You’ve got a friend in me
If you got troubles, I got them too
There isn’t anything, I wouldn’t do for you
We stick together, we can see it through
Cause you’ve got a friend in me…
And as the years go by, our friendship will never die
You’re gonna see it’s our destiny
You’ve got a friend in me.
-from the song You’ve Got a Friend in Me
It was time for us to meet each other face-to-face. It was that next step in vulnerability in our friendship and we all knew how important it was. There were a few complications, however, which, at first, seemed insurmountable. Naomi and I were girls and Austin and Drew were guys. Obviously. There is no non-awkward way to ask our parents to help us get together due to that little detail. We thought of everything and brainstormed through every possible scenario. Finally, Naomi and I just threatened to show up at their house selling cookies… or as part of a house-cleaning service… or other ideas that were equally as ridiculous.
Finally, by the time 2012 rolled into 2013, we had found a way. Other students on the forums were arranging a gathering for fellow students from all over the country. Specifically, in April in Virginia. These student-gatherings occur frequently, but my parents had never felt comfortable with the idea of me flying off to stay with strangers in order to meet people from the internet before. Their concerns were valid, but this particular Virginia gathering was being hosted by people that my dad and I had met before so it was actually up for consideration. The timing worked out well for Austin, Drew, and Naomi, and my dad decided to let me go if he could come with me and I happily agreed. This was actually going to happen.
The next few months in our NutRoom were spent talking about the gathering and what it might be like to actually meet in person. We were all excited and I know that I was nervous. Nervous to bring that last barrier down. Nervous that they wouldn’t like me. Nervous that I wouldn’t like them. Nervous that it wouldn’t last. Nervous because I didn’t know whether this coming week in April would be the beginning or the end.
After so much planning and waiting, April 1st, 2013 was finally here. I was wearing my favorite pair of jeans and my orange polka-dot cardigan sweater and I was a nervous wreck. However, I was also so incredibly excited. The flight was long and I was anxious to arrive. It was late by the time our plane landed and my dad and I still needed to find dinner and our rental car. I turned on some music for the drive to the house to help me calm down a bit. By the time we finally arrived, it was fully dark outside. I texted Naomi. She and another friend of mine ran outside to meet me and, since that moment, I knew that Naomi would be one of my best friends for the rest of my life. My dad and I went inside and then joined the Bible study that was underway and I’ll admit that it was hard to focus. I wanted to meet Austin and Drew.
After Bible study, there were a lot of people to talk to so I was occupied meeting and socializing. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Austin get up and introduce himself to my dad and I just wanted so badly to meet him and just get it over with. Once I was free, we shook hands and exchanged our “nice to meet yous.”
There was no love-at-first-sight.
Just two friends stiffly and awkwardly meeting in person for the first time.
The rest of the night was filled with text messages and learning to play Settler’s of Catan. I did horribly at the game, but I didn’t care. I was just trying to take in what was a rather close-to-perfect moment. It didn’t take the four of us long to get comfortable with each other which caught us a bit off-guard. I think we expected more awkwardness and less easiness. It was not the case, however, as we started laughing and teasing right away, but it was only the first night so we were just getting started. Still, it was perfectly natural and conversation just happened.
The next morning we were all going on a beautiful hike along the Potomac River. My dad’s rental car had just enough seats for him, me, Naomi, Austin, and Drew which provided us with long hours of teasing, serious conversations, enjoying the silence together, singing along to Andrew Allen, and enduring Drew’s eclectic music choices as a DJ…
Anyway, once were on the hike, we joked and Drew took awkward pictures and we teased him mercilessly and he was great about it. The group ended up splitting and we walked slowly along the trail because we were so busy talking and enjoying the beauty of the hike. At one point near the end of our excursion, I just wanted to talk to Austin. He was walking by himself in the middle of our group and I began to worry about how it would look to everyone else if I ran up to walk with him. Then I remembered that I had promised to try my hardest to have no regrets about the week. I wanted to take advantage of every opportunity and make every moment count so I jogged a bit to catch up with Austin who immediately asked,
“Finally had enough of that?”
Jokingly, I replied, ”Yeah, I think I have a Drew-induced headache.”
“Finally! You know what those are like.”
We both laughed and then we talked and I remember the conversation well. We talked about his car that he’s restoring and about his family’s impending move and then we talked about the things our families were currently going through as regards some more difficult situations… We talked until our conversation turned into discussing what the biblical definition of “love” is until the hike was over and we rejoined everyone at the cars.
The entire rest of the week was amazing and I will always remember it as one of the most incredible and most memorable weeks of my entire life. Our hosts were so gracious and skilled in making all of us students feel welcome and, thanks to them, everyone had a marvelous time. (Shout out to Jenn and Josh!) Not only was I blessed to have that week as a opportunity to meet my fellow “nuts,” but I met several other college acquaintances and I am so thankful to be able to, now, have them all as friends.
As for time spent with Austin, Drew, and Naomi… some of the moments I remember the most fondly are when we worked on our skit together. It isn’t even something that we did for anyone else, just for us. However, the inside jokes that resulted from it made it such a special thing to us now, looking back on it. It broke down more barriers and it was astounding how Situtations-That-Should-Have-Been-Awkward really weren’t awkward at all.
I remember the evening we watched Star Wars together. The night stuck outside in the pouring rain. The mangled musical attempts at midnight. The smiles and genuine laughs. The honest conversations. The late-night Starbucks. The exploring of Washington D.C. and Mount Vernon. The orange socks. The first time I played ultimate frisbee. The ukulele improv. The encouragement and the fellowship.
I remember how I felt at the end of the week realizing that our foursome was one of the most valuable things in the world to me.
I remember how scared I was to lose what we had.
I remember how I felt when it was time to say “goodbye” and go back home…by