A Year Later - Remembering A Friend

A year is a long time, but at the same time, it's not. The past year feels like it has flown by yet there were many, many, many moments when I wondered how I would get by. 2013 was a challenging year, to say the least. But I have hope that the challenges and hurdles and experiences of 2013 has set a phenomenal foundation for 2014--and so far, 2014 has not disappointed (not much, at least). Today was a day when I had a chance to sit and reflect and think about the past year. Last year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I was hanging out with my roommates on the couch after coming home from work. I had just come back the previous night from a trip to San Francisco to celebrate my friend's engagement and was looking forward to a low-key week to get back into a groove. The first few weeks of 2012 were off to a great start for me: I made a major lifestyle change and was trying out a gluten-free diet; I was learning a new skill (cooking) and was trying new recipes on the daily, especially since I had a house full of people who were wiling to be my guinea pigs; I was trying out online dating in a new city and had gone on a few dates; I had found a new yoga studio that was working wonders on my body and soul; and I was blogging, semi-regularly, again! It seemed like 2013 was going to be my year.

Mystery photo that Ashley's mom found on her phone and sent to me.

Then I got a phone call that we all dread and hope to God we never have to get, even though inevitably, it will happen sooner vs later. It was my friend's boyfriend calling to let me know that my friend had unexpectedly passed away. The friend who I had just texted days before because I know she wasn't feeling well. The friend who had just shared via Twitter that she was having a crap day and really needed a hug from me (I was in Phoenix while she was in Portland). The friend who had staked her claim on me as a lifelong friend within weeks of meeting me. That friend. I still remember the call like it was yesterday. I was in shock. I was in disbelief. It felt surreal. 365 days later, it still feels that way sometimes.

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Her passing hit me hard, and I still have moments and days where something will trigger immense sadness, but like with all change, life moves on. I'm one of those people who believes that you can either let life happen to you or you can roll with the punches and grow with the changes that life throws your way--I want to be in the latter. Since Ashley's passing, I've found myself trying to inject more life in the every day, whether it's through taking advantage of opportunities that present themselves or it's enjoying the moment and absorbing experiences and the emotions that come with it. I find myself thinking of her often, usually with a smile or with a thought, though sometimes with a wet eye or an emptiness. But through her memory, I've been loving fearlessly, finding more joy and being the best me--and will continue to do so.

I found a set of friendship bracelets a few weeks ago on a spool labelled, "Friendship is sweet." I sent one of the bracelets to her mom because it would have been one I would have given to her.

Here I am, a whole year later. Things have changed--some more drastically than others, and some things have stayed the same. If 2013 was any indication, there's no telling what will happen in 2014 but with a solid head on our shoulders and a support system that will catch you when you fall and knock some sense into you when you need it, it will all be okay. While I may not have new memories with Ashley directly in them, I have new memories of the friendships that I've strengthened indirectly because of her, friendships that I've forged because of her, and milestones that I've reached under her watchful eye. RIP Ashley, you are missed.

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