Roughly seven years ago I had just transferred to NAU and was living in Flagstaff, Arizona. On the first day, I was waiting for my Philosophies of the World class to start when a girl with a scorpion tattoo on her foot wandered up to me, slightly panicked, trying to find her class — which happened to be the same class as me. I offered her some of the strawberries I was eating, learned her name was Mikaela, and we become instant friends. Our time together that year was filled with day trips to the Grand Canyon, endless hours drinking chai in coffee shops, and getting snowed in for days at a time.
Over the last seven years, Mikaela has remained one of my closest friends — she is an endless source of joy, laughter and unconditional support. Living in San Diego put me at a six-hour drive from her so I took a long weekend, loaded up on some WWII fiction audiobooks, and made the drive out to see her.
Mikaela is a tough-ass woman. Her job has her making rim-to-rim Grand Canyon backpacking jobs for most of the summer. At 100 pounds, she carries 60+lb packs for hours on end. Now our weekend didn’t entail all that, but we did manage to squeeze in plenty of Northern Arizona goodness during my quick trip to see her. In one day, we drove to Page, Arizona to see Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon and then drove out to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, which ended up being completely empty due to winter’s near arrival.
The weekend was everything I needed. Mikaela and I have both grown, experienced indescribable pain, and immeasurable joy as we’ve tried to carve out our paths in this world. But at the end of the day, we are still a pair of friends that find ourselves erupting in laughter for hours on end over how ridiculous we are together. One of the hardest things in the world is learning how to love yourself and that is made so much easier when you find a friend who loves you at your darkest.