Monday, June 15, 2015

To Colleen, on Her {40th} Birthday

They say you should never room with your best friend when you head to college. But 'they' had never met 'us'. So when our separate searches led us to both to the University of Iowa (you for nursing & me for journalism), it made sense to continue our joined-at-the-hip friendship and become roommates. That decision and our journey to college remains one of the most favorite times in my life.

Thanks to the summer floods of 1993, our college adventure didn't begin in our own dorm room in Mayflower. Instead, we were plopped The Real World: Iowa City style with 6 other girls at the end of a hallway in another dorm, where we stayed for nearly 2 months. What a unique, crazy, and awesome experience...and it made me appreciate you & our dorm room when we finally moved!
Our 1st "dorm life" environment!

One of many 'floor meals' before we moved into our own room.

That first year was hard (the fact we never, ever, had to take finals in high school proved to be a kick in the teeth), but oh we had fun. I knew to never talk to you first thing in the morning, and you knew I'd be taking a nap in the afternoon whenever I had a chance. We made the same friends and also different friends, but we were always together. Even when we'd go home for breaks, we never needed a break from each other. We could connect with our high school friends, but also be very content to spend time without anyone else...which allowed us to stumble upon the Grease sing-a-long version New Year's Eve! I'm 100% certain I will never belt those songs out in front of anyone else.

Summer came & went, and we headed off for our Sophomore year. We moved back into our same dorm room and made it into a true luxury suite by making our room a shared bedroom with Amber and Tiffany (1/3 of the people we started our freshman year bunking with at the end of that hall!) and turning their room into our joint living room. Older and wiser, the year appeared very promising.

But sophomore year was hard. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually hard. It took its toll us both of us in deep, dark, & heavy ways. Only a few people truly know how traumatic that year was; friends from home didn't understand, and friends from college (and even our parents) didn't know what to do.  It was the first time we couldn't help the other, and that was heartbreaking. The only way for each of us to survive was to swim alone. While our friendship remained strong, our dependence upon each other could no longer keep us afloat. The light at the end of the tunnel was dim, but it was there. We completed sophomore year and dragged our weary bodies home. It would be another 4 years before I'd realize that I had spent that winter & spring suffering from depression. 

Junior year brought a new breath of life; the summer at home had helped us both in immeasurable ways. We moved into our sorority house and began a new normal. While our friendship was in a peaceful place, we wisely hung onto our independence. In the midst of that first semester, I realized how very tired I was of college; my English degree was going to require an extra semester of school thanks to the way U of Iowa offered my required classes. I should've told you I was looking into transferring-I'm sorry I didn't. To be honest, I didn't expect that I'd find a way to transfer as a 2nd semester junior and finish school in 4 years. I didn't expect that I would truly leave Iowa. But, I found a way. So at Christmas break, I came home for good to attend Bradley, and in January you went back to Iowa without me. Even as I type this, it's a very bittersweet memory.

The completion of Junior & Senior year for each of us had its perks--the biggest perk of all meeting and falling in love with our future husbands! You went gung-ho into earning your Business degree, and I loved completing my English degree. I got engaged and planned a wedding, and you worked on getting through your extra semester. I know I've told you this before, but one of my all-time regrets in life was not having you as a bridesmaid. I'm glad I still had you as part of the wedding, but I wish I had done more. Thanks for forgiving me.

A few years down the road, you got married, and, in true Colleen grace & love, my husband and I were 50% of your "non-family" attendees. A glorious weekend celebrating your birthday Friday, your wedding Saturday, and Father's Day with your dad on Sunday. Thank you, thank you.

Now that we are both married to guys named Mike and have both returned to Peoria, you'd think we would see each other more than we do. But the past 25 years of friendship have brought so much more than just time together. You were there for Charlie's adoption and my father-in-law's funeral. You're the one I can text, "DID YOU KNOW THIS???" along with the info, and never have anything be awkward because we haven't connected for a while. And the best part is knowing that, for the rest of our lives, we are "on-call" if the other one ever is in crisis. You are so steady, and so faithful. To know if I ever go through a tough time that you are always there for me means so much.

So today, as you turn 40, I look back on these 25 years with you and am forever grateful and blessed. You are one of the funniest people ever, and I love that not many people are aware of your hilarity. To know we both dated at least one person the other one couldn't stand, on occasion liked the same boy at different times (and perhaps even the same boy at the same time), but that our friendship always came first is still awesome. To watch as we each finally got it right was pure joy. And to watch the other become a mom has been simply amazing.  I love how you are so successful, yet you are so very humble. You keep your family as your top priority, and have passed up promotions to keep it that way. I love knowing that Ren & Stimpy was one of your favorite shows. And I can't listen to Pearl Jam, Counting Crows or Indigo Girls without thinking about you and our high school and college years. All the memories. All the laughter. All the tears. All together.
copyright 2015 LeAnne Klopfenstein

I don't tell you enough--but I love you very much, and I can't wait to spend 25 more years with you. Happy Birthday. ~L

copyright 2015 LeAnne Klopfenstein

1 comment:

  1. Your post is the sweetest, kindest, and most thoughtful gift I have received for my birthday. Thank you for so eloquently summarizing our friendship and years together. I have so much love and respect for you too. I look forward to our future friendship together. I love you!!