There was a white dress, matched with a kilt. Blends of European heritage decorated the church and reception. There was plenty of beer and dancing. There were lovers, friends and the belief that both things – friendship and love – can last forever.
But there was no me.
Although I’ve said it before, one of the arduous parts of this life that I have freely chosen is the sacrifice. Being here means that I am not there for that happy hour drink or the weekend trip. But it stings the most when life’s defining events – marriages, births and deaths – of my loved ones pass by and I am on the other side of the world.
Last weekend my dear friend Amy married her long-time boyfriend, Kevin. Amy and I became friends when we both worked at our college’s newspaper, The Collegian. In fact most of our staff meshed into this joking, beer-drinking, loving group and many of those connections stayed strong beyond the diploma getting and force into that so-called “real world.”
Throughout my Peace Corps saga, Amy has been one of my most supporting friends. She is constantly reminding me what I am good at when I fail to see it in myself. She even sent me a Christmas care package, full on candy and thumb drives of my favorite television shows. Amy is one of those people who you never doubt the basis or strength of your friendship; it’s always there.
It pains me that I wasn’t there on her big day. I wanted to give her a hug and tell her how much I love her. I wanted to dance to some silly song and cheer drinks together. I wanted to support her the way she supports me.
Missing her wedding also means missing a good time, which I always hate. Several former Collegianites attended the wedding and even the DJ and photographer are friends that I made editorial decisions with in the wee hours of Wednesday mornings. Many were there, all with different lives now, but still appreciating the bond that brought and keeps us together.
On the night of her wedding (or day for her), my ntate offered me a piece of corn and told me to roast it. I sat by the fire and gazed into the flame thinking of the event. I imagined Amy getting ready for the wedding, putting on her dress with a curled up do. I thought of my other Collegian friends arriving at the wedding with wrapped packages. And I pictured them on the dance floor, smiling just to be around each other again.
Holding back tears I wondered if not being there is just a symbol of who I am becoming. Me on the other side of the world sitting by a fire while my friends proceed on with fun and merriment. Maybe I am naturally being sifted out because my life has taken a radical turn and I need to accept that. I lost other friends before, maybe these names will just be added to the list.
Yet, that thought doesn’t sit with me. Not because it is painful, but because I don’t believe it.
When I think of the people likely to attend my coming home party, a majority of them were at that wedding. I know that moving to Africa comes with the loss of a few friends – I saw that in Niger – but Amy and many of the other Collegians are not among them. Even though I’ve been known to doubt a lot of friendships, I’ve never doubted these ones. I just know they’ll be there, in two years or ten.
Amy’s is not the first wedding I’ve missed – my dear friend Lindsie married three weeks after I left for Niger – and it will likely not be the last. There will also be babies, new lovers, new jobs and, probably, a few funerals.
But what I’ve learned, rather what I know, is that those good friends, like Amy, forgive me for missing out on their big moments. In fact they don’t care. They love me so much that what they care about is that I am happy. And there is no sign of truer friend than that.
Still, it hurts to miss out, but being here is making me a better friend, daughter, sister, human being. That is the best wedding present I can give right now along with a promise of a lasting friendship.