Graduation: Kayla

I will miss my very best friend Kayla.

When my family popped open a three liter (three liter!) bottle of champagne after graduation, Kayla toasted me. “Here’s to one of my best friends who has taught me how to move faster, not care what other people think, smile big, and love bigger.”

I’m flattered that I have been able to teach Kayla a few things, but that toast demonstrated how much Kayla knows me. It conjured up all of the philosophical conversations, top-notch adventures, gut-wrenching laughs, vulnerable tears, and downright preposterous shenanigans we have shared together in college. She probably knows my flaws and strengths, interests and fears, past history and future dreams better than anyone else.

I met Kayla through YoungLife freshman year. All we remember about that first encounter is that we were both wearing pearls, so we knew were going to be friends, obviously. Even without YL, Kayla and I were destined to cross paths, in a practical sense because Roanoke is so small and in a serendipitous sense because we are soul sisters. I remember being asked when I was home for fall break freshman year who I had met that I really clicked with. “Kayla,” I responded, without hesitation. I knew six weeks into school that Kayla would be a close companion, and that friendship has deepened in the three years since then.

Kayla brings out the best in me. She asks me hard questions, she challenges me in my relationship with Jesus, and she prays with me. She is also my favorite drinking buddy – cocktails in Bermuda, plastic glasses of wine and a movie in the dorm room, and beer at the bar all easily come to mind. Without Kayla, I would have a lot less fun. She carries herself with this “yes” attitude that allows her to be down for most anything. Whether I get too caught up in my books and papers or, more often, I would just rather go to bed at 11, Kayla pushes me out of my cocoon and onto the social scene. I rarely go out, but when I do, Kayla is usually responsible. Kayla was the first person I ever got drunk with, and the one time I went overboard on my 22nd birthday, she took care of me. Bible studies, gym work out regimens, and torn up dance floors comprise many of our college experiences together. I have spent two Easters with her in Damascus, and she joined me in Charleston for the fourth of July. I could not have imagined anyone else with me on that first non-family spring break trip to Bermuda in 2013.

In both the academic and professional worlds, Kayla is articulate, put-together, and driven. She also wields skills of procrastination and caffeine addiction that would quickly put me in cardiac arrest. Though I appreciate her work ethic, I really love her for the way she loves people. Unlike me, she consistently puts others above her own to-do list, and I am not the only one who knows it. Earlier this year, her car had unexpected mechanical trouble totaling repair costs to the tune of over $1,000. When she went to the auto shop to cough up the money, an anonymous benefactor had already paid it. “You bless so many people in the Salem community. It’s time you were blessed in return,” was the only message the repairwoman could share. She befriends people far different from herself, and they appreciate her pursuit. Like me, she is an individual; she does not conform to the world’s expectations of young twenty-somethings. She laughs loud, she contra dances, she mentors high schoolers, she likes to hug and snuggle just as much as me…Kayla epitomizes awesomeness.

Since she is a year older than me, my one hesitation about leaving for my whole junior year was that Kayla would be gone by the time I returned this past year. In an unexpected twist of plans, Kayla not only stayed in Roanoke, but her job as the communications director for the Virginia Lutheran Synod is located on campus. Which of course for us meant more weekday on-campus sleepovers and lunches in Commons. I knew Kayla and I would still be tight no matter where she moved, but it was so nice to still have a best friend close by this past year.

On graduation night, Kayla dragged me downtown one last time, and she stayed over for the final night I would spend in my dorm room. I have an air mattress for most overnight guests, but Kayla and I always just pile into my twin bed and pass out. When the alarm went off Sunday morning, I buried my head in the pillow, held Kayla close, and half-dramatically, half-honestly whined, “Nooooo. Don’t leave meeee.” This was it, no more day-to-day best friend interactions or sleepovers. I know we will still see each other. Kayla will probably come to Houston this fall, and she has already saved up to visit me in New Zealand. I see us backpacking part of the world together in the next couple of years. She will be in my wedding someday; maybe our kids will be friends. I anticipate knowing her when I am a very old woman. Yes, I am certain our friendship will endure through the decades. But it saddens me to think that we may never live in the same place again. I will not be able to swing by her office every few days just to give her a hug and say hi.

I will miss those every day interactions, my friend, my sister. You toasted me a few weeks ago, but this post is my return cheers to you. You are largely responsible for making my college years fun and happy. Thank you for your friendship, thank you for being you. Together or apart, I am grateful to call you my best friend.

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