This week I’m celebrating ten years in Chicago, ten years with the greatest dance partners I could ask for, and the ten-year journey to who I am today, in this moment.
(High school graduation – should we talk about my hair?)
Ten Augusts ago my family and I packed up a couple of Ford Escapes and made the five hour drive to Lincoln Park. I had made it through a less-than-stellar high school experience and was finally being rewarded with my teenage dream: getting the hell out of Michigan.
Not gonna lie to you, My People, but I had a tough time. You can move the socially awkward, self-esteem-challenged theater geek out of the suburbs, but everything on the inside is going to follow. I didn’t have the guts to go to a party alone, to ask someone from class if they wanted to get lunch, to get drunk and make out with strangers who believed my fake ID.
Kathryn crossed through our shared bathroom to find me playing Bejewelled on my Dell desktop computer. “Get up,” she told me, “you’re coming out.” And that was it. I’d found my best friend – this Grecian/Italian goddess whose beauty literally stopped strangers on the street and whose kindness nudged me into adulthood.
Nervously resting all my weight on the bathroom door frame months later, I asked Ashley if she might want to be my roommate next year. “I thought that was the plan already.” Boom! I had a sister. A multi-racial science nerd with a contagious spirit and a magnetic field attracting every cute guy in a five-mile radius.
These girls became my family. They instinctively knew to show up at my door after a bad day. They cheered happy occasions. They held me up when I fell – sometimes in tears, more often in laughter and dancing. Always with a drink.
Ten years, six or so college degrees, grown up jobs, breakups, live-in boyfriends, and a move to Seattle later, I don’t get to see my girls as often as I’d like. It’s tough to maintain friendships when life gets involved! Family isn’t exactly something that needs to be maintained, though, is it? We sometimes know each other better than we know ourselves. I know when this gets published, Kathryn will yell at me for the photos I chose and for not bothering to remove red eyes. Ashley will giggle and be thrilled to see that I’m writing again – she’s always been my biggest fan.
If they call, I answer. If I say I’m scared, they tell me to buck the eff up. Because that’s what ten years of friendship allows.
I love you, Mermaids. Thank you.