I met Heidi at summer camp at the University of Oregon in 2008, roughly 6 1/2 years ago. We’ve been good friends for years, despite us always living three hours apart. Sometimes we won’t talk for months, but we always pick back up where we left off, which is a sign of a true best friend. Our formative, maturing years have been spent together–nobody else who I met in middle school is still someone I can call a friend.
But my first impression of her wasn’t a good one. It wasn’t that she was unkind or annoying. It was a matter of jealousy: she already seemed to have life figured out even though I didn’t, despite being two years ahead of her in school. She had an impeccable style (no other person I know could pull off the color combinations that Heidi did in 2008), she was funny, she was likable. The natural reaction to someone like that, of course, is to disguise your envy with undeserved hatred. I told myself that because she was cool that she had to be arrogant and have a superiority complex.
Thank goodness for the UO sprinkler system that caught the two of us in a surprise shower while walking on campus. We were startled and disoriented, and Heidi yelled out, “Go! Save yourself!” as I navigated myself out of the downpour. When she emerged from the sprinkler’s flood, we looked at each other and burst out laughing. By the time we arrived back at our dorm hallway, drenched and late for our floor meeting, all my bitter feelings towards Heidi had been washed away.
She’s visiting me this weekend in Portland for her first real trip since 2009. I’ve traveled to Seattle to see her tons of times, but it’s nice to have her here again after five years.
I asked her about her first impression of me, since I remember mine for her so distinctly.
“I remember we were sitting together in history class [at UO camp, and for the record I don’t remember this class] with that sassy teacher and you were right next to me, and I said, ‘I agree with what she said,’ and the teacher said ‘WHAT’S HER NAME?’ and I had never really seen the name Sabina before so I said, ‘Sabina??’
“I remember seeing you and Megan [another camp friend] around and giggling together and having a messy dorm. Reallllllly messy.
“After we became friends, it was very easy to come up with jokes, and we had them over and over again. I like when you can sorta fall into hanging out with someone so easily. And then we had those Gmail chats. Those were the days.
“Your hair was really red. I want that to be included. AND AND AND I thought it was really crazy, you had those glasses that dimmed when you walked outside. I always thought they were flawed and unnecessary, but that’s okay.”
And then she touched my bunched up comforter and said, “Is this your leg?”
It wasn’t my leg.
She went to go get ready, turning on Alt-J as background music. She introduced me to Alt-J and they’re now one of my three favorite bands–their music will always remind me of her.
She suddenly came back into my room as I was writing this, and said: “I realized I didn’t say much about you specifically. I definitely thought you were very nerdy looking, but in a good way. You seemed very smart and you definitely looked older than…well, especially me, cuz I was a year younger. And I was like, I can be down with that kinda thing.”
Both of our first impressions were appearance-based, as I suppose all first impressions are. I interpreted her her daring outfit choices and yellow Sidekick phone as a snobbiness that simply didn’t exist, while my dorky 7th grade style reflected my true nerdier side.
We’ve both grown up and changed so much since then, but our friendship has always remained a constant, something that’s always there even when life gets busy or confusing. For that, I’m forever thankful.
This post is adapted from 5 Years and Counting, published January 14, 2014.