Today my best friend MacKenzie turned 23. In a month and a half, I’ll turn 23 too. Every year, for a month and a half, she’s a year older than me.
We’ve been friends since we were seven, when she moved to Bend, Oregon, into my church ward, onto my gymnastics team. One time she got this haircut that made her look like a boy with a helmut. The whole gymnastics team had a good laugh at that. But she was still the best on the team.
Her house was my favorite house. We used to climb trees and swim in the pond and catch frogs (and me, killing tadpoles)–she lived out in this wilderness where the whole world was open. One time I said, “Let’s play this game.” I got a stick and told her to close her eyes. I told her to count. I told her to follow my trail in the dirt and find me. She always found me hiding behind trees.
We ran together, sometimes during skipped classes, sometimes during track season. We got stress fractures together. One time she ran a whole race with her breaking bones. There was no way she wasn’t going to finish.
I moved away my sophomore year in high school, but two years later we both got into the same university. We told each other, “We won’t live together, we want to make new friends (and stay friends).” But “by chance” we ended up on the same floor in the same building in Helaman Halls. She was there when I met Ryan. She was there to prepare me for my first kiss–gave me a sticky note to practice on because I was so nervous. She laughed and laughed with that laugh that makes me laugh so hard I can’t help but cry. She was the second person (behind my mom) who knew I was in love. And she was there, after Ryan left, rubbing my back, highlighting my hair, reminding me that the quiet boys are the best boys because they have the deepest hearts. (We both fell in love with quiet boys.)
And she really does know all about love. She’s been in love with the first boy she ever loved. They’ve had their ups and downs, but she has never given him up. (She knows all about trying again, forgiving ourselves and each other, learning how to be better, kinder, softer, all with practice.) After we both graduated in December (of course we graduated at the same time), she moved back home to save money. And to be with her boy because she really is a romantic, even if she isn’t like most girls.
She’s got all these dreams. Sometimes she gets down on herself because they’re so hard to get to with medical school and everything. But “here’s the thing”: she will. I’d like to say I’m her biggest believer–but the truth is, all of us who know her are. She is meant to take care of people, to nurse them and heal them.
Like this one time: Our raft flipped over in the river and she told me like she would tell a child that I needed to stay calm and swim to shore. So I did as hard as I could. (I wouldn’t have known what to do without her.)