When I sat down for my first day of sixth grade, I never expected that one of the most important people in my life would be sitting a few rows away from me.
I didn’t really know what really friendship meant. There were kids that I hung out with from time to time. Some of them were swimmers like me. Some liked to write like me. I talked to some of them during social studies. But I didn’t know that there could be friends that really change your life.
Our friendship started like that. She was a friend that I could talk to about silly things, like how we didn’t want to run sprints in gym class. She was an athlete like me, a talented gymnast. We didn’t really have time to hang out because we both spent hours and hours practicing. The next thing we knew, we talked through the entire 10 minutes of homeroom, until our teacher was telling us to go back to our desks because the pledge of allegiance was about to start.
We were at each other’s lockers between classes and sitting together in the lunchroom. It was easy. She understood me, and I understood her. We could talk for hours and it was natural. There was something different about my friendship with her than anyone else.
When high school rolled around, life was harder than it had ever been for me. The typical growing up problems came, but more than that, I was having trouble at home. My dad didn’t always do his part. He didn’t show up and it killed me. The pressure of being an elite athlete led to an eating disorder and performance-related anxiety. That was the way the anxiety started. It turned to way more than that as the years went on. I didn’t know how to handle it. I didn’t know what to do with myself.
For a long time, I wasn’t the easiest person to be around. She stood by me for every minute. She believed in me when things got tough. Her doors were always open when I just needed to cry. She stayed up until 3:00 in the morning to talk me down from panic attacks. She stood by my side even when I was wrong. She was my strength.
I had my other half 5 minutes down the road. At the time, I lived walking distance from our high school. She used to park her car at my house so that we could walk home together. We weren’t in the same homeroom, but we practically lived at each other’s lockers.
I would walk in to my kitchen to my parents talking to her at the dinner table. I don’t know what high school would have been like without her. She has been there every step of the way. First heartbreaks, our first time drinking, prom, every birthday, literally everything.
One summer, she spent day after day helping me coach a swim team that I was in charge of – with literally no experience swimming. She recognized that I needed help without even having to ask. She dedicated hours because she knew I needed help.
Walking beside her at graduation was an honor.
Since then, everything has changed, but at the same time, nothing has changed. We went off to different colleges and my family moved to a different part of New Jersey. We’ve grown and changed, but our friendship hasn’t. When I was diagnosed, she sat with me in my basement when I had wires glued to my head, and didn’t look at me differently, not even for a second. She’s the person I want to tell all of my good news to.
We are different in so many ways. She’s brilliant. She’s going to be saving people’s lives in hospitals one day. I’m creative, trying to help people with words. She pushes through any challenge that comes her way, with quiet strength. I need to talk things out. I’ve never seen someone so dedicated to everything they do.
But that’s what makes it great. Having someone by my side that thinks differently than me gives me perspective and keeps me sane.
She has taught me loyalty, unbreakable bonds, and is the definition of strength.
I never thought there could be friendship like this. Where you could look at someone and instantly understand what they’re thinking. I’m not sure if everyone is as lucky as I am, but I’ve never felt more blessed in my life. I’ve never seen another friendship as strong as ours. No matter what happens, I know that she will be there and I will be too. No matter how far.
When you find your person, hold on as tight as you can. Recognize how lucky you are. Not everyone has someone that will stand by them through anything. That they can talk with for hours. That will grow with them.
Marissa, I love you more than you’ll ever know.