The Trip That Changed Everything

My friend Rachel and I had always talked about visiting Boston. So when I was surfing the web on a quiet day at the law firm where I worked, I perked up when a flashing red pop-up offered a cheap fare there. I made sure my boss wasn't looking as I pulled up my personal email on the big computer monitor.

I quickly typed, "Hey Rach, cheap tickets to Boston! You in?!"

I could almost hear her cute squeal of excitement, normally reserved for a sappy romantic movie or cheap drink specials, as I read her quick response.

"Oh my God, yes!!!"

With those four words, planning for the trip that would change my life had begun.

Rachel was my "little" sister in my college sorority. Even though I had graduated a few months before, we still maintained a bit of that almost parental-esqe hierarchy in our friendship, but shared a common love of traveling. We started researching activities to fill our weekend. With so many fun plans in the works, we thought "why limit our adventure to two?"

I reached out to another sorority sister, Kelly, and asked if she wanted to join us. With her infectious, booming laugh and easygoing demeanor, Kelly was easily my favorite travel companion. Sitting on the red couch in her parents' living room, she fired up her laptop and booked her ticked right after I asked. Kel was always looking for a new adventure.

A few weeks later, I sat in the dark basement bar of my best friend Jamie's home. Two years older than I, we had described our bond as an open book -- except we were always on different chapters. She was married, with big dreams to fill her newly-purchased home with 2.5 kids and PTA meetings. I was single and desperately trying to balance both rent payments and shoe purchases. But our friendship stayed rooted in memories of talking until the early morning in the shared bedroom of our sorority house and laughing until our sides hurt.

"So, are you excited to head to Boston next weekend?" Jamie asked.

I nodded as I took a sip of my beer.

"Well, good... because I'm coming with you!" she added.

And with that, our threesome had become a foursome.

We rolled into Boston on a chilly Friday morning in January. Thanks to a combination of the travel gods and a discount hotel website, our home for the weekend was the plush Boston Park Plaza. Quickly ditching the seven suitcases we brought with us, we headed toward the one thing needed before we could start exploring the city -- caffeine.

A five-minute walk led us to Starbucks in the nearby CityPlace plaza. Boston was full of coffee shops, but this place felt different. It had an odd shape and just a few chairs. The smell of coffee engulfed us as we opened the door. Our clothes were stained with the aroma for hours.

We wiped the sleep from our eyes and plopped down with our drinks. We were getting ready to head on a tour of nearby Emerson College, a school that topped my short list of graduate school options. As she sipped on her coffee, Jamie started to drill me.

"How much is it? Can you get a GA position? Where would you live? When would you come home?"

That was Jamie. She asked a lot of questions and was sometimes a little too brash -- but she always had my best interests at heart. She was the foundation of my support system and believed in me more than anyone.

"Calm down, Jame! It's only 9 a.m. Now, let's talk about the guy we saw in that alleyway... what he was wearing?" Kelly interjected, lightening the

And that was my Kelly. She always brought some comedy to a situation, made everyone feel at ease. Her smile made me feel like I always had someone in my corner, someone to have my back.

Rachel sat off in a brown chair as she stirred her green straw in her Frappacino. The chair fit her; always a bit set back from the action. Still, she could always make me smile after hearing her cute little giggle fill the room.

The conversation took off from there, falling into the kind of familiarity that's comfortable between old friends. We chatted about how our hotel room, littered with hairspray bottles and blue jeans, reminded us of life in the sorority house. We thought about grabbing seafood for dinner and made plans to see the Sam Adams brewery.

The conversation soon turned back to Emerson. They started talking about my possible future again. I leaned back and tuned out the conversation, content to enjoy the moment with friends. I guess that, deep-down, I knew that someday soon we might not all be this close.


"Next, please!"

The call to action from the barista at that same Starbucks brought my head out of the clouds. The girl who had first walked into coffee shop two years earlier was gone. Time and experiences had taken my life and the life of my friends on a different path.

After I moved to Boston, Rachel navigated through her last two years of college. It became more of a struggle to relate to each other -- it turned out that being in the same place had actually been the most common denominator in our friendship.

Kelly had a demanding job as a social worker. Our most frequent connection came through messages left on each other's voicemails after unanswered phone calls.

"Hey Am, it's me, just calling to say hi! I miss you a lot."

"Hi Kel, just calling to see how things were going! I hope we can finally talk soon."

I lived in constant fear of making sure our friendship never turned to simply playing catch-up.

Two months later after our trip, Jamie got the news that she had been waiting for -- she was pregnant. The contrasts of our new lives sometimes became too much for our friendship to handle. Pauses in our now-monthly chats held an underlying sadness that meant we missed each other more than words could really say.

As I stirred a Splenda packet into my drink, I scanned the room one last time. I heard the laughs of my girlfriends in my head, remembered how things used to be, gave the barista a bittersweet smile and headed out the door.