One of the things I loved most about my college (and the biggest reason I chose to go there) was the hands-on creative writing program and community of writers it offered. I was very lucky to have made many close friends in my four years, but it was especially wonderful how close I became to a number of students in my writing program. There was a fairly small group of us, compared to other majors and schools on campus, but somehow it felt like every other person I knew well at my school was a writer.
Writers are a very different breed of people than most. Of course, almost anyone can write or publish a book. But some people were born with ink in their veins and a passion for words that cannot be matched. We feel things intensely. We take things to heart. We are impeccable observers and focus on the tiniest of details. We are constantly wrapped up in story after story in our own heads. Sometimes even the characters’ voices occupy our every day thoughts. We spent a lot of time together in class (especially workshops) and outside of class. We could have easily been mercilessly competitive with one another, focused solely on being the best so we could get published instead of someone else. Instead of that sort of harsh environment, it turned out to be a very nurturing, supportive community–one that I miss every day I am away from it. I was so lucky to have other writers at my side everywhere I turned. They understood what it was like to miss half a class worth of notes because inspiration for a story or a poem hit in the middle of a lesson. They understood how frustrating a bout of writer’s block could be or how tough it could be to read a million and a half things before each class.
One of our professors, the most beloved by everyone in our class because she constantly pushed us to be our best, once told my friend and I how delighted she was that our class in particular had become so close. We were fiercely protective of and completely loyal to each other. We cheered each other on, but we also knew how to be brutally honest when it was necessary. Our professor was so impressed because she had seen previous classes act very single-minded, and our closeness and the support we offered each other was refreshing–admirable, even.
During the spring of my freshman year, I was lucky enough to take a workshop with that beloved professor of ours–the last she taught of undergraduate classes for three years. I was thrilled to be in the class, though still somewhat terrified because I felt slightly inadequate as a young student and writer. It was a non-fiction workshop, and I had hardly written anything in that genre before (save for one or two pieces during my senior year of high school), so I believe my nerves were rightfully justified. The workshop turned out to be one of the most challenging and most rewarding classes I have ever taken–because of the professor, the material, and my classmates.
Around the same time, I befriended a quirky strawberry-blonde girl from my theory and application math class (good ol’ Mathematics for the Humanities) who was funny and sweet and invited me to join her during group work. It was after this, of course, that we realized we were in the same non-fiction class and that we had also been in the same Intro to Creative Writing class the previous semester. Erin and I quickly became very good friends, and not too long after, we also reached out to an older girl in our workshop because we admired her tattoos and thought she was ridiculously cool. We soon became friends with Megan as well and the three of us have had all sorts of crazy adventures since then.
Megan has been an incredible friend to me since the time we met five years ago. She is outgoing and outspoken, but equally sensitive and compassionate. We have bonded over everything from telling each other drunken shadow puppet bedtime stories about Bunny and Rabbit to analyzing Taylor Swift lyrics and liner notes while eating lots of trail mix. We drank tea and talked in strange accents. There was a strange incident involving a swamp-like dock in Maine one time, followed by a morning of drinking coffees in the vault at Aroma Joe’s. She always drew hilarious stick figure pictures on her edits of my writing in our workshop classes. When I was preparing to leave for Ireland, Megan truly understood how scared I was. My semester abroad happened to be her, Erin, and our friend Emily’s final undergraduate semester, so I was pretty emotional knowing that when I would come back to campus the following fall, they wouldn’t be there.
As a parting gift, Megan wrote me an encouraging letter (complete with stick figures) that I took with me to Ireland and kept close by when I needed a pick me up. She also gave me a necklace: a long chain attached to both ends of a slightly curved bar. It’s a very simple necklace. It is a sort of bronzy aluminum material, sleek and smooth. It has no special embellishments and the bar is only three or four inches long. But in her letter, Megan told me that I need not be worried about flying so far away from home, so far away from those friends who were so much like family to me. That no matter where I went, and no matter how far away I travelled, then and for the rest of my life, she was only ever as far away from me as the length of the line on that necklace.
Those words stuck with me, especially as I wore that necklace nearly every day I was in Ireland. It traveled with me to Spain, Italy, and England. I grasped it tightly in my hand when I returned after four months abroad and was scared to come home. I often rolled the bar between my fingers or clasped a hand over my chest to make sure it was still there, and it always felt like home to me–wherever that was and whoever it was with. There was a bit of time recently when I misplaced the necklace in one jewelry box or another, and I was terribly afraid that I had actually lost it. I found it a few months after though, and it’s been safely within my reach ever since. It hangs now from a hook with most of my other favorite pieces of jewelry. I wear it when I miss Megan or any of my other friends. When I feel homesick for a place I haven’t been or for somewhere I miss. I wear it when I’m happy or sad, or if I just need something to calm my nerves.
When I put on that necklace, the line reminds me that everyone I have ever and will ever love, those who I hold close to my heart day in and day out, is never too far away.