Falling Into Step

In efforts to playIn the winter of 2005, I found myself in the bathroom stall of a bar somewhere in the French Alps.  In between hysterical sobs, an old friend braced my shoulders and looked me in the eye.

“This is NOT you!” she hollered.  “YOU ARE COLLEEN!  YOU ARE NOT THIS GIRL!  PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER!”

When I first met Kelly on the field hockey field at Holy Cross in 1998, I found her abrasive, stubborn to a fault, and mildly offensive.

And I wasn’t entirely wrong about those qualities.

But here we are, fifteen years later.  On a running trail in Austin, TX with my musician boyfriend and not nearly enough water.  Talking our way through a brisk workout.  She lives in Hawaii now, and I’ve been in Texas for ten years.  We missed each others’ respective weddings due to distance (though she still counseled me during my subsequent divorce).  It’s been five years since our last meeting, but we’ve fallen right back into step.

Kelly Visit

Kelly gave me this card when I moved to Austin in the summer of 2003.  The caption reads, “A friendship with two viewpoints is twice as strong.”  Inside, Kelly sent me off with words about our differing opinions, our heated discussions, and the strength of our relationship.  My staunch-republican friend and I even had the confidence to watch the 2000 election together … A decision that could have ended in bloodshed.  But every time we challenged each other – every time we pushed and pulled at each other  – we grew closer.

And the same can be said of our three years together on the field hockey field.  As with all of my teammates, every competition made us more like sisters.  Every shared loss, every struggle, every hard sweat and snowy play-off game, every overtime win and every penalty stroke failure tightened the familial bonds between us.  Naturally, when we see each other now, we want to run and play again (no matter how much more it hurts our older joints).

Kelly’s brief visit in Austin invigorates me.  She reminds me that real friends are with you through the hard times.  They support you, they love you, and they stand beside you when you need an ally.  But they also snap you out of it when you’re being a tool.  They know you – really know you – and they embrace the bad with the good.  Kelly makes me feel like the best version of myself.  Even when I’m a sloppy mess in a foreign bathroom.

Sure, my old friend and teammate is still abrasive and bossy.  (Just as I’m still overly-sensitive and neurotic.)  But she’s also smart, and funny, and honest.  She doesn’t sugar-coat things, and she knows who she is.  She’s the friend who met me in Europe for an ill-advised roadtrip; who took me out to party when I was injured at an Ultimate tournament in Chicago; who called me when she had one single afternoon in my (still somewhat new) city.  She’s a friend I know will be around in another fifteen years, and fifteen more after that.

…Especially if I can convince her to move to Austin.

I’m working on it.


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