Making friends in the real world

The woman turned to Sarah and I and asked, “Are you guys old friends?”

Sarah and I, seated at our table mid-conversation at the cafe,  didn’t know exactly how to respond. Neither of us answered immediately.

“Yeah, we’re good friends,” I answered.

“She used to work with my sister, who’s in the bathroom now,” Sarah added.

“And the two of them are twins!” I exclaimed.

From this stranger’s perspective, the three of us acted as though we were “old friends.” Really, we had “only” been friends for about a year-and-a-half.

IMG_1429The woman laughed and said something about how it was just nice to hear the three of us converse and laugh and that we just seemed like we had all been friends since childhood. (I mean, yes, Emily and Sarah have technically known each other since being in the womb, but not me).

I don’t know how Emily and Sarah felt but I was kind of proud that a stranger would think we had been friends for so long. The two of them are my first post-college friends I have made. They are my first real world friends.

I am now seven years out of college and back when I was a recent graduate, I would have never guessed I would find friendship in the workplace.

But, it happens.

It’s not too difficult when Emily and Sarah are two of the most giving, caring and fun people I know. They have helped me in countless ways. They go above and beyond for me and for their friends. They are up for trying new things (like doing races with me even though they claim they dislike and cannot run!) They are super smart and hardworking. (And, I’m not just saying all this because they had birthdays yesterday!)

Back when Emily and I worked together, she walked over to my desk one day and asked me if I wanted to go to Disneyland together.

“Yes, I do!” I said.

“Great!” she said and walked back to her desk.

I wasn’t sure if she was being serious or not. After all, we had only been working together for three months at the time. Six months later, the two of us and Sarah were at the happiest place on earth together. I guess you could say my friendship with these two progressed uh, kind of fast?

But, they have shown me that real world friendships do and can exist. I’ve said in the past that I have too many friends. However, for people like Emily and Sarah, there’s always room for more friends.

Birthdays can be hard

Birthdays were great as a kid. You got to have a party where you were the center of attention. There were cake and presents and all of your friends were there to celebrate with you.

And, as you got older there were milestones.

My golden birthday at age 8 because I was born on the 8th. Ten because you’re finally in the double digits. Thirteen because you’re finally a teenager. Sixteen because you can get your license (to drive). Eighteen because you can vote and are considered a legal adult in the eyes of America. Twenty-one because you get to have 21-runs.

But then as you get even older, birthdays become less exciting. There are no more milestones, just another year to add to your age to remind you that you are old(er). I mean, there is that whole being able to rent a car at age 25 for a “decent price” but that’s not as cool as voting or drinking alcohol, right?

This doesn’t bother some people, the whole getting older thing. Those people continue to throw parties and enjoy “their day.”

I haven’t really looked forward to getting older since 18. Every year after that has been one more year. One more year “away” from Natalie.

Sometimes when I think about it, during the weeks and days that lead up to my birthday, it makes me very sad and a little mad.

I’m getting older but she remains 18 … at least in my mind, anyway.

The more time that passes, the more disconnected I feel from her.

And I know it shouldn’t. Because, nothing has changed. Or, everything has …

All I can do in this moment is listen to U2 and think of her.

And, rather than dwell in my sadness, just walk on.

Because even though birthdays can be hard.

They can also be a celebration. So, I will do my best to be happy and celebrate as I know best — by racing a 5K on Sunday.

A lot to be thankful for

First of all, Happy Thanksgiving! And, thank you for stopping by.

I have a lot to be thankful for. Good health. Employment. Family and Friends.

But, what I want to focus on right now are my friends.

Some of my closest friends are those I went to high school and even elementary school with. When this comes up in conversation (not that it does very often,) people find it “impressive” or “strange” that I have been friends with the same people for so long. 

But, really, is it?

My high school friends and I  — 99 percent of my high school friends were my cross-country teammates — still continue to meet at Discovery Park at 9 a.m. sharp on Thanksgiving Day to run a loop — or two — before starting the day of cooking and eating and being with our families.

Thanksgiving 2005

Thanksgiving 2005

When we were in high school, I’m sure we talked of trivial matters … who was going with whom to homecoming, what’s going to be on our next U.S. history exam and running. When we were in college, we talked about our new “homes” (for the out-of-state college kids), what we were planning on majoring in, our new part-time jobs and running. And now that most of us have been graduated from college for a few years now, the conversations revolve around our jobs, finding new jobs, grad schools, applying to grad schools, engagements and running.

Thanksgiving 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

Running is what keeps us together.

I’m not saying it’s the only thing that keeps us together. Some of us no longer race (or run at all for that matter). And, there’s nothing wrong with that. We come to Discovery Park to see each other and we just so happen to be running (or walking) while we do it.

Thanksgiving 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

I’m thankful for traditions like these. I’m very thankful for my friends.

Let’s be friends!

One time, not too long ago, I “complained” to my dad that I have “too many friends.”

“I’m just tired all the time. I’m always busy hanging out with people,” I told him.

In all reality, I of course was not complaining that I have “a lot” of friends. But, sometimes it feels, well, overwhelming? Time consuming? I am not sure what direction I am trying to take this post because I am starting to sound like an ungrateful person. Let me continue though.

“You’re lucky that you’re still friends with all your friends,” my dad said to me. “I can’t say that for myself.”

It’s true. From his childhood, my dad is really only friends with one guy still.

Friendships truly are precious.

Phyllis one time made a comment that I have always kept in touch with all of my friends, and that’s why I stay friends with people. I am the one always reaching out, making the effort. (Of course, friendships take two people, just like any relationship, so I am not only giving credit to myself).

I always make that “extra” effort to “keep” my friends, she said. Well, it’s because these are people who are important to me. These are the people who make me laugh. These are the people who get me through the low points. These are the people who will do (almost) anything for or with me. These are the people I can share secrets with. I’m not going to give these people up so easily.

I’m 25 years old and I have a good number of friends from grade school (we’re talking elementary and middle school, here!) I’m lucky that many of my high school friends have moved back to Seattle (or have remained living here). And, although I do have a few friends (cough, Phyllis, cough, Whitney, cough, Hannah,) who now live across the country, at least I have fun places to make a vacation out of to visit them! Besides, I guess I can forgive them since they will be the doctors, architects and attorneys of tomorrow! (Did I mention that my friends are super smart?)

Having been out of school for three years now, I have learned one important life concept: Making friends is difficult.

Think about it — all your life, all the friends you have ever made probably were classmates, or kids from your sports teams or any other extracurricular activity whether it be theater or band.

It’s hard to make friends in the outside world. I really don’t think I’ve made any real friends outside of the above mentioned. (Tell me, when was the last time you started a new job or went to the grocery store and asked someone to be your friend? Probably very rarely). It’s not like kindergarten where you just walk up to a nice-looking kid and say, “Be my friend!”

Your friends will always be there for you, if you’re always there for them.

The song from preschool is true: Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold. A circle is round, it has no end, that’s how long I want to be your friend. 

So, after saying all of that, what do you say? Let’s be friends!

January 29, 1987

This girl to the left was born on     January 29, 1987.

Today is her birthday.

She is my friend of 12-ish years — I stopped counting after we graduated high school.

Although, I guess we should not call her a girl. After all, she is now 25 years.

And, since she plans to live to be at least 100 years old — reference is on Facebook — she is a quarter-century.

She has traveled to amazing places and still seeks to see more of the world.

Ella habla Español fluently. She runs marathons — with me. (And, she was a sprinter in college!)

She’s smart, funny — um, hello, look at that picture! — and sincerely cares about others.

She has love to share with everyone.

Feliz cumpleaños, Joanna! Happy 25! Here’s to 75+ great more.                      It’s only just begun.

Feliz Cumpleaños, Natalia

I’m a believer of “everything happens for a reason.” Often, you have to dig real deep to find that reason. And sometimes, you’re still wondering what that reason is even after years continue to pass.

Kids shouldn’t have to mourn the death of their friends. At 18, we were still kids.

It wasn’t until around seventh grade when Natalie and I really became good friends. We were in the same school orchestra and thus in the same friend group. (I like to think of my circle of friends as a “friend group” rather than a clique because a clique is in reference to a crowd of kids who are concerned about their popularity. We were just string-playing pre-teens who liked to sing N*SYNC together at slumber parties). Natalie was quiet but when you got to know her, there was this goofy spark to her. She liked to play dress-up, enjoyed drawing pictures of monkeys that she named “Tangerine” and burned the best mix CDs out of anyone I knew.

And she was a great friend. I don’t know how anyone could dislike her, it wasn’t possible.

Although we went to different high schools (and she started college two years ahead of the rest of us!) we still remained close friends.

When she got sick, we still hung out, just not as frequently and at the beginning it was in her hospital room or bedroom just talking. She took time off from school but still did independent study. I met up with her at coffee shops or at her house when I had breaks between classes or on the weekends. But she was supposed to get better. We all thought she was getting better. And that’s just Natalie, she didn’t want her friends to worry about her, so she didn’t tell us everything.

After her near year-long battle with leukemia, she died on May 2, 2006.

We know she would have graduated with her design degree in the top of her class and would be working at some fantastic design firm — in Seattle? Italy? She loved to travel. We know she would have done love right. She would have waited for Mister Right to come along and sweep her off her feet, no doubt about it. We know her house would be perfectly organized as though it was out of a Martha Stewart catalog. She could make anything look aesthetically pleasing.

I know she’s probably giving me that Natalie-glare (it’s not even really a glare, she never glares, it’s more of a look) that I am crying while writing this.

A year or two after her passing, one day I was at my parents’ house watching old home videos. There was one from when I was no older than five years old and was in a creative dance class. My parents had recorded the end-of-season program where all the kids did their dance/ran around the gym. The teacher called aloud each individual child’s name at the beginning. My name is called and little me scampers across the gym. A few others are called. And then a name is called that makes my heart skip a beat. “Natalie Malone.”

Natalie and I were in the same dance class together and never knew it. We never became friends then — heck, I have no recollection of this dance class at all — but someone out there gave us another chance to meet and be friends again in middle school. Everything happens for a reason?

Happy Birthday, Natalie.


Speed dial number 5

A few summers ago, I got into writing character sketches on people I know. Mostly friends and such. This one has been rewritten and tweaked several times. I feel like there is always something I can say better. This person has received this sketch before, but here is the updated one. Version 3.0. Thanks for all that you do.

I’d describe her as driven and focused, but in a hyper and energetic way. She was one of my best friends in college and I met her because we were supposed to be housemates. We had a mutual friend. She ended up bailing on the group so we never lived together, but we somehow ended up being really good friends anyway. Our friendship works out very well because she is an active listener who would put up with all my stories stressing about finals or boys when were in college — now she gets to deal with my complaints about meeting work deadlines. She’s one of the most hilarious people I know because she can make me laugh in person and through e-mails or Facebook posts. I think that says a lot about one’s character when they can make you laugh through written words. And though she doesn’t consider herself a writer — she majored in neurobiology and wants to go to medical school, pshhhh! — she is a pretty darn good writer. She’s always been dedicated to her studies, running, and most importantly — in being my friend and confidant.

If she wasn’t, she wouldn’t be #5 in my speed dial.

And that’s the first available number after voice mail, home and parents’ cell phone numbers, so she must be important.