It would be a lie to say that Havah and I immediately clicked. We met through a mutual friend at the end of sixth grade, but by that time I’d already formed a hasty opinion of her. I observed, judged, and decided from afar that I wasn’t interested in forming a relationship. She was too chirpy to the point of being obnoxious, and at an age where irrationalities ran high, I succumbed to my first impressions without further thought.
It wasn’t until seventh grade that I realized just how wrong I was. I’m not entirely sure the exact day we considered each other best friends, but the pages of my journal reflected a transition from frustration to excitement as my relationship with Havah blossomed. From using creative insults to memorize vocabulary words and discussing the prospects of life after death on our walks after school, I realized that her chirpiness was an optimistic outlook on life that I embrace today and her obnoxiousness was simply unfounded. Her encouragements helped me realize my love for journaling, while my support helped her discover her passion for biology and we watched her 76% in sixth grade science boost to 95% in seventh grade. From the laughs we shared in Chipotle and the hours we spent perfecting our peanut throws at Five Guys to being vegetarian and going to our first debate tournament together, Havah was right alongside me as we figured life out.
Our interests in creative writing and similar approaches to life provided a strong basis for a collaboration on a novel in eighth grade, but not all conflicts were easily resolved. We set tight deadlines and high expectations, and argued over trivial aspects of the plot or what the cover should look like. But our bond strengthened as we learned to effectively communicate with each other, and in three months, finished the novel in 80,000 words and 26 chapters. Although “Tangled in Love” was filled with misplaced periods and run-on sentences, I’m proud we reached our goal and learned so much in the process. But all things come to an end, and middle school was no exception. We’d already discussed our matriculation to different high schools, but the tears fell nonetheless. Our yearbook messages were short and sweet, encompassing years of friendship in two inside jokes that will forever bring a smile to our faces.
My relationship with Havah has changed since middle school, but the unconditional support we had for each other still remains. She was there for me when I twisted my knee in ninth grade and I was there for her as she learned about her identity. We spend Friday nights catching up on our lives, sometimes going back to Chipotle where it all started or calling each other when our schedules conflict. We spend breaks exploring the next chapter of our lives, planning our next novel or trekking across the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge to explore nature’s finest. And when we’re lost in the serenity of the trees around us, I’m reminded of the importance of looking beyond the superficial and appreciating all the cultures around me—because without an open mind, I would have missed out on one of best friendships of my life. Havah may not always be right by my side, but the lessons she has placed in my heart are more than enough. And perhaps, one day, I’ll leave a mark on the world as long-lasting as the influence Havah has left on my life.