When I Met You 1 Year Ago

I never knew that October 23rd, 2017 would be the day that changed my life. 

October has consistently been a life-changing month for me over the past 4 years, for reasons that are both good and bad. In 2015, October was the worst month of my life and led me down the darkest path I have ever traveled. Each subsequent October has aided in my healing process bit by bit, and I've spent this year's October counting down to this day to remember how my life completely turned around exactly one year ago. I'm not going to lie and say that this month hasn't been incredibly taxing on my mental health but I have been looking forward to this exact moment where I would publish this post and relive the memories that made me so happy.

On this day last year, I was sitting in a classroom in Japan at Waseda University, arranging my name tag on my desk for a class that I had just started getting used to. In most of my classes seats were pretty flexible so people would sit down next to you at random, but today someone different sat in the seat beside me. 

A person I had only seen in passing decided to take the seat next to me. I had no idea how I had missed her this whole time, but I looked over at her and read her name tag. 絵子, written in chunky black marker. This class required us to have speaking partners, so when the classwork was passed ut, we began to talk. I asked her about her name, and she told me that her English name was Amanda. I was shocked. For those that don't know, my birth name is Amanda and Alice is the nickname that I tend to go by with friends or online. For us to have the same name was too much of a coincidence. 

That was all it took for me to open up to her as a new friend, unknown to me that this moment would be the beginning of so many amazing memories and so much healing in my life.

I'm normally a spontaneous person but I had a gut feeling that told me I should invite her out for lunch right after class. We had just met only an hour before but I wanted to take her to a local cafe I had just begun to frequent. 

This picture pulls me back into that moment. I can almost taste the cup of soup we shared, the pumpkin souffle that I adored so much, and the oil of the honey pizza. She had a class coming up in 45 minutes so this lunch went by quickly, and I think when she was getting up to leave I asked her if we could hang out again tomorrow.  I can't remember the exact moment I asked to see her again, but I'm glad I did. To be frank, I was worried she wouldn't want to see me again or that I was boring so to try and get her to agree, I bluffed that I knew a great cafe that we could go study at together. 

She said yes. 

When we met up the next day she brought all of her journaling supplies with her to our study session. I was totally enamored at how passionate she was about her art, and how meticulously she kept track of her day. We chatted about everything under the sun, from adjusting to Japan and studying Japanese, to our favorite foods and seasons. I knew we had a break coming up in November so I offhandedly mentioned that I really wanted to get out and go somewhere. She agreed that she wanted to venture out of the Tokyo area for our break and so I mentioned that we should visit Nikko together if we had a chance.

At this point, we had known each other for a day. 

I'm not even sure if I had her contact information, other than her Instagram where I posted a photo of our lunch, yet I boldly suggested that we should go on a trip together and she immediately agreed. I've never had someone run with my ideas like that before. I'm usually the person that makes you spontaneous plans and then the other party puts the brakes on it a little bit but Amanda was ready to run with me.

 This is the first photo we ever took together. 

This was the beginning of an incredible friendship, brought together by a class among hundreds at Waseda. Writing this post, I'm lucky enough that I can still remember the feel of her journal in my hands, the inside jokes we made while she was searching for her stickers, the food we ate that night. My memory, usually here today and gone tomorrow, etched these seemingly simple encounters into my brain so that I may never forget, and I'm so grateful for that. These photos are living and breathing, and these moments truly last forever. After studying together at this cafe, we exchanged information. 

She later asked me what I was doing for Halloween, and I honestly had no plans. I was far from home and didn't want to spend a holiday alone in my one-room apartment, so I gladly accepted her invitation to cook food at her house to celebrate. I remember taking the bus near my house with Amanda and her friend Karen and connecting over a shared mutual friend we didn't know we had. 

I remember lightly touching the cool orange bus pole and squinting at the schedule, trying to figure out which stop we should get off. I remember looking out at all the people roaming the night streets in Takadanobaba and passing by shops decorated with Halloween nicknacks.

That night we made a soup and arranged a dinner half made up of side dishes we snagged from a local supermarket. It was a college kid-esque meal, a huge cake from the store along with some soup and scallion pancakes. We sat on Amanda's floor and watched the news on her tiny TV. Our Nikko trip, a few days ago just a tiny idea, was already booked. We had our hostel chosen, bags packed, money laid out and cameras charged for our first adventure together. 

I could say the rest was history, as it's been told in my Nikko blog posts and scattered in almost every post I've written about Japan, but there are so many moments that are untold. We still talk almost every day; she paints while I work on my blog or study. We still have the same dynamic we did sitting together in her room, on some 20-odd say of November, filming a video about nothing at all. We laugh, we cry, we talk for hours until she says 'Oh my god やば! It's 1 am!!'. We are still just as close in our hearts as when we went to Hokkaido together, where we spent a consecutive 264 hours no less than 10 feet away from each other.

What continues to blow my mind is that we were only together for 3 months. Those 3 months have got to be my most documented 3 months in history because I feel like every day was so long! We took hundreds of photos almost every day, then sifted out the cute ones until we had a dozen or so to keep forever. 

One year later I'm reliving those 3 months, in tears at my laptop because I'm so grateful I've found my perfect compliment.

One year from today, October 23, 2018, I will be in China. I will be once again, less than 10 feet away, from a person I care about infinitely. Another October, another adventure I'm jumping into head first. I am not afraid, I am not worried about the mistakes I'll make or what it will be like to be so far from home once again. This time my one-room apartment will be filled with the sound of a brush dipping into a watercolor palette, or the sound of scissors cutting craft paper for a journal page. The floors will have the coats we've discarded in our haste, and we'll enjoy each others company for 264 hours and beyond.