Image description: Me, a pale brunette wearing a purple sweatshirt and Anna, a pale blonde wearing a tie-dye shirt, both smiling at the camera.
My best friend Anna and I have known each other for around fourteen years – which equates to almost half our lives! Our friendship started out online – we were both members of a Christian youth message board. In 2008, we had a convo around these lines:
“I’m going back to college this fall!”
“Yay, so am I! Where are you going?”
“Ye Olde Christian College.”
“REALLY!! SO AM I!”
After we both got to Ye Olde Christian College, we were hanging out together in the student center. After mention various message boards and various user names, we found out that we had actually both been on another message board together before and had indeed interacted. I like to say we knew each other before we knew we knew each other.
Anna and I are more like sisters than friends. She’s certainly my best friend. She’s the one who can read me like a book. I can say “Oh, it’s the thing that does the *hand motion and sound effect*” and 99.9% of the time, she knows what I’m talking about. She accepts who I am with my weird like for Disney songs in languages I’ll never understand and doesn’t think it’s silly that at age twenty eight, I still watch Sesame Street (because she does too!).
Image description: Me wearing a sock monkey hat and a Muppets t shirt, sticking out my tongue and Anna wearing an Elephant hat and a bright orange Northwestern Eagles T-shirt. She is grinning at the camera.
Before you think this is merely a sappy entry about my best friend, it isn’t. It’s about something that is a HUGE problem in today’s society. It’s a problem I face every time I leave my apartment, and something Anna faces whenever she goes out with me.
You see, I am physically disabled. There are a lot of things I cannot do for myself. I can take care of my basic needs. I can walk, although I use a walker or crutches most days. Anna drives us places, because since I am legally low vision I cannot get a license. Anna has spent long nights in the ER with me, has driven me to doctor’s appointments when my ride failed yet again, and has been at the hospital with me through two surgeries. She’s helped me clean my apartment when I’m too sick to and she’s even sent me pizza when I’m too sick to cook.
But here’s the thing. Even if I wasn’t disabled, Anna would still do these things for me. She would still help me. Yet time and time again, so often when people see us out and about, they tell me how lucky I am to have a friend like her. To her, they put her on a pedestal she is not comfortable with. And the way they word it implies that I’m not capable of doing things with her. I am, oh, how I am. I present with you, Exhibit A: or what we affectionally call “The Impound Lot Adventure from Hell.” The scene: A cold Minnesotan winter.
We’re Minnesotan, so it gets hella cold here. And it snows. So, we moved her car so they could plow the lot. To make a long story somewhat shorter, her car got towed. Her parents lived roughly forty minutes away and we have no local friends to call, so we’re like “Okay. We’ll take the bus. It won’t be that bad.”
Yeah. “It won’t be that bad.” Famous last words. First, we got off at the wron
Image description: Anna, wearing a purple coat and black pants and me, wearing a black sweatshirt and jeans, while leaning on my Christmas light (!!) crutches. We are standing outside in the winter. It is snowy. We are in front of the college dorms at her first college. Picture is from several years ago (2010, I think?), so we both look younger.
g stop and had to wait for the next bus to loop back around. Did that. Got off at the “right” stop. Walked the wrong direction. Walked back the right direction and to the impound lot (three miles in all). I was sick, I was in pain, it was below freezing, and just all around miserable. At that pound, my cell phone was completely dead and I don’t remember if Anna had hers with her. We get to the impound lot and surprise! wrong lot. We were both near tears at that point and I finally told Anna to just hail a cab. So we do and we get to the right lot. Then either her card didn’t work/they didn’t accept debit card/something like that so we ultimately HAD to call her parents to bail us out. We then went home, had pizza, and drank Mike’s Hard Lemonade.
Here’s the thing. That’s not the only time I’ve helped Anna out, though that’s the most memorable. I’ve been the person she’s vented to. I’ve been her support person when she’s gone to places that have been difficult. I’ve helped her sort through stuff. I’ve helped her figuring out adulting – such as bills, student loans, insurance, all that fun stuff. She doesn’t help me out because she feels sorry for me for being disabled or because she feels she has to. I don’t help her out because I feel I have to in return. I do it because we’re friends.
We aren’t friends because I’m disabled. I don’t go above and beyond for her because I feel I have to in return for things she’s done for me. I mean, that would be as silly as saying we’re friends because I took pity on her for being blonde when I’m a brunette. We’re friends because we both love Sesame Street, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings. We’re friends because we both love to read – Chris Crutcher is our favorite. We’re friends because we make random sound effects as we go about our day to day life. We’re friends because we have similar political beliefs. We’re friends because we have countless inside jokes. We’re friends because we can read each other like a book. We’re friends because we’re both fiercely stubborn. We’re friends because we can sit in the living room without saying a word both on our laptops, and it’s not awkward. We can drive somewhere and the car can be silent, and it’s not awkward. We’re friends because she’s compassionate, caring, hilarious, and one of the most loyal friends I’ve ever had. Anna has seen me at my best and my worst, and she still chooses to be my friend.
Now, we are lucky and blessed beyond measure to have each other. Not everybody gets to have a friendship as beautiful and fun and wild and amazing as ours, and that in and of itself is amazing. We are lucky, in that regard, to have found the perfect friend for us. The person who knows us so well. But the reason we are lucky and blessed to have each other isn’t because I’m disabled and it isn’t because she helps me out. The reason we are lucky is that in this world, it can be so hard to find good friends that you WANT to keep in contact with, that you WANT in your life. And we both found that person in each other.
Image: Me, wearing a blue t shirt and a hat and Anna, wearing a purple Birkie t-shirt and holding the koala I got her in Adelaide. We are both smiling at the camera.
Crux of it is, if you wouldn’t say it to an able bodied person, don’t say it to me. Don’t say I’m lucky because xyz if you wouldn’t if I was able bodied. Don’t tell me I’m lucky to have such a wonderful friend, because I know full well how lucky I am. I wasn’t the kind of kid who made friends easily when I was younger and I’m so beyond grateful to have friends now. I’m so grateful to call Anna a part of my family of choice. But I am not lucky to have her merely because I’m disabled. That’s ableist, and demeaning to our relationship. It implies that she only gives and I only take, when we BOTH give and we BOTH take, though sometimes one of us does more of one or the other for awhile before it flips back over.
We are lucky because in this wild world, we have such a loyal friend.