You know when you’re friends with someone who just gets you? Someone who knows you almost better than you know yourself? Who has seen you at your worst, knows all your flaws, yet still manages to love you? Well, if you have someone like this, you can count yourself lucky! Michelle is that person to me.
Michelle and I met back in the summer of 2010 when we both took a leap of faith and moved to Shanghai to teach at this little school in the zoo. Little did I know then that eight years later, not only would we still be in contact, but we’d be such close friends. At first, we were more acquaintances than actual friends. If you ask Michelle, she’d attribute it to “2010 Jen” as she lovingly refers to how I was back then. However, when I met Michelle, I knew we’d end up being friends, it just took her a little while longer to figure out that she couldn’t live without me. 😉 Fast forward to 2013, the year we both moved into admin positions at our school. There’s something about being thrown in the fire to bond two people together. We experienced so much in those two years that tested us in every way possible, and while we weren’t always happy with one another (I think at one point, we were both yelling with tears in our eyes, stressed to the max at some school crisis, taking it out on each other), we had to rely on one another to get through it. Through that time, we developed an unbreakable bond that has kept us close, despite the oceans and miles that separate us.
As only best friends can have, we have so many ridiculous inside jokes, stories, and nicknames that only we know. We can crack each other up by simply shouting any number of phrases that only we get-“Reeeeennnnnyyyy!” “Jammed up and jelly tight.” “You name the babies, I’ll name the dogs.” “Rascal!” “But we both know that you’re basic.” “Rock the Kes-Baugh!” “Beck-ster!” “At least yours isn’t refurbished!!”…and the list goes on and on!
In the past three years, during which time Michelle repatriated to Texas and I moved to three different countries, we have kept in touch with our regular FaceTime dates, text messages, and travel adventures. We’ve taken two cruises, a couple road trips to NOLA, and, most recently, a trip to Paris together. On top of that, Michelle’s spent the past few Christmases with me and my family. I know she’s going to be one of those people who’s always in my life. We’ll always find a way to see one another, even if it’s on another continent! (She’s coming to visit me in Jakarta in a couple of months!! Eeeeek!)
Today’s Michelle’s birthday, and as I look back over the past year, I couldn’t be more proud of her. This past year has been a roller coaster for her, and she’s had to handle more than anyone should ever have to, especially at our age. After deciding to move abroad again, and getting a killer job, something happened with the school and the job fell through. Set back, but not defeated, she worked hard to find a new job at a reputable school.
During the physical (a necessary step to obtain a work visa), her doctor found that she had a mass. A biopsy confirmed it was Stage 3 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The C-word. Something no one ever wants or expects to hear, but certainly not a young, active, healthy 30-something. Instead of feeling sorry for herself or giving up, she fought it. Taking on aggressive treatments and making changes in her life, she’s been able to greatly reduce the size of the mass. While it’s not gone, the doctors are hopeful that with monthly treatments, it will continue to shrink. She’s regained a lot of her energy, and has a positive outlook on her future.
On top of that, there have been other stresses that have tried to knock her down, but the fighter that she is won’t allow herself to be beat. She’s the strongest person I know, and she’s not going down without a fight! So today, on Michelle’s 36th birthday, I want to wish her the best day ever! This day, this year, is going to be your year. I can feel it. I love you and wouldn’t want to do this thing called life without you!
Happy Birthday friend!! 🙂 Love ya!!