We are almost a week into the new year, 2017 both slipping past us and dragging out like a train wreck. Rachel, this year for us has most certainly had its share of ups and downs. But life always seems to play out like that, the shadows always there to highlight the brightness. Just like every year I’ve known you, since that first day of school in seventh grade.
You walked behind our friend Christina, a tentative smile on your face as she introduced you to me and our other friend. As you’ve come to know, I have pack mentality and immediately you were a member. We sat together in the back of chorus class, scribbling sketches for each other, fingers tracing the black and white drawings in my mangas. As I dipped into the dark pool of teen angst, you were happy to stand at the edge, our friendship ever constant as I painted my lips black and you wore pink cartoon cat shirts.
In high school we grew even closer. I remember when the blood drive came to our school, asking for donations from the older students. We are the same blood type, O negative, the universal donor. They were to give our blood to babies, so they were careful to check our iron levels. When you found out I had mild anemia and couldn’t donate, you reacted unlike most people would. You took it upon yourself to pack my lunch yourself until my iron levels improved. Rachel, you always have cared more than others, and more than that, you show it.
In college, we had to part, my studies taking me to north Florida while you studied at an amazing local university. As we changed, our relationship did as well. We both experienced being in love, different social circles and the influences they brought. We grew into ourselves, and learned our value, something we still are discovering. I remember sitting on those wooden recliners on the beach, passing cups of wine between us, laughing into the warm sea air. You were always so happy, and always the first one to run out onto the dance floor. Still the resident expert on the Wobble. I remember how we thought we knew everything, but knew nothing at all.
I certainly didn’t, and my nativity made me pay a hefty price. I moved back to south Florida, and again our relationship changed. Depression had latched onto me; its claws having dragged me deep, down away from any person I recognized. But as I climbed out of that pit, you were there. The light in a world that had grown so dark. We started spending so much time together. Our close friendship becoming inseparable. I remember just standing in my kitchen for hours, talking, sipping soju, laughing and plotting.
Our friends began to joke that we were so close it was easy to mistake us for a couple, and so soon we became known as the Frouple. Do you remember Sheriff exclaiming our chairs were too far apart, pushing us together, that there was something wrong in the universe for us to have such space between us? With you, I felt I could do anything, or at least we could figure it out together. There was no challenge we couldn’t tackle. Well maybe there were some, we never did learn the dance to “On and On” by Vixx. But as we did fall in love with Korea together, together we plotted to change our lives forever.
People often have these grandiose plans of things they want to achieve in their life. Like us, for almost two years we talked about wanting to come to Korea. But we did it. We packed our bags, we got on the plane. Even when we had to take those first steps alone, we put one foot in front of the other. We always knew our feet would lead us back to each other.
After weeks in a new country, with no familiar face, we had started our new jobs. We tried to acclimate to a new culture, a new way of life. But as that first Friday came, you traveled on the “Big money!” taxi ride to reunite the frouple! From that weekend on, we continued to adjust to our new lives, messaging each other with updates as soon as they happened, and excitedly making plans for the weekend to meet. I never felt alone if I had you at least in the same country as me!
As fate would have it, we fell in love with our lives in this country, and that 1 year has turned into 2 and a half. After twelve months of living in different cities, you moved to Cheongyang and our adventures continued. From ahjusshis on tractors rolling down the pepper light streets, to now living in the biggest city of Gyeonggi-do, we have witnessed and experienced so much together. From year one, a rooster crowing you awake in my countryside house, to ringing in the new year at the Hwaseong Fortress, things change quickly for us here.
There’s rarely time to feel bored, or complacent, and there’s never a chance to be stagnant. The both of us have changed so much since stepping foot on those planes. But we both know that some changes in us have been hard won. Adversity showed us some of our darkest sides, made us face parts of ourselves we didn’t want to admit existed. There was no way all this couldn’t have changed us. No way that the images we had of each other wouldn’t change as we did. We both have gone through so many firsts in the land of the rising sun. Had our hearts filled with joy, excitement, as we met new people, experienced new things. But also had them clawed at, by some of the very same things.
But more apparent than anything is that you’ve grown into a strong, independent woman who wouldn’t let anyone get away with hurting you or your friends. Your joy and energy are infectious, and I know that nothing seems to intimidate you anymore. You were always kind, but now you are an even bigger presence of certain happiness.
The one constant through all of these new experiences was the unyielding certainty that we would always have each other. That each other’s best interests, well-being, and hearts would always be our priority. You are the family the random chance of this universe gifted me. The sister I chose, and will forever choose to travel this crazy world with. You are my Frouple, and I look forward to another unforgettable year with you!
Happy Holidays and a Wonderful New Year,