Monday, January 23, 2012

Now and then: These friends of mine (2006)

It's a funny thing with people in your life. One day your best friends and the next thing you know it's five years later, they have kids, got married and you wonder when has the time gone. Back then I was so excited to meet these people.  Now I haven't been even  included in their weddings, I didn't even know they were dating. I was so focused on myself, on my own struggles and battles that I let my life and people pass me by, although when I first got here I swore I never would. Could it be that we grow out of friends like we grow out of jeans? I've been so caught up with the stress of my mission to get into law school again, then to get my green card, the constant fear of what immigration will do to me and then the bar exam that I haven't noticed that they had their lives too and they grew  out of me. Most people hope for a normal life, to have a family to have kids, to leave a mark, maybe grow a tree... I never had dreams like that. And I still think  that the only thing that lasts is the people you touch and the good that you do. I  don't care for great wealth, but I wanna help people. And live my life one day at a time. This is a note of mine I dug up on Facebook six years ago. Oddly I haven't been keeping in touch with anyone in it, except for one person and these people have shaped my life:
I made great friends in Gainesville, wonderful people who have touched my life. They've included me in their lives and cared about me not because of what I did, where I came from, who I knew or dated but because of who I was. For that I will always be grateful. But it's something about me that has changed in the process. Coming here I got a clean slate- nobody knew who I was or anything about me, so I had the power to become who I wanted to be. No more sadness- I vowed and decided to be more open, welcoming, warm and outgoing. Florida sun made me glad to be alive. It's been months since I felt like this. I would make friends in most unusual places. I remember going to an international fraternity meeting in the Fall of 04 at Mellow Mushroom but ending up meeting a soldier who just got back to town from Iraq. Recently divorced, he was excited about his daughter Nova, and he even had her name tattooed on his arm. I never made it to that meeting, we talked for two hours. Hey, people were always the most important element in my life. Josh Kaller is in my inner circle of friends and I met him at a bus stop. Needless to say it was after 2 am, so the bus we waited for never came. He called his friends and they eventually drove us home. Forget party buses! It was a party car... but that's another story. Over a year later Josh would sit with me at the law school and watch me write my LLM paper four days and nights without sleep. I would then watch him write his two projects and step in whenever he started flirting with the girls too much. Josh took me to one of my LSAT exams... an hour late and he finished packing up my old room when I passed out on the floor after I was doing it for 36 hours straight. If I'm ever down on faith or want to talk about God, my purpose or the essence of being, Josh is the one to call.
Ravi Pattel, who I met Friday night at the Reitz quickly became my friend, and he knew all the right people in the section, so he introduced me to a lot of people. He used to say that there's something about me that attracts others to gather around me. I wish I believed that. He helped me get a lawyer after a bus run me over in 2004 and teased me passionately for being Polish. An Indian making fun of a Pole how precious was that? He made me make up all kinds of silly things about women's situation in Poland only to annoy Sara Denny and it worked!

I wasn't too eager to get involved in the law school things. I was skeptical about getting a group of friends. Interpersonal relations are always evolving on a one-on-one basis, rather than a group. Michael Eatroff's emails made him sound.... well, pretty lame and dorky, what can I say. I ended up going to one of his pre-parties by accident, and lame it wasn't. I like people with sense of humor and self irony, so naturally he quickly became one of my closest friends. It was Michael who took me to my first LSAT in his pajamas parked in front of my Camelot apartment at 6:20 sharp. I remember him telling me about this girl he really liked. It was a pretty, warm, Indian lady named Katrina (not to be confused with Catrina who also appears in this story). Ms. Thomas quickly joined our ranks. But what I never counted on was the fact that, while Michael gained a girlfriend I gained a true friend in her. Katrina never loses her optimism and her faith in me. She reminds to go to church, which I never do (Hey, anybody willing to give me a ride sunday?) And she's there to listen to my incoherent mubling. I cheer her on and I'm proud of everything she's accomplished. Michael and Katrina were the ones who saw me vulnerable in Puerto Rico when I went down the hill and hit myself on the head ending up in ER. The Eatroff days were really crazy. I know Katrina or to me "Katie" might not like to reminded of all that but for me those were the happy times. And my face healed up after three days anyway. We would go drinking, bowling, hookah smoking or whatever else Michael thought of at the moment. We would discover a new bar or a club every time, sometimes do two or three in one night.From X's to Alley Katz we were all over the map. Does anyone remember the time when I broke that martini glass the night Mike met Katrina? How about when I broke (yup, I break things apparently) the hookah pipe at Farrah's? And who could forget our tequila shots at fUs?. Michael lead us to Daytona for the races we knew nothing about, to his mansion in Tampa for the Superbowl - the two Poles and one French guy knew nothing about. Eatroff took us to Puerto Rico although Katrina did all the planning, and Grace Kim, Adina, Jenny and Grant Watson joined us for the most amazing Spring Break ever.

The original brat pack consisted of essential ingredients: me, Michael, Katrina, Diego Puig and Olivier. Diego is a really cool Puerto Rican guy that would drink too much, get wild and then sad. But then again, he grew up here. We love him still, though at one point he stuck a burning cigarette in my ear. I blame Michael's white Russians and jello shots. Olivier was like my silent French sidekick, a good friend and a silent supporter. I remember he was an excellent cook and wanted to have a restaurant. Yet, he decided to go back and have a career in Paris. His girlfriend was there and he loved her deeply. Olivier has got to be the only person who appeared to be in pain while watching the movie version Phantom of the Opera. Grant became my closest friend, but I bet Katrina would blush if she heard our 12-yearold-boys style conversations. Then again she knows us.

Ying Jang - the crazy Chinese girl would join us for some events. Alcohol would cause her to run around screaming "I'm drunk, I'm drunk", and Diego flirted with her which thankfully neither of them remembered. But if I ever needed a ride or a Spanish speaking lawyer I called Diego. Ying had a talent of making all the Asian guys in town do exactly what she wanted, which was really helpful if we needed a car. Tired of listening to Grant telling me that girls "suck" I introduced them and now they're getting married!

We did 8 seconds twice, but Alex Thomas really hated it so we left quickly.
Michael wanted to go to UC but we never got to do it. I did it by myself in the fall of 2005 shaking at first. It's a small town, and that's a gay bar and I'm hard to miss. What would the bus drivers say who are with me on first day basis. And truth be told nobody here cares who does what. Our friend even wanted to try out as a female entertainer after assuring us that he's very straight and macho but that never happened.

Michael made me realize not only how important it is to balance studying and fun but he gave me memories. This is what I will look back on when I'm old and grey.
New semester, new friends: Ben Stetler: quiet, warm cynical genius. Just watch him land that Supreme Court gig! He kicked me in the right spot annd that fueled me up to keep me going. Jan Suggs and Catrina Campana, the two girls I love but don't know well. But they will type anything to make my jaw drop. I remember how much fun we all had in Property and try as she may it wasn't the instructor's take on the material. Thank you Frisco and Brian Ellison for the amazing support in difficult times. I guess it's true what Josh said that soon enough my friends will come together. I have no idea who Holly Miller is but her picture makes her look like an escaped Pussycat doll so I really wanted to tag her ;). If we succeed I hope to get to know most of you better.
Isn't the multicultural experience amazing? I know people from Saudi Arabia and Afriaca. Catholics and Jews, even those damn democrats. I learn from you all.

I would like to thank the people who were too different than me to be in my life at this point, Adina, Maciej Szymanski, John Trimarco and also Stephen Brown for my first Thanksgiving dinner.

My friends I used to think how great it would be to be 19 again and go to UF as an undergrad. I take it back. I'm proud of everything we are and everything we accomplished. We can still party like it's 1999 but we are driven and we have goals. Having spent time with 19-yearolds I feel I'm not very much like them. I love you all and I will watch your moves. For now to all of you, all of me. Let's make new memories Thursday.

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