“A friendship can weather most things and thrive in thin soil; but it needs a little mulch of letters and phone calls and small, silly presents every so often – just to save it from drying out completely.” -Pam Brown
Once upon a time I wrote a story about four girls’ journey through life, love, and possibly Oregon. The series has motivated me in many ways in my life, and it has served as entertainment for anyone else who had read it. I didn’t know then if we would ever make it to Oregon. Our funds were low, not every parent wanted their kid to go on this adventurous trip, and I wasn’t for sure if there were going to be any happy endings. I just hoped that in end the end we would eventually figure everything out.
In ‘A Little Mulch of Letters’ I finally finish the story that was sort of paused a couple of years ago. It still may not have a happy ending, but then again life doesn’t always have one either.
Here’s the original story, Oregon Or Bust. Now go read the next part…
(Based on a true story. All the names have been changed for obvious reasons)
I have a bad habit of dropping everything and driving away when I was deep in thought and frustrated. I leave, hop on a bike, walk into the woods, get in the car and drive away instead of just going to the gym or knitting or some sh%t like other people do when they have something on their mind. My anxiety continues to rise if I don’t just grab my keys and walk out of the door. I have to go out and be anywhere else but where the trapped feeling started from, and I leave with the intention of figuring everything out on my spontaneous trip.
This time, however, I drove from where the anxiety originally started, went back to the place where I was currently staying at, and continued further on into the place where I used to call home. I grabbed a few bags filled to the brim with clothes and just took off in hopes of gaining perspective on my life and to just get a break from it all. I broke free from the city and returned to my small town country roots grabbing my “okay-to-ruin-jeans” and my old T-shirts. I left hoping that the breath of fresh air that I loved about nature would clear my mind enough to rejuvenate my spirits and calm me down, and of course, seeing my good friend since second grade didn’t hurt either.
“So it’s okay if I come down and spend about five days at your house right?” I said after a lengthy phone conversation with my friend Jessica. I had recently driven about an hour from where I had met my boyfriend earlier and decided that I needed to go somewhere other than the place where I was staying at.
“Yeah sure! It will be so much fun getting to see you again! We haven’t met up in over a year now. It’s totally overdue.” She responded. I could hear her smile slowly spilling out the burst of excitement that she held for my homecoming. I couldn’t help but catch the happiness that she emitted over the phone for my inevitable return to the town that I grew up in.
That afternoon I began packing for my spontaneous trip to the country, and within about a day or so I grabbed my bags and continued my journey north toward the flat lands of the agriculture-based valley. I first stopped at one of my other friend’s house who I had met back in Kindergarten. Her strict parents didn’t allow me to stay the night at her place, but we managed to spend the day catching up with each other around town. We stopped for lunch at a local pizza place to really catch up with everything that we had missed since we had gotten together over a year ago. I let the encounter begin with a couple of bites from a delicious pizza pie before I got down to the tough questions.
“So, what have you been up to?” I asked wiping the little bit of flavorful tomato sauce from the corner of my mouth.
She looked at me and put down her slice of pizza. “It’s sort of all the same,” she said to me as she gazed off into the corner of the restaurant.
Her situation was a complicated one. Like me, I could tell that she wanted to be living off on her own and doing what she wanted to do. She had a lot of time left at school to finish and she was lacking the funds in order to move out of her parents’ house. I took a bite out of my pizza.
“I looked at how I was a few years ago, and I see myself now, and I’m just trying to figure out how I could be more like how I was back then,” Natalie said looking back in my direction.
I couldn’t help her with her complicated situation since I was in a somewhat of similar one. All I could do was hang out with her for the rest of the day and promise that I would keep in touch with her before I left her house that evening.
“Oh, before I leave, could you give me directions to this ranch?” I asked Natalie and her dad.
They started giving me the most complicated directions that I have ever received in my life. “The person I was meeting up with said that it should only be about five minutes away from this area,” I said with a puzzled face.
“Who gave you those directions?” Her dad asked.
“Umm, Jessica,” I mumbled under my breath. A look of shock and anger shot out at me from Natalie in response to just the sound of Jessica’s name.
“You guys are still talking with her?” Natalie’s dad asked.
“Uh, I am.”
I eventually got the directions from Natalie’s house to the ranch and shuffled quickly out of the door. Obviously leaving the house was the most awkward thing now knowing that Natalie was a little upset at the fact that I was departing from her house to go visit someone that she sort of hated, and in that instance I couldn’t help but flash back to a time when we were all friends just trying to take a trip to Oregon.
We just never made it there.
Click the pic for a video…
Over a year ago my three friends and I planned a trip to Oregon so that Jessica could visit the boy she had told me she fell in love with, kissed and held hands with on the playground. He was the one that had made the couple receive ridicule from all of the kids in our school because he was too hyper and didn’t fit in with the cool kids.
He joked around with her, “If you married me, you wouldn’t have to change your last name because it would remain the same anyways,” since they both had shared the same surname, but were fortunately not related to one another.
He had given her his mother’s earrings and told my friend that he had loved her in front of the whole school. Embarrassed, and sort of flattered, my friend decided to break up with him in junior high. She wanted to fit in, and he was never going to.
Within months after the break up her first love left the school and moved with his family to the state of Oregon, and after a reconnection on Facebook in college and a visit from Ethan in California after years of separation, Jessica decided to return the favor and visit Ethan in Oregon.
Unfortunately, it all didn’t work out, but the four of us girls still met together in my hometown.
Stress from school, work, and various other things sent Jessica into a rage that sort of stung the rest of the group. I admit it now that I was upset that Tiffany, the girl that I had met and had been friends with all throughout college, had gotten a terrible first impression of my best friend. Natalie took it harder and (without disclosing a series of other terrible events that happened during that trip) eventually severed all ties with Jessica. I had taken to my blog and published a defaming post that I eventually took down, and after a week or so of ignoring each other Jessica and I made up—Natalie and Jessica never did.
I tried over and over for the past year to get everyone back together again to no avail. The weekend I had worked so hard to bring everyone together blew up in my face, and it took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I would never get all four of us into the same room again.
Several months ago I even tried to create another blog that would secretly reunite the four of us through posted notes and emails that I had named, ‘A Little Mulch of Letters.’ The blog, unlisted and collecting dust still sits on the internet with a post to the girls begging them to just get along with each other at least for me.
I had been friends with these girls for a long time, and it’s still sort of upsetting that my closest friends don’t even get along with one another. A sharp reminder of that initial pain shot through my body as I drove from Natalie’s house that first day over to the ranch where Jessica was working that day.
I guess a little mulch of letters weren’t enough to keep us all together.
Jessica and I spent our first evening at the ranch and then at her place catching up on over a year of events away from each other. We chatted about our day, planned for the upcoming week, and had a talk about the fallout that happened when we were last together.
We woke up the next day and ventured through my old town going to old restaurants, eating at the town’s historic ice cream parlor, and drinking in the “charming” small town bars. It wasn’t until the day after that when we found ourselves wandering through the older part of the town in and out of the places that I had fond memories of and back into time where the past was preserved.
We walked into an old antique shop filled with knickknacks and items, which in my mind didn’t really seem that old, but were covered in dust and the tinged yellow edging that develops over time.
I had realized then that I was older—my old town was older—but that I still saw the same elements of our character that made us who we were. I think that’s why, in a way, I ended up coming back to the old country town. I was heading back to the basics in order to sort of find myself again just as Natalie was attempting to do.
I also noticed then that the reason why I was a little frustrated with my situation, and with my amazing boyfriend, in the first place was because my boyfriend had done everything right, graduated from college, got into a high paying job, and then quit.
He was free from an uncertain future, he had a chance to move wherever he wanted and live life happily and stress free but he chose to come back to the situation where, I and all my other college aged friends, were into the land of the unknown. At first I couldn’t understand it, but his choice to venture off and explore other possibilities sort of started to make sense.
“‘At the end of the day, all of us, without exception, will eventually die. How we choose to live until that point is up to us. Do you really want to have regrets when you’re lying there in that casket?’” my boyfriend quoted his uncle in a blog post after his grandfather’s wake.
“‘Regret,’ [t]he one thing that all of us have that we wish we didn’t. After the wake, and well into the following weeks, I thought about my current career path and the many times I’ve looked over the fence at other things that I wanted to try. It took weeks, but I finally got the balls to do something about it. So, I took action…
…I quit my job.
I quit my software engineering position that I had for only three months. It was a super slow company with a really boring environment, but it came with nice pay and benefits. I always thought I was the guy who could be happy with that type of position. I mean, I could have easily gotten a place and started a good life with the money I was making, and probably could have stayed there a good amount of time. But when I was at the position, not a day passed where I didn’t think, ‘I feel like I’m too young to sign myself over to this safe, boring corporate life. There’s still more that I need to see and experience.’ I couldn’t just live for the weekend every week. And, I’m young; I have time on my side. So I took the plunge, gave my two weeks’ notice, and went on my merry way.
Did I go against what everyone told me to do and thought I should have done? Yes, yes I did. Do I care what others think of my decision? Nope, not in the slightest, I will admit that quitting my position was rash, [b]ut, after having 6-7 jobs before the age of 23 and feeling bored/unfulfilled in almost all of them, I’m pretty sure that I need a little change of pace. I’m still keeping my foot in the programming world with a part time position, and will fulfill my medical urge by starting an EMT class within the next couple of weeks and see where it takes me.
It took forever, but I’ve finally come to terms that I need to do what I see fit, and not go the comfortable route or do what anyone else tells me to do. Life really is too short to have those regrets, and I accept that fact.”
It sounds corny, but the whole follow your heart deal and “just see where life takes me” sort of stopped myself from having the mini panic attack that drove me away from the city hundreds of miles away out into the country side. I obviously still wanted to already be completely self-sufficient and out on my own, but I was a little more content with where I was on my journey to my ultimate goal.
Like my boyfriend, I would use this time to experience other things and live life like one of those young people, and of course still be smart about it. There will come a time when I will look back on the past and I rather not have to look back with the weight and burden of regret. I planned on slowing my mind down a bit, like the unhurried pace of my old country town, and I would live in the moment while I could.
Before I know it I would be done with my undergraduate degree and searching for a job. I would find a balance where I could still support myself and everything, but I could find something that didn’t make me want to jump off of a bridge or punch some stranger in the face every morning. And of course, I just don’t want to get into one looking back on everything with a pile of regrets.
My best friend told me that she had felt safe in the sturdy arms of this Ethan’s embrace. She couldn’t help but let out a warm smile when all of their shared childhood memories came flooding back into her mind. It was incredibly obvious that they possessed mutual feelings of deep attraction between them.
But that was then.
Over the course of a year Ethan had come to California, went back to Oregon and helped Jessica see that the other boy, who drank heavily, wasn’t the best thing for her. Between the Danielle Steel-esque relationship drama, class, work and multiple jobs, Jessica had a little piece of her heart taken away to Oregon after that. She knew, however, that in the end that all of the drama was worth it and that it wasn’t a bust.
We all lived and learned from everything that took place and the feeling that a little piece of her heart was taken away soon faded after realizing that maybe they weren’t the best for each other either. In fact, after another encounter with a boy that taught my friend many life lessons, Jessica found her current boyfriend who she has been going out with for almost a year now.
TJ was a tall and very intelligent country guy totally in love with the idea of becoming a mechanic, cars, and most notably Jessica. By the end of the third day of my stay in my small country town Jessica, TJ and I all went out to dinner to get to know one another.
“I’m so happy! I get to have my two favorite people finally meet each other!” my best friend squealed in excitement.
I watched the couple interact, sneaking in quick kisses and adorable swift hugs. This sounds really cheesy, but it really tugged at my heart strings and made me miss my boyfriend. Even as the young couple hugged each other I couldn’t help but try and stop myself from hugging the two of them.
I could tell that they truly loved each other and that the duo was far better off together than any of Jessica’s other relationships. I could comfortably look back on her past relationships and see how, no matter how crazy they were, they helped her learn something new and realize other things about herself that she hadn’t recognized before.
I’m still a strong believer in the idea that everything happens for a reason, and that night I was able to see the turn of events that led up to the couple’s loving-embrace. In my mind—nothing was a bust.
Busy streets filled with quickly moving cars that carried on to heavy congested traffic on the highways; it was a stark difference from the slow-paced cow-filled town back in the Central Valley. I had attempted to empty my mind and dig deeper to find myself in the wide open spaces under the bright blue country skies, but of course, any success made in this endeavor would be wiped clean with the large industrial towers grouped together in the large city.
I had about two weeks to get my online and office work schedule together before I had to start classes again. I dove right into queuing posts and writing articles before I realized that the random trip that I took to the Central Valley hadn’t really gotten rid of any of my concerns. Apparently you really couldn’t run away from your problems.
I took time during my allotted breaks to soul search and also to research solutions in order to figure out all of my problems by the time that I went back to school, but because life doesn’t work that way I was instead left in a state of panic.
Thoughts about my final quarter in college, grad school programs, job and career decisions, travel, and money started to bombard me. My transient lifestyle was okay for a hippie college student, but concerns about adulthood out in the real world hit me like a ton of bricks.
I had friends moving out on their own, traveling the world, getting married, having kids with their careers and houses and such and just becoming the type of responsible adults that I wanted to be. I was worried, along with my currently problematic car, that I wouldn’t be able to get to where I wanted to be in life because I wasn’t where I wanted to be right now—if that makes any sense.
It’s funny though, a talk that I had with my boyfriend about pursing a new career had made its way back to me as advice from my mom. The whole not being afraid to make mistakes and take chances eased my concerns a little, and it was all fine and dandy to think that way, but I still had one major concern on my mind about my decision making and achieving my goals. I knew it was okay to make mistakes and mess up at the moment because I was young, but besides just changing the course of my life, I knew that my decision could also ruin something that I considered great.