Why I Always Celebrate Friend-versaries

In September 2008, I rolled out of bed at the tender hour of 5:50 a.m. and started my first day of work making breakfast burritos at the small food court on campus. It was a student job—one I took for its flexibility and easy cash. It was here, though, that I met some of my closest friends—Meg, Emma, and Anastasia.

Early-morning shifts facilitate some of the best friendships. The four of us bonded over 20-pound bags of liquid egg that we scrambled, then scooped into warming trays. As oatmeal bubbled away on the burner, we called in with answers to a local radio show’s daily trivia contest. In the moments leading up to 7:30 a.m., as a lead staff member went to open the food court doors, the four of us smoothed our aprons, tucked loose hair underneath hat brims, and, on more than one occasion, applied a quick sweep of red lipstick that clashed with absolutely everything we wore, but made mornings more fun.

I worked that shift alongside my friends for three years. During those years we saw each other regularly. We ate breakfast together after our shifts ended, hosted multi-course, all-day dinner parties, and squeezed in a road trip or two. When one of us was sick (or, in my case, sleeping through the alarm clock), we covered their work shift, no questions asked.

And then we graduated and I didn’t know what to expect.

What I found was that, though our friendship looked different, we still continued to celebrate and support each other. We mailed letters that crisscrossed the country. We reviewed resumes and offered edits and suggestions. Every couple of years I’d travel to Montana, crashing on their couches and working my way through their fridges. At one point, the three of them took a 36-hour bus ride from Montana to Kansas to visit me in the scorching Wichita heat, then boarded the bus back to their homes.

Time has a way of sneaking up fast. Ten years later and we’re still friends. As Meg likes to remind us, if you’ve been friends with someone for seven years, you’ll likely be friends with them for life.

More often than not, commemorating anniversaries is often reserved for romantic partners, not friends. Ten years of friendship seemed like too big of a friend-versary to miss, though, and so we got planning. Really, it started as a joke. Someone sent an email saying we should celebrate with a trip to some fantastical location. Hawaii was thrown into the mix. We joked about how incredible our friend-versary would be, laying on beaches and sipping drinks from umbrella-topped glasses.  

And then pieces started falling into place. Anastasia’s boss had a timeshare in Hawaii that she gifted us. Emma found cheap tickets out of Seattle—so cheap we wondered if we’d been scammed. A spreadsheet of activities was created, then a countdown calendar.

Suddenly we were on a plane, flying south toward Hawaii. The week was a blur of beaches, museums, hikes, and adventures. We discovered that the Kauai Humane Society lets folks borrow dogs for the day, so we borrowed Balto the dog and took him with us. Dodging raindrops, we sprinted into the Kauai Museum to learn about the island’s history. We kept a running joke about the Honeymoon Special—a Jeep that rental car companies try to persuade everyone to upgrade to. And, after discovering that a local coffee company had an island-wide scavenger hunt, we jumped in our non-Honeymoon Special car and wound our way up the coast, crossing off items as they appeared.

We returned from our trip and resumed our daily friendship routines. It’s not uncommon to start the morning swapping dinner leftovers with Emma, who lives several blocks away from me now. Anastasia sends us the occasional update on a pet pig that lives in her office building. Meg and I are regular pen pals—she writes on thick, fancy stationary with a fountain pen and I scribble on lined notebook paper. Emma and I frequently lend each other cooking ingredients, cross country ski boots, and power tools. Recently, I jumped in the car and drove a few hours to meet up with Meg. Our sole goal? Watching Taylor Swift’s “Reputation” tour on Netflix.

Our friendship, like all relationships, will continue to change as time passes, and we’ll continue to make it work by celebrating and supporting one another in ways both big and small. Plus, we’re already planning for our 20th friend-versary. Location details are hazy, but we know we’ll definitely be reserving the Honeymoon Special Jeep.

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