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It's Never Too Late to Stay 'Friends Forever'

Are you still close with any of your childhood friends? How many of them did you stay in touch with compared to those you drifted apart from as time went on? And if you did drift apart, do you regret that? I met my childhood best friend, Kathleen, on the first day of first grade in Mrs. Hickes' class at North Side Elementary School in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. She and I clicked immediately and were inseparable for all six of our years there. We rode the bus to each other's houses all the time (mostly to hers), even though we didn't live close at all. Our parents were very supportive of us hanging out and would make the time for us to do so. We shared a LOVE for Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls; although we didn't crush on the same Backstreet Boy, we didn't let that ruin our friendship. We were in almost every class together, every year, and were very upset when that wasn't the case. The only other friend I shared a bond that strong with during those years was our friend Michael, who has sadly since passed away.

Unfortunately, my Dad joined the Army after 9/11 and, as a result, my family had to move in between my Elementary and Middle School years. Kathleen and I have seen each other in person once since then, but we do talk to one another occasionally on social media. We also never forget to wish each other a Happy Birthday, as they're only one week apart in October. As we don't live close to one another, it seems as if social media is really the only way to keep in contact, and I do wish that I was better about reaching out to her more often. We said we'd be best friends forever; while we definitely meant it, sometimes life just has other plans.

In 6th grade, before I moved, we had a "graduation" ceremony, since we were moving on to Middle School. At this ceremony, Mrs. Hickes presented me with a quilt that we'd made in her first grade class. Back then, Mrs. Hickes had each of us bring our favorite books to school and proceeded to read every single one to us. After that, we each drew a picture from our book, which she used to create the quilt. Mrs. Hickes did this with every class and, at every 6th grade "graduation," she would present the quilt to a particular class member. I think she chose me because she knew that I was moving and that I was having a hard time leaving friends like Kathleen and Michael (R.I.P.) behind. We would also walk around the room and say goodbye to our teachers and staff at this ceremony as well; this was super emotional for me, because saying goodbye didn't just mean "see ya next school year." Rather, it meant goodbye for good, as I was moving all the way across the country to Colorado.

During this walk around the room, the song 'Graduation' by Vitamin C played in the background. I'm sure you've heard this at a graduation ceremony in your lifetime, or just on the radio in general. I think of Kathleen and my old school every time I hear this song; I even became a pretty big Vitamin C fan in Middle School because of this event. There's a really special message portrayed in this song and as I was listening to it recently, I thought it would be cool to incorporate into an interview format with Kathleen for this article. I split the song's lyrics below by verses and choruses -- there are questions following each section that Kathleen and I have both answered in depth. Let's get started:

"And so we talked all night about the rest of our lives

Where we're gonna be when we turn twenty five

I keep thinking times will never change

Keep on thinking things will always be the same

But when we leave this year, we won't be coming back

No more hanging out 'cause we're on a different track

And if you got something that you need to say

You better say it right now 'cause you don't have another day

Cause we're moving on and we can't slow down

These memories are playing like a film without sound

And I keep thinking of that night in June

I didn't know much of love

But it came too soon

And there was me and you

And then we got real cool

Stay at home talking on the telephone with me

We'd get so excited, we'd get so scared

Laughing at ourselves thinking life's not fair

And this is how it feels"

We're just a bit older than 25, but do you feel like you're where you thought you'd be at this age?

  • Kathleen: I don't think I ever could have dreamed that I'd be where I am now. I feel like that's a given, but it's true.

  • Haley: I definitely don't think I'm where I thought I would be, but that's not a bad thing. I don't think I knew as a kid where I wanted to be at 25 anyway.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

  • Kathleen: I wanted to either be an artist or a teacher.

  • Haley: My Mom told me that, as a young child, I wanted to be a Barbie. So, definitely didn't achieve that one! I also wanted to work as a divorce attorney as I got older, but I decided against that. I went into college undecided.

Did you meet the life goals you set for yourself growing up? Did you achieve any of the dreams you had as a kid?

  • Kathleen: I feel like my goals changed and grew with me over time. I never quite went to art school like I wanted to, but there's always time. As for my childhood dreams, I think I achieved them and then some.

  • Haley: I agree with Kathleen, I believe my goals and dreams have changed with me over time. Some I've met and others I'm still working on.

What are your goals in life now as we get closer and closer to age 30? Any new dreams?

  • Kathleen: My main goal is to get my Master's Degree in Social Work with the hopes of a concentration in Art Therapy. My new dreams consist of revisiting and revitalizing my passion in art, specifically painting. I would love to learn oil painting.

  • Haley: My goals are definitely to keep working on articles and my podcasts. I also want to be more vocal and involved in the Diabetic community, especially in the #insulin4all movement. I want to use my experiences to help others.

"As we go on

We remember

All the times we

Had together

And as our lives change

Come whatever

We will still be

Friends forever"

We had so many fun times growing up together. What were your favorite memories?

  • Kathleen: I loved just spending time together. Of course playing Barbies was our go-to, or playing Pokémon or other silly games at recess. I also specifically remember a birthday party at your house with all of our friends. We had so much fun just goofing around. Also I don't know if you remember…B.F.F.U.L.S.O.L.S.O.H.B.F.F.A. and, of course, going to Michael's birthday parties.

  • Haley: Agreed! We spent all of our time together and it still never felt like enough time together. Maybe I should blame my obsession with Barbies as a kid on you! ;) Just kidding, but after I moved, Barbies weren't the same and I stopped playing with them. I loved our games at recess, pretending to be the Spice Girls, dodgeball, etc. Michael's birthday parties were a lot of fun and so were yours! I remember the movie theater party and, of course, pool parties. Anything we did together was fun. OMG, I totally didn't remember B.F.F.U.L.S.O.L.S.O.H.B.F.F.A. until I saw it in your answer!

Did you feel like things weren't going to change between us just because I moved, or did you know even at age 12 that things were going to be completely different?

  • Kathleen: I knew things were going to change, although I always had hope we'd remain friends. I had a hard time making friends, even though I was friendly with everyone, and hoped I'd find new friends that I loved and valued as much as you. I still have the journal that we were to write to each other in. It's what started to get me into journaling, which is something I still do to this day.

  • Haley: I was devastated to learn I was moving, because I knew that everything was going to change. I was losing you, or at least that was how it felt at 12 years old. I was mad at my parents, at the time, for making us move. Of course, now I understand why we had to and that my parents were just giving us a better life. I'm so happy to hear that you still journal. I think it's such an important thing and I love that it's been a part of your life for so long.

Is there anything you feel we could have done differently over the years to stay closer?

  • Kathleen: Yes and no. I think life just gets in the way. I will always regret not attending your wedding.

  • Haley: Agree, yes and no. Not when I first moved, because we were just kids; but as we grew up, I do wish that I would have reached out more, at least on social media. I would like your posts and, of course, say 'Happy Birthday' every year, but I do wish I had reached out to see how you were every now and then. Please do not regret not coming, I knew it would be really hard for you to make the wedding, but I wanted you to know that you were wanted there. It can be really expensive to fly across the country, especially for a one night event.

Life is short, do you feel there are ways we can reconnect, even though we live across the country from one another?

  • Kathleen: I definitely do! But thanks to COVID-19, all plans are on hold. But I'd like to break out of my comfort zone. Sometimes, I worry about what to say or how to act, but when you're friends with someone, no matter the distance, you can almost always pick up right where you left off. And even though that's been a long while for us, I'm confident it would be exactly the same. Social media has been a great tool to see where each of us are in life. I think putting more effort into reaching out to each other is the best way to start.

  • Haley: COVID definitely won't allow us to see each other in person for a while, but I do hope we can talk more on social media or text more. I would even be down for some old fashioned letter writing! Also, I'll be on the east coast for my 30th next year and would love to try to see you, if COVID allows, of course. Life can be difficult and busy, but my hope is we can check in with each other and chat every now and then to start.

"So if we get the big jobs

And we make the big money

When we look back now

Will our jokes still be funny?

Will we still remember everything we learned in school

Still be trying to break every single rule?

Will little brainy Bobby be the stockbroker man?

Can Heather find a job that won't interfere with her tan?

I keep, I keep thinking that it's not goodbye

Keep on thinking it's a time to fly

And this is how it feels"

I think we were pretty great students in Elementary School. I don't remember us getting in trouble for anything, except maybe for talking to one another. Were you a rule follower or a rule breaker in Middle and High School growing up?

  • Kathleen: I was a rule follower in both. But I definitely broke some rules in High School (never got caught).

  • Haley: I was definitely a rule follower in both as well. I didn't even skip any classes until College. I was so focused on my grades and sports and didn't want to jeopardize them.

Did you go to college? If so, where and what did you study? If not, is there a reason why?

  • Kathleen: I went to college at Carlow University in Pittsburgh, PA. I studied Social Work and graduated with a Bachelor's in Social Work in 2014.

  • Haley: I went to college as well, as I mentioned above. I got my Bachelor's of Arts in Sociology with a specialization in Criminal Justice in 2014 and my Master's of Science in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Behavioral Analysis in 2016.

What do you do for work? Do you enjoy it?

  • Kathleen: I work as an Assistant Program Manager for a non-profit providing services for those experiencing homelessness. It's challenging, but I love it.

  • Haley: I currently work for a Police Department as a Crime Scene and Evidence Specialist. I do really love what I do. It can be very demanding and challenging as well, but I'm happy that I enjoy the work. My goal was to have a career where I wouldn't wake up each day and be miserable going to work.

Any career goals for the future?

  • Kathleen: I hope to get my MSW and maybe be a Director for my own non-profit someday.

  • Haley: My ultimate goal has always been to go for the FBI, particularly the Behavioral Science Unit, but I know that may not happen. As I stated before, I do love my job, so I want to get more training and time on the job there. I'd like to shoot for a possible promotion to a higher position later in my career. I'm open to other career opportunities, but I want to get more years of experience in my current position first.

We had some funny celebrity crushes as kids, like the Backstreet Boys. Are you in a relationship? Kids and/or pets?

  • Kathleen: I'm still in love with A.J. from the Backstreet Boys. I'm single and my only kids are furbabies, a cat named Lucy and a dog named Coco.

  • Haley: I did get over my Backstreet Boys crush, Howie, haha! I've been married for 3 years and we also only have furbabies. We have our 6-year-old Rottweiler mix, Roscoe, our 11-month-old Great Dane, Pepper and recently adopted a 7-month-old orange Tabby cat named Simon. We do not want to have children.

"As we go on

We remember

All the times we

Had together

And as our lives change

Come whatever

We will still be

Friends forever

La, la, la, la

Yeah, yeah, yeah

La, la, la, la

We will still be friends forever"

Life can be quite crazy, can't it? What are the biggest changes that have happened in your life, positive or negative?

  • Kathleen: The biggest changes were related to family. The first instance was when my Grandmother died when I was 12 years old. She was so special to me and I felt a loss of identity without her. The second was my senior year in High School, when my Grandfather passed away (he lived with us) and my Mother was diagnosed with breast cancer right before Christmas. It was so difficult to cope with and is something that helped shape me as an adult. But, through these experiences, I was able to find my inner strength and perseverance.

  • Haley: The biggest change for me has been my health. For 26 years, I was a perfectly healthy person and then...bam, I got really sick and was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. I didn't even know that Diabetes was in my health history (on my biological Father's side), so it wasn't on my radar. Diabetes has changed me in negative and positive ways. Negative being the effect it's had on my mental health and, of course, the physical problems that come along with it. The positive side is that I've learned who my support network is and how strong I can be, because I have to be.

What are some changes you would like to make to your life, if any?

  • Kathleen: I would like to be more outgoing, take greater risks and lose some of my fear of the unknown.

  • Haley: I would like to speak up for myself more and put myself first more often. I really enjoy helping and taking care of others, but I also need to make sure that my own needs are also met.

Speaking of friends forever, Do you have a "squad" or "tribe" of friends who you turn to?

  • Kathleen: I have a few different groups of friends. I've always been the person to befriend just about anyone and always have friends vastly different from each other. I have a group of friends from Harrisburg, a group of Carlow girls in Pittsburgh from College and some newly found friends in Philadelphia.

  • Haley: I am blessed to have multiple groups of friends as well. I have two best friends from High School, two from College and two from my first job outside of College that make up one group. They were also my bridesmaids and I'm very lucky to have the six of them in my life. They are very loving and supportive, more like family than just friends. I also have work friends from my previous jobs, my "gals." We even have a matching tattoo that the whole group shares. Again, just an amazing group of girls that is so supportive of one another -- we always have a blast together. I was in a sorority in College, so I have a lot of friends from that group as well.

We spent a lot of time at each other's houses and with each other's families, so how is your family doing? What was your family dynamic like?

  • Kathleen: My family is doing really well. My Mother is 10 years cancer free. When my siblings and I moved out, my parents skipped the empty nest phase and went straight to living the childfree life! Haha. My Sister and her husband live in Ireland and my Brother is planning for a lifetime of world traveling. We're all very close, even if we aren't physically living in the same state or country. I'm definitely the anchor and mediator between everyone. Family is the most important thing to me. My siblings and I were always close, even if we had our typical fights and some sibling rivalries. The most difficult times were probably Junior High and High School, but as we grew older, my Sister and I became closer. My parents were super protective when I was younger, but as an adult, I can see why they did what they did.

  • Haley: It's so good to hear that your family is doing really well, and especially amazing to hear that your Mom is cancer-free. I remember seeing about that on social media. My family is also doing really well. My parents only live one hour from where I currently live, so I get to see them pretty often. My Brother is married with two kids and they're all doing great. They live like 8 hours from me, so it's harder to see them, but I'm actually sitting at their house as I write this answer. I was lucky to always consider Frank my best friend and to still have that close relationship is special. I also consider his wife to be one of my best friends, so I feel lucky to have that, too. I'm biased, but I definitely have the cutest nephew and niece! Haha I'm very close with my husband's family, too.

"Will we think about tomorrow like we think about now?

Can we survive it out there?

Can we make it somehow (somehow)?

I guess I thought that this would never end

And suddenly it's like we're women and men

Will the past be a shadow that will follow us 'round?

Will these memories fade when I leave this town

I keep, I keep thinking that it's not goodbye

Keep on thinking it's a time to fly"

2020 has definitely not gone as planned (with COVID and everything else) and we're coming up fast upon the end of the year. Any advice for those who are fed up with quarantine or feeling scared?

  • Kathleen: Keep in touch with people! Video chats get old, but they beat not being able to talk to friends beyond texting. You can also feel less guilty about binge watching shows. I watched all of Game of Thrones in the span of about five days.

  • Haley: Keep hope alive and yes, please keep in touch with people. This time is hard on everyone, but we also want to make sure we're keeping our friends and family safe. I have been watching bad Christmas movies on Netflix and reading a lot! Try to learn something new or pick up a new hobby to help.

Our Country has a lot of issues (putting it lightly); what would you want to see happen in the future? What are your hopes for the United States?

  • Kathleen: I would love to see more open dialogue. People don't listen to learn, they just wait until someone stops talking to say their part. Communication is key. And if people can set aside their differences or be willing to see things from a different point of view, there would be less 'us vs. them' and more community, stability and love. That may sound idealistic, but I believe it's possible. You also don't have to always agree with people. but the absolute lack of respect and care for others is very damaging.

  • Haley: I completely agree and would like to echo your statement. I want people in our country to have more compassion. People are going to disagree, but it's how we treat others that really shows our true colors. I would like to see our country come back together, to be more united. We need to speak up for those who need a voice and help others when we can.

We are definitely not kids anymore, do you have any regrets from the past or anything you would have changed?

  • Kathleen: I definitely have regrets, but I'm a firm believer in the idea that "everything happens for a reason." I know it sounds cliché, but I truly believe that. Obviously this is not true for all things, but in most everything in life.

  • Haley: I agree that having regrets doesn't mean we want to go back and change those things. The hard times make us learn more about who we are and shape us. There are things I think I'd change if I had the chance to, but I also don't want to live in the past.

Are you afraid of forgetting the memories we made as kids? Is there anything that makes you think of the past like this song does for me?

  • Kathleen: I feel like I may have forgotten some things, but the most important things have a special place in my heart. Definitely this song or any song by Vitamin C or BSB (especially Everybody), but also random things or times may trigger a memory. And anytime I drive by North Side Elementary or the Brook, I think of you.

  • Haley: It's definitely hard for me to remember things from when I was a small child, but I agree there are certain things that will always trigger a memory. Just from reading your answers to these questions, I was smiling and laughing. We had so many good times, I think it would be impossible to completely forget about them.

"As we go on

We remember

All the times we

Had together

And as our lives change

Come whatever

We will still be

Friends forever

As we go on

We remember

All the times we

Had together

And as our lives change

Come whatever

We will still be

Friends forever

As we go on

We remember

All the times we

Had together

And as our lives change

Come whatever

We will still be

Friends forever"

I want to thank Kathleen so much for participating in this article. Some of these questions were light and fun while others were more serious. It isn't easy to open ourselves up to strangers on the internet, but sometimes your story can help others. I'm glad that this article helped me get to know who Kathleen is now and go down memory lane with her. My hope for the future is that we can not only keep in contact more, but hopefully see each other in person someday soon. The song ends on, "And as our lives change, come whatever, we will still be, friends forever." This is my hope for our futures: that no matter what, we will always be friends. We need to honor those little girls who grew up inseparable for 6 years! Life isn't easy and can definitely get in the way of our plans, but I promise to make it a priority of mine. To all of the readers out there, thank you so much for taking the time to get to know me a little more and to meet my childhood best friend in this article. I hope that you enjoyed reading it just as much as I enjoyed writing it! Now, let's all go listen to 'Graduation' by Vitamin C and remember all the good times we've had with our friends and family.

B: best

F: friends

F: forever

U: until

T: the

S: statue

O: of

L: liberty

S: sits

O: on

H: her

B: big

F: fat

F: f*cking

A: ass

- Haley (@CSIHALEY)

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