I withdrew from UMass Dartmouth one week into my Sophomore year in the fall of 2005.  I had been an excellent student throughout public school and college, but had yet to figure out a path I wished to take.  To this day I still think it’s a little crazy to expect 15-16 year olds to know what they want to do and to make a huge financial commitment with that decision.  Being depressed and living in fear my whole life, I didn’t really have many passions nor did I have a desire to risk failing at anything.  I needed to find a full-time job, so I entered into the managerial pool of the Kingston Mall.  I started with Hollister, but 6 months later I was recruited down the hall to Pacific Sunwear.

I met Katie in 2006 when I started working for PacSun.  We were both managers and hit it off instantly, continuing to get closer well after leaving the company.  When I started working that job, I was not in a good place at all.  I was in an extremely toxic relationship that I didn’t know how to get out of.  I could rely on Katie for a good jam out session at the store to help me feel better.  She would patiently listen to my tales of woe, but I could see in her eyes she wanted to shake me to my senses.  But never once in all of our years of friendship has she ever voiced her opinion of what I “should or should not” do.  She meets me wherever I am at, and takes it from there.  And despite how hopeless I felt at the time, she never gave up on me.  Eventually I gathered up the courage to leave that relationship, and entered into a healthier one.

I was recruited away from PacSun to American Eagle at the start of 2008.  This was the job I would eventually walk out on due to terrible working conditions.  This scary, bold move opened up the opportunity to move out of my mom’s house and in with my sister for the first time.  This moved me closer to Katie and we were able to embark on more adventures, including weekly karaoke nights at the local dive bar.  I eventually got a job at a nearby call center.  For a little while things seemed like they were looking up.  Then tragedy struck from multiple angles and I began to collapse under the pressure.  

Katie is the only friend I have that survived these two brutally dark phases of my early adulthood.  The first was when we first met, the second was during massage school.  Some friends I lost because of who I was, and some I had to let go of because of who they were.  Katie is the only close friend I have now that knew the “before” Nikki.  I don’t know what it was like for her to be my friend during those periods of my life.  Looking back I can only imagine the frustration and pain she must have felt to see someone she cared about in so much pain.  But she stuck around.  She is the only person in my life that has had such a direct, front row seat to my life-changing transformation.  She kept cheering for me, even if the stands were empty, because she saw something in me I couldn’t see in myself.  

She was the first person in a support system I would come to thrive off of.  Her personality, demeanor, and attitude towards life always kept me balanced.  Everyone who meets Katie loves her.  She is just one of those special human beings that impacts every soul she touches.   She honored me by choosing me to be her Maid of Honor when she got married.  10 years of Katie standing by my side through all of my relationship attempts culminated with a tear-jerking speech at the union of her very successful one.  I wanted to share with those who are most special to her, and her new family, that she changed my life.  She is a role model for friendship.  

She continues to amaze and inspire me as she grows her family in Rhode Island.  The biggest lessons I have learned from Katie are patience & acceptance.  Patience with those around you, and acceptance of their chosen path.  Patience with the process of life, and the acceptance of the circumstances it throws at you.  I’ve gotten to watch her live these values in her own life, as well as holding a safe space for those around her.  There is no single story to tell about this magnificent woman that explains why I am so grateful.  It is the collective 13+ years of pure love that explains it.  Katie will always be my BFFL.

Chapter Three