Since elementary school, one of my closest friends has been a girl named Emily. She was a dollop of sky blue on porcelain clay on the first day of third grade, and we became immediate friends the moment she shared with me her newest snacks.
It was through our friendship that I discovered an entire new overture of youth and juvenile fun, which my own family never indulged in. Her 9th birthday party was the first party I ever attended, and I’ve gone to every single one of her birthdays and holiday celebrations since. I still remember almost a decade’s worth of San Francisco winters spent in the lobby of twinkling hotels and open air ice skating rinks, warming our fingers around mugs of hot chocolate and exchanging peppermint bark.
From the day we met, Emily had always talked about wanting to become an actress, and I remember telling her in turn that I wanted to become an artist. Neither of us had any idea what our ambitions would entail, but we dreamed and imagined exciting lives and vibrant high school experiences. Having now lived through those romanticized years, however, I can say that nothing was ever as it seemed, and there were more changes and challenges than we could’ve ever anticipated.
Emily’s one of the only people that I’ve kept close contact with since the chasms between high schools have deepened with time. She enrolled at Ruth Asawa School of the Arts for Voice while I chose to attend Lowell High School with plans to major in computer science– a fear cry from the artistic career I had dreamed of. I attend her shows and musicals at SOTA, and I never fail to marvel at her growth as a person and performer every time. We laughingly resist her mother’s urging for us to study together, and talk about our dreams for the coming years instead; just as we did when we were eight years old and sitting on dewy playground slides sipping from frozen Suncup juice cartons.
Unbeknownst to her, Emily’s become a beacon of sorts for me over the past few years. We each live our own separate lives in our own respective communities, but every time we meet I’m reminded of being eight years old again, back when we constructed worlds from chalk and simple melodies and the rest of our lives seemed so far away. She’s chasing a dream, a difficult pursuit of passion that I’ve always been too afraid to try myself. Our meetings are as much sanity checks as casual hangouts, and she played no small part in making me realize that I want to keep art in my future pursuits. While I don’t get to see her often, she is untouched by the cacophony of my own stresses, thoughts, and opinions, and she’s a much-needed reminder that while I may be caught up in my own problems, the band keeps playing on. When things are stressful, it’s calming to think back to a time when we were nothing more than a melody and a harmony, unscripted and improvised with no fear of a finale.