When I was in high school, I met the coolest chick on the planet. I thought she was gorgeous and amazing and smart, and I was just blown away by how advanced she was. She was everything I wanted to push myself to be, and she’s even the reason I’m interested in politics. It was the first time I ever became aware of her. I was loitering in the halls outside our shared class and overheard her talking to another classmate, another woman I fiercely admire for her politics and activism, chatting about Bush’s pushing the oil pipeline agenda in Alaska. She was holding her pocket folio , you know what I’m talkin’ bout, and it sporting a bold, clear bumper sticker. DONT BLAME ME I DIDNT VOTE. I was fifteen and so engulfed in my own tiny microcosm and I didn’t yet think I was allowed to know about The Adult World, the World of Grownups. I tried to figure out what her bumper sticker meant–was it because she was too young to vote but would have made the right decision? Or was it something deeper, a satire perhaps on apathy? My brain couldn’t quite form that last question, but it tried grasping at it. It wasn’t too long after that my brain traced a fragile line between the dots of fierce patriotic outpourings from 9-11 and the subtle ease of Bush’s success with Alaskan oil. Words like American Interests Aboard called out in a faint echo behind my ears and stayed there, developing and expanding and adding until I graduated with a BA in Political Science, a minor in Economics. A lot about my beliefs have changed and evolved, but my general fascination in political science, and the specific topics that keep my interest, remain tied to that first encounter with my best friend. Her and I have moved in a similar direction with our beliefs, although with me closer to the center. Whenever we get together and catch up, it feels like spinning around clasping hands together in the yard, only with my feet acting as the anchor while she spins in the wider circle. I want to join her, I think, in her beliefs but I’m not sure how to get there without losing my balance.
In the summer after that school year, we cemented a very close friendship. It was still too early for driving cars, but we found out that she was in walking distance to the house I just moved into. The convenience had a huge impact on our friendship, especially since we had the incentive of meeting directly in the middle where there was a convenience store that sold pints of ice cream for not too much money. We spent long days together walking her dog out in the trails behind her house and hanging out in parks and have a lot of very innocent and silly shenanagins. I remember one day in particular, where we spent the whole day with her dad’s camera, taking photos outside. Our adventure in vanity, way before the time of Selfies, was over 1000 photos. Mostly portraits of our faces in different expressions, showcasing us practicing a whole range of emotions. We took photos from a ton of different angles as we posed playing outside with her dog, goofing around in their vegetable garden and walking around the neighborhood block. It was a ton of fun and very awkwardly insightful when we sorted through the photos later. I think I’ve never learned so much about how I look, to myself and to the world, and about what level of control I have over it. It was fascinating. And hilarious, because oh man only the intensity of being a misunderstood adolescent could lead to that much introspective navel-gazing. I wish I still had those pictures, because I know they’d be a trip.
A lot of people thought (probably still think, really) that we were dating, which we always thought really funny since I spent the entirety of our relationship very openly and publicly dating a different girl. Still, we set ourselves up for that confusion in a way. At the end of the year, when our (very beloved) english teacher invited students to read pieces of literature or poetry in front of the class, I was one in the ranks. I recited Shel Silverstein’s Where The Sidewalk Ends as an homage to our time together, and it’s still a poem that makes me sentimental. We’ve stayed incredibly close friends, even when the times between talking stretch longer than either of us likes. Each time we get together it feels like two puzzle pieces clicking back into place and I love that person that she brings out in me. I feel smart around her, and curious. She makes me realize how much I’m actually paying attention to the world around me, which is a really good feeling as well as a reminder. I never feel I’m paying enough attention to what surrounds me, and I think it makes me lazy and grossly passive.
Anyway as I’ve said, this friend and I have stayed close, despite the huge changes in who we are as individuals. And after I had been in college for almost a year, we had a date together where we spent the whole day together, exploring a new park, getting coffee with that english teacher, and finishing off the night with an epic Mario Kart battle. We had a camera with us and, for what I think was the the last time, we took a bunch of photos together. I mean, like, only a fucking eentsy fraction of the first batch, only like 40 or something, but still. A lot, for any normal outing standard (before lifestyle blogging, though, I guess,). I was looking through the only ones I saved from the outing and I thought they were just the coolest. For whatever reason, we traded the camera back and forth, recording each part of an adventure with matching photos, identical poses and backgrounds. When I saw the last one of me, the super intense happy face with the yellow shirt, my first thought was instantly “that’s the happiest moment I’ve ever captured”. It was like living in that moment again, feeling that giddy euphoria of a perfect day where you spend most of it trying to catch your breath from laughing so hard.
Anecdotally it’s almost a sad memory, in a way that’s more powerful than just nostalgia. I look past the tinted shading from my current perspective, the one reminding me the euphoria was more likely due to an unmedicated mania, and that I was grappling with a crippling trauma at the same time involving the person I was dating. Still, though, none of it mattered on that day, and it still doesn’t have to matter when I revisit the memory, which is freeing, letting me enjoy the best part.
The best part, my favorite part of this whole memory trip, was that each picture was only one half of a whole. I faintly remember doing it deliberately, trading off to make sure each of us had a photo like the other one. It turned into a joke, with us making sure we were copying the same expressions as well. I think we are like mirrors, though. At least that’s how it feels to me when I’m around her. Not that she’s the mirror, that is, but rather like when I’m with her, she’s holding up a mirror that I can look into and see what I used to be like. It’s a fascinating form of accountability, and it only works because we still let each other grow. Neither of us holds the other’s views or values against each other, but instead we’ve been free to grow our separate ways, and when we get together, we knit the new experiences and perspectives onto our memories of who we used to be. She lets me see not just who I used to be, but how I’ve grown since then, and what part of that growth is good and what parts might need to be pruned. Each time I see her is like the cosmic wellness check up, letting me see just exactly how much more Grown’d Up I am compared to last visit.
Oh and also? Having pink hair was the fucking bomb.