A friend made under the most stressful situations is a good test of lasting friendship. Who can hold it together while you break down in tears? Who can provide soothing advice when everything is upside down? Who can understand what you’re going through when no one else in the world does?
I believe that the friends I made while serving in the Peace Corps will be among my closest friends for the remainder of my life. They’ve seen me at my best and weathered through my worst moments. Peace Corps left me raw and exposed, and those people with whom I bonded in those difficult times are people who I will always call friends.
Leah is one of those people for me.
We just spent an immense amount of time together catching up on a multi-day road trip, but when you have a good friend like Leah, it’s natural to write a letter with plenty of new news. When she ran into some free airline miles earlier this year, I invited her to come visit my husband (also a former Peace Corps volunteer and a good friend of hers) and me in Las Vegas. We nudged the idea a bit further, turned it into a bucket list road trip and invited a third friend, Leilani, from our service to join us. Four five days, we traipsed around the Desert Southwest, exploring the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and Zion National Park, and stepping on the Four Corners, where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona meet. And, of course, we spent hours in the car, catching up with each other on news about our families, work, travels and life in general.
It’s funny how priorities change as you grow older. What we would have talked about as teenagers (had we known each other) or even a few years ago as volunteers has drastically changed to drawn-out discussions of healthcare, in-laws and home decorating. I feel fortunate to have friends like Leah and Leilani, with whom these conversations are comfortable and natural—a safe place to ask questions and get second opinions.
My letter to Leah is light and easy, with details on my fun escapades in Kentucky last week. I regaled her of tales of ATVing and how I’m not a bad rock climber when my height is on my side. I get letters from Leah every now and again, so even though she’s super busy juggling a lot of different things right now, I may hear back from her someday soon. And, if not, it may be time to plan another road trip.