The more often I write in this blog, the more fluid my ideas become.
The more raw, unedited, vulnerable I allow myself to be.
The road I am about to take you on is unfinished, there are several pot holes, speed bumps, and traffic jams caused by accidents. There are beautiful scenic routes, new companions along the way, and a great playlist bumping through the speakers.
This is about the survival of long-distance and what the “forever” in “BFF” really means.
New Attitude Salon & Spa.
That was my first job. It was in this run down little strip mall in an area known as “Totem Lake.” The armpit of Kirkland, Washington.
I had applied here in a whim, it was my first “real job,” and I needed something close to school, my Dad’s house & my Mom’s house.
This was my “secret job,” where I only worked Thursdays and every other weekend. (It had to be a secret because my Dad forbid me from working. So days I spent with my mom, I worked.)
Can you believe they hired someone with such an annoying schedule?
It was my first taste of freedom, taxes, and retail.
It was here that I met, Ilana.
She was my complete opposite.
I was overly tanned, tall, and wore clothes that were too tight.
She was pale, petite, and wore clothes 2 sizes too big.
This fast-talking, techno loving, curly-haired, feisty red-head. She was wearing black gaucho pants, sky-high wedges, and a pink t-shirt.
She was 17, a senior in high school, had just quit her job at a boutique shop on the Kirkland waterfront and was hired a month after I had started working at the salon.
I was responsible for training her.
At first I was a little off-put by her.
I remember the first story she ever told me.
Her friend Casper had died. Wait, what? She had a friend named “Casper”? Huh?
She told me about how her boyfriend, Willy, and her best friends, Kim & Casey, would go to all these crazy underground raves and how she would dance all night.
This girl was unlike anyone I had ever met.
She scared me, excited me. I was so curious about this other world.
We got to know each other during our Saturday lunch breaks at Trader Joes. Where we would sit on the bench outside the salon eating blue cheese stuffed olives & grapes. Damn those olives were good.
If you asked me at the time, there is absolutely no way I could put my finger on it. But something about her just clicked with me. Maybe it was her love of hair products, how her ADD medication always spilled in her purse, her chipped nail polish and the way I had to remind her when food was stuck in her braces. I just knew something was special about her and I wanted to be her friend.
We had our “first friend date” at a Barnes & Noble. She came over to my mom’s house and I made shells & white cheddar… which she refused to eat, but I did anyway. We took my mom’s 1998 red, ford F-250 and drove off on our first adventure.
I knew she would become one of my closest friends when I realized I had just spent 6 hours with someone in a truck laughing, smoking cigarellos, and giggling over the Cosmo Magazine Kama Sutra books.
Months passed and our relationship continued to grow. She talked about how excited she was to go off to college in California and how she had these big dreams of being a pop star.
Graduation came and went. With summer came a second job for me at Starbucks and after 4 weeks of working both jobs, I quit the salon.
Ilana became my partner in crime.
Heading to Sephora to do our make up in big, bold, bright colors before we would head off dancing the night away.
She always wore pink. Pink dresses, skirts, tank tops, eyeshadow, you name it. The girl rocked pink.
I had never had so much fun. It was exhilarating. Dancing until 3-4am in our matching patent leather Demonias. She introduced me to a word I had no idea existed. I was having the time of my life.
We believed in each other so much and our friendship — that we ACTUALLY got a cellphone plan together. Seriously. Two 18yr old girls signing a contact with AT&T and getting the latest flip phones… we were so excited!
Things went down hill that summer though.
My mom discovered an adderall bottle in my purse with Ilana’s name on it. I remember being at a restaurant with my mom and my grandma having lunch when I got up to go the bathroom. When I came back – my mom was PISSED. Wondering if Ilana was selling me drugs. How adderall is SPEED and I’m using drugs.
I attempted to explain to her that Ilana offered me the adderall to help me at work since I was working the open shift at Starbucks (4am-1030am) and had been out late the night before consoling her over her boyfriend.
It didn’t work. My mom officially did not like Ilana.
Then, she left for school.
This girl… let me tell you about this girl…
We have always laughed that if she ever became famous I would be her personal packer. This girl can NOT pack to save her life.
Sitting up in her bedroom, surrounded by blouses, jeans, shoes, hair products, makeup… helping Ilana pack for school – it hit me.
She was leaving me. Just like everyone else. Like everyone always had.
I wanted a piece of her to stay with me.
I stole a camouflage mini skirt with hot pink trim. I stuffed it in my purse as she was running around trying to figure out what she was supposed to pack and jabbering about how excited she was and how much she would miss me.
This would become a common problem in our relationship. I constantly took things from Ilana to wear, keep, love. She had amazing taste in clothing and I just wanted to feel like she was still here with me.
I know… it comes off as creepy. Ugh.
Of course she found out. She was furious. I ignored her phone calls, texts, instant messages, anything I could do to avoid her – I did.
She of course told her mom, who then became furious with me.
And now… both of our mom’s disliked us.
Eventually I packed up the things I had taken from her and dropped them off at her house… mostly so she would quit harassing me. I knew I had destroyed our friendship and it would never be the same.
Self sabotage is a theme in my life.
She came home for winter break and we attempted to reconnect. I missed her so much. We spent evenings strolling downtown Bellevue. Her eating salads, me eating pasta. It was the norm for us.
I would always tease her about how picky she was with food. She swore up and down it was because of allergies. I always made insensitive comments that it must have been because of her religion.
Each time she came home we would make a point to see each other. While she was gone, we did our best to keep in touch through MySpace and then the ever-growing Facebook. Attempting to stay in each others lives even though we were 3000mi away from one another.
Things became more challenging when I started dating, Ryan.
She despised him and he despised her. I was stuck at a crossroads. Continue my relationship with Ryan, or listen to my best-friend.
I chose to continue my relationship.
She knew it was unhealthy. She knew when we drove out to Duvall for me to meet a boy (while I was living with Ryan and his mom!), left her in my truck for 2 hours while I sat in his car “talking,” that I was headed down a destructive path.
I eventually began avoiding her calls again. Everytime she would call it would be to say something bad about Ryan.
Everytime I tried to talk to Ryan about it – he would talk about how much he hated her and thought she was a bad influence on me.
Our cellphone contract ended together after I lost my job and couldn’t pay. At $400/mo, it was ridiculous. We were constantly arguing over who needed to pay more. I just couldn’t do it anymore.
I couldn’t win.
I missed my best friend so much, but I thought I was in love.
The things you do when you think you’re in love, sheesh.
Ryan and I eventually broke up. At that point Ilana was studying abroad all over Europe. Learning and exploring. Changing her life for the better. While I felt left behind.
I had done it to myself though, why couldn’t I see that?
She moved back home after college and we had almost next to no contact. I had my life, she had hers. That’s the way things went for quite some time.
We MAYBE saw each other once or twice during the span she was at home. But it was nothing like it was before. Something was “off,” and neither of us knew what it was or how to fix it.
Maybe it was because we valued our mother’s opinions so much and being friends was more difficult that it was worth.
It’s REALLY hard to be friends with someone your mom doesn’t like. REALLY HARD.
A few months before she decided to head back to california she took a job at a social media company. I remember dropping her off for her interview in downtown Seattle. She was so adorable. So excited. Couldn’t wait to start her “grown up life.”
A few weeks later, maybe months? I honestly don’t remember how long it was. She called me telling me she had lost her job and didn’t know what to do and was thinking of moving to california to pursue a music career.
So she packed up her Toyota and off she went.
I couldn’t just let her go though. The same day she decided to move, I had booked a flight to Santa Barbara to see a friend. I had a connecting flight in San Francisco.
I missed the connecting flight to Santa Barbara.
Ilana picked me up at the airport and I became the backseat driver for a few hundred miles.
Things turned around after that. We were able to reconnect, briefly, and remembered how much we actually cared and loved each other.
As she drove away after dropping me off at my destination, tears rolled down my cheeks. She was off to start her life and once again, I felt abandoned. Here she was — doing exactly what she set her mind to — while I was still stuck in the same effing place. The rearview.
I decided not to give up this time.
She became someone I made an effort to contact almost everyday. I wanted to continue to be a constant in her life. We bounced ideas off of one another, bitched about dating, about work, our futures. I adopted Butters and she adopted Camden.
We were still living our lives, but this time we had made a choice to stay connected.
Relationships would come up and our friendship would take a turn. We wouldn’t talk as much, we weren’t as honest with each other. We both knew it.
We were lying to ourselves when we lied to each other.
We couldn’t face being totally honest with one another. We were a mirror to ourselves. If we were honest, we would have to face our demons, faults, and the story we had created.
Eventually it all came crumbling down.
It was time to rebuild our friendship, from ground zero. Time to start over. Start fresh. But, how?
We had come to a fork in the road. To continue with the lies and risk our friendship. Or to make a drastic change – one with the possibility of hurting one another, but for the benefit of our relationship.
So we leaped. With nothing to catch us. We jumped.
Our friendship turned into something most people don’t have. Most people couldn’t handle. It became BRUTALLY honest. We were no longer afraid of the consequences that came with being honest with each other. We had to have faith and trust that even when we were critical of one another — we still cared. That the reason we were so honest, was BECAUSE we cared. That we HAD to transform our friendship — otherwise we would not HAVE one.
Sometimes the things we say to each other hurt. Sometimes we have to take a week off and breathe and remember that even though we have made the agreement to be honest with one another — reactions still happen and we still say things that cause pain. That we still need time to heal from those things. It’s extremely important that we continue to be honest though, otherwise we are just like everyone else.
I am always amazed that we have made it this far.
I am always surprised when I look back and see what it took to get here.
So much hurt. So much pain. But always love. Always.
Long-distance friendships take so much work. Constant contact. Constant honesty. You have to make the effort to keep that person in your life.
Long-distance friendships are painful. When you’re all alone and all you want is your best friend by your side to help you get through things, but they’re 3000mi away and there’s nothing you can do about it. It hurts. It’s hard.
You have to want it.
I know that what Ilana and I have is special. I know that no matter what comes at us, we can tackle it together. I know that even when we go weeks without speaking – we still love each other and care.
She is constantly in the back of my head telling me, “Never settle, Jack. You were meant for more. Love you, Jack. Try harder, do better. You got this. I’m proud of you.”
The same goes for her. She hears, “Holy shit, Lan. Look at you go girl. You’re my hero. Now stop settling for those jerks and find someone worthy of your attention. You don’t need a man to feel fulfilled. You will find what you’re looking for once you finally do what you’re meant to do. Also, never quit singing. You’ll always be my LanBot.”
Our story is far from over. It’s been 10+ years and she still surprises me. I am grateful that I have a friendship that tests me and pushes my buttons and my limits. I give her credit for helping me become the woman I am today.
You ARE a friend for life. A friend, forever.
Until next time.