A photo of two people sleeping in the back of a car

S and T, then

I met S in 2005. By that point, I was already friends with T–S was her boyfriend. He was a freshman and I was a sophomore. I’d already known S and T finished undergrad and moved to Seattle. S got a masters of public finance. He works for a startup. T is getting a Ph.D. in statistics and is at the top of her class. I think they’re both pretty awesome

S & T, now

One of the things about S is that he and I have very little in common. Our lives diverged completely since 2009. In three years, he’s found a life for himself in Seattle, got a full time job, and is married. He and S, who’ve been a unit for a long time, only began (from my experience) to define themselves as adult individuals in 2008. They’ve been doing it solidly since then.

A and me, then

One of my fondest memories of S is from 2008. T was spending a semester in London, which forced them apart. He was going to visit her for spring break. A week or so before he left, we were sitting around in the living room. S looked down and ran his hands through his hair, making it stick up as he is wont to do. He looked up and said “I think I should ask her to marry me. I should just do it.”

A with a mandolin

A, now.

He didn’t ask her until the next year, but that was sort of a defining point in my knowing him: He was the kind of person who would get married. Not in a “we should get married” kind of way, but in a surprise proposal diamond ring popping the question kind of way.

A few weeks ago, when I was out west, S and I spent some time together. T was out of town, much to my own sadness. We wandered around Wallingford and the U District (I think) with W, had Korean dinner, and wandered back to the apartment he and T share with each other and no one else.

After W and I were on the bus headed back to Capitol Hill, he said “It’s nice you can still talk to each other.”

The fact is, S and I are completely different. In fact, all of my close friends from then–A, B, G, S, and T–are different from me.

A photo of m. eating butter.

me, now. Philadelphia Folk Festival, 2012.

As we were talking down the Burke-Gilman, I took off my shoes because they were uncomfortable. I suggested–mostly jokingly–that S and T start going dumpster diving. He scoffed at the idea. He commented on how lucky he is because he was able to go to Japan on his honeymoon.

He had a honeymoon.

The thing is, we aren’t really all that different. There are lots of surface differences, but I was always sort of the weirdo of the group. We have many similar values–some he is more extreme in and some I am more extreme in–and very different ways of expressing things. This is because S and I helped build each other.

G sitting on the Cathedral lawn

G, then. I took this picture of him in 2005.

We all helped build each other. KK, another friend of mine from then, and I appear to have even less in common. She is married, pregnant, has a mortgage, is getting a Ph.D. in bioinformatics, and is Catholic. We still have a shockingly similar set of values and can still talk.

Life is about building things. Relationships are about building things together, and the relationship itself is something you build. When these relationships are during your formative years, you’re not just creating the space between the people: you are, in a very inescapable way, creating each other.

A Jewish wedding, showing attendants holding the chuppa.

G, now. Holding a chuppa at a wedding.

I don’t think I was really a person until I met G. He helped build me by calling me a jerk when someone needed to. A was there for me during several crises. T reminded me that other people matter to me. B taught me about making decisions. S showed me what it means to love another person.

Of course we had other experiences. The structures of our relationships are grand, but the pieces that make them up are the nights sitting around watching the X-Files and all those movies, the days cooking whole meals, midnight rides to the one Dunkin Donuts in Pgh, mornings waiting in line waiting for a seat so we could eat pancakes.

So much of who I am was built by these people, through our shared experiences, that I don’t worry about what will happen with us knowing each other. I don’t worry that I won’t be able to talk to them, not just talk, but understand, communicate, and have new experiences together. They built me and I built them.

*B doesn’t take pictures of himself. None of these photos belong to me, so they are exempt from the CC-BY-SA license.