At this same time of year approximately ten years ago, I stood outside in the dark in the middle of Bradley University’s campus. Beside me was my roommate, Jill, and the girl who happened to live next door to us for the second year in a row, Jaclynn, as well as a bunch of other new female faces who would be sharing a dorm hall with us during our sophomore year. A generic brand of Cool Whip was strewn across our shoulders and shorts from the whipped cream fight we had just taken part in with the boys living across the dorm hall, an icebreaker fitting only for college students. One by one, we shared “interesting” facts about ourselves, as our RAs had instructed. I wish I could say I remember the random facts that each of the people who would someday become my closest friends shared, but only two stayed with me.
“I am from Turkey,” said the kid named Bahadir.
“And I’m the Turkish kid’s roommate,” said Josh, the blonde guy standing next to him.
I can’t say that it was friendship at first sight, because that wouldn’t be true – it took a few more weeks, but Jill, Jaclynn, and I eventually met those boys across the hall. After that, they all went on to become some of the best friends I’ve ever known. To be honest, I have such a difficult time writing about these people, because it’s always felt as if they’re almost too close to my heart – like I won’t be able to locate the appropriate combination of words to ever do them justice. Alas, I will try.
In short, they’re the reason I first understood what love really is – what it means to truly know someone, and to feel deep in your guts that the person knows you in return. To be able to sit in the same room with someone, in the midst of silence, and not feel as though you have to fill the quiet. To know what it feels like to be with someone constantly for hours on end, and still miss them as soon as they’re not around. I know most people experience this sensation for the first time when they fall in love romantically, but I first found it in my friends.
Six years ago, the gang took our first trip to Istanbul, Turkey to visit Baha and his family, and we decided in that moment that, despite life and work and other commitments, we would do our best to take some kind of trip together every year. Some have been big and extravagant, while others have been more localized and of shorter durations; some have included the majority of us, while others have included only a few. This year, we decided to visit Baha in Turkey again, and spent the bulk of our time there in Gokova with his mom and stepdad. It was an incredible trip, full of delicious food and beautiful views – but the best part of all was the people involved.
One afternoon while swimming in the sea, Josh, Jaclynn, Baha and I swam inside a small cave, posting up on the rocks within as the waves crashed into us. As we sat, the conversation turned to what we thought our lives would look like in three years, then five years, and if we thought we could keep this traveling gig up amidst jobs, and marriages, and children, and growing up. And honestly, I cannot say for certain what form life will take for any of us in a few years, nor if all of us will be able to continue to make these annual trips a priority – but I do know I’m happy to still have these people by my side, because I can’t imagine embracing and tackling life’s unknowns with anyone else.