and beautiful. Don’t. You’ll want to take the phrase “spiraling out of control” and tuck it in your back pocket for easy access. Throw that phrase away. It’s too severe for your life. You’re better than it.

Don’t let the calluses you worked hard to build be erased under fresh patches of red-pink skin ready for the world to burn them.

You’ll fret over almost dates. Let me tell you: they weren’t real.

Just because a boy likes you doesn’t mean you have to like him. Figure out if it’s him or the idea of him and be honest. He deserves that.

Don’t dread first kisses. And don’t share them either. Let them happen in the moment. But if you must be direct, you better have a freaking amazing reason. He better be shipping off somewhere.

Learn something from every friendship. Any of your relationships, really. Take a small lesson from the way your best friend falls in love with a boy, giving over her whole heart, and don’t think she’s weak.

If you hate the whole traditional dating scene so much, find an alternative.

Don’t hate meeting people because some of them never become good friends. That’s how all relationships are: hard work. Figure out what you expect from a friend and find it. Don’t settle. Ever.

Don’t let anyone push you around or claim you’re less than capable. Listen with one ear and prove them wrong so you can hear their jaws drop with the other ear.

Stop being a martyr. You are a teenager, for God’s sake. If someone upsets you, tell them. You’re too afraid of being honest. It’s not a disease. You can’t always be the nice one anyway.

If you’re going to be in love, be in love. Don’t half-ass it.

That said, if you care about someone, they better know. You’re an excellent time waster.

Going to college 300 miles away is not an excuse for losing touch with people in your life. Even if there’s not yet an app for that.

Hold onto the friends who leave you voicemails that make you laugh on the way to the parking garage after a long day on campus.

Suck every second out of those long days. Going to bed at 9pm is for the sick and the elderly. You are neither.

Your life is not a Sorry! game board. Change doesn’t mean going back to start. It means potential. Try new things. You will have 14 beginnings in 5 years. Embrace them and throw yourself into each one. You didn’t do enough of that.

You define your rock bottom. Remember that always. Don’t fall into the Grand Canyon. Remember the parachute is strapped to your back. I know you tend to lose things. Car keys, shoes, yourself.

And above all, never lose sight of who you are. Who you always were. Today. Tomorrow. In ten years.

Love that girl forever.

Love,
21-year-old Kaleigh