New York City has a lot to offer. Millions of inhabitants, visitors, and even I, can attest to this. But this isn’t a story about NYC and all it has to offer. This is a story about friendship. What this famed city holds for me is an individual that I had the good fortune of meeting, as fate would have it, almost five years ago in Accra, Ghana.
Our story began at a random hostel when we were haphazardly lumped together as roommates. She, originally from Sweden but living in NYC; me, from the USA but living in Germany. Little did we know then, when our paths crossed under the great weight of humidity and drive to pursue similar passions in life, that we would be blessed with the rarest of life’s gifts: a deep, life-long friendship.
After we each left Ghana, respectively, we met up again a few months later in NYC. There was a purpose behind this – I took an unpaid internship at the organization she worked for that was dedicated to microfinance with a focus on women. Several months of living with her, her wonderful husband and a cat that hated my guts in a tiny apartment in Queens solidified our new friendship (I nested quite comfortably on my twin air mattress in the living room). We would go to work together, taking the screeching, crowded subway that I subsequently miss after I relocated to the land of cars-only.
I was grateful for an opportunity to intern and gain experience in a field that encompassed women’s rights, though when not in the office or assisting colleagues with financial literacy for their clients, I was ferociously looking and applying for jobs. It took all that I had in me not to give up looking for paid work in a field that is painfully selective and incredibly difficult to crack.
Finally, my relentless, months-long pursuit of finding actual employment with a women’s organization paid off (my purpose for being in Germany, Ghana and NYC). Serendipitously, I found a job at a domestic violence victims’ service organization back in my home town of Seattle, USA. I departed NYC exactly four years ago in May 2008 to commence my career as a women’s rights activist, thrilled to finally receive both 40 hours a week and remuneration for walking the talk that dictates my life.
Fast forward four years to May 2012. Many changes have happened globally and personally. Louisa and I have kept in touch throughout. A notification a few months ago from one of my frequent flyer air mile programs threatening evaporation of my miles if not used compelled me to choose a long weekend to return for a visit. For one who is naturally inclined toward excessive productivity and has little interest (or time) for fun, this was a step way out of my box.
And it could not have come at a better time. I was recently promoted into management at my DV organization – a welcomed development. I thrive with constant challenge and have been rewarded with many upon assuming this job. I didn’t realize how much I needed to “chill out” until I stepped out of my day-to-day environment and found myself back in a place where I had nurtured the beginnings of my career by visiting a person with whom I just fall right back into sync.
Louisa took a couple days off work and another Swedish friend of ours, whom we also met in Ghana back in 2007 and who now works for the EU in Brussels, flew over, completing our few, precious days of the purely wonderful girl time that no longer seems to exist save but in pockets when one lives the ‘grown up’ life consisting of a rewarding full-time job, a committed partnership, volunteering and a mortgage.
We three trundled through Manhattan, snapping pictures, reminiscing, parking ourselves at lovely locations for a beer or two and basking in the intimacy that comes from these exquisite and priceless connections. There is such freedom in reuniting with friends and intentionally taking time away from the day-to-day. From this enlightened perspective I wonder why it is so hard for me to take time away. I’ve not been that relaxed or laughed so much in a long time. And now, once I’ve done it, I don’t know why I waited so long. It wasn’t about the museums, or the markets (though we did have great success finding sartorial prizes in second-hand stores), or Central Park or Harlem – though we did saunter through all of these. It was about being purposeful and stopping for a few days to experience the beauty of friendship.
Lesson learned: I won’t wait another four years.