Letters from Me, Day 31: Jessica L. Bien, Philadelphia, PA

Dear Jess,

On the quest to write 365 letters, I've started a letter to you several times.

I kept stopping and starting again, because I wanted to be sure of what I was going to say. We have such a history together and have had so many amazing times, that it's hard to know where to start. 


I will start with this: I've always looked up to you for your strength of character, honesty and intelligence. You have a distinct and not often found wit and candor that make you a fantastic dinner or road trip companion, and have carried us through many a 2 hour phone call. Through all of the years we've known each other, I've treasured the time we’ve spent, and I am lucky to be called your friend.


Our story started about 15 years ago, when I befriended a boy named Bob Thomsen. You and he had done theater and music together, and had been hanging out for years, and I was just a 16 year old kid who wanted to hang out with the cool older group. I had met you the year prior when we were both in Bye Bye Birdie, but you were a senior then and I couldn't bring myself to go that high up on the food chain. 


But when we started hanging out, I quickly learned I could come to you with life's questions - big and small. You knew everything there was to know about things like makeup and hair, decorating and shopping, friendships and communication - your life experience, though you were just a few years older, seemed light years ahead of me. I learned so much from you those couple of years we spent together in Queensbury while I finished school. I loved the group we formed, all of the friends we had and the late nights at the diner and adventures we went on.


When I went on the biggest adventure of my life - moving to Boston for school (where you had already lived!) - you went onto your next journey as well. You moved to start a new life in Philadelphia, a place I had never been and didn't know much about, but couldn't wait to visit. I think the first time I set foot in the city was on a rowing trip. We came to practice for spring break in 2003 at Villanova and I felt so worldly when my cool Philly friend swung by to pick me up at the hotel for a night on the town. 


Over the years we lived hours apart, we'd come back together in Queensbury for holidays and parties. We talked on the phone to catch up on each other's lives and I loved that you were just making it happen in a city you'd never lived before, all on your own. A few years later, I was back in upstate New York, having taken a job in Glens Falls as an editor, which didn't pay well and didn't challenge me. I remember sitting with you - I think it was at a bar - and you said, "You don't seem happy here. What would you think about moving to Philadelphia?" That was Thanksgiving. I saved and scrimped for a few weeks and then broke the news to the world on New Year’s Eve 2008. I was moving to Philly.


I sent you a blank check and you worked on finding us our new place - a 3 bedroom house in Bryn Mawr, just a few blocks from the train station, with parking and laundry and a deck and a tiny backyard which came in so handy when you adopted a new dog right before we moved in. I arrived in the end of March, and embarked on one of the most fun years of my life, filled with life and laughter and hard work, making this new house a new home, starting a new job, cooking, decorating, shopping, hanging out with new friends, exploring the city and the suburbs and just living my days to the fullest. You helped me break out of my funk, and embrace life in Philadelphia. I was so grateful to you for the push outside of my comfort zone and for the days spent together in sunny Bryn Mawr.

It was bittersweet when you moved on to your next place, but I got to experience living alone for the first time - ever! - and we worked on staying connected, even though we lived much further apart. We kept making memories - nights out on the town, still exploring, still laughing together, swapping stories about our friends and pets and coworkers. I was so proud to watch you graduate from Temple - the degree you'd given up your job for and started life anew once again. I remember buying your graduation card 2.5 years early, because I was so excited for you.


It really is astounding to think back on how much living we've done together. Our trips - both near (Produce Junction! Ocean City!) and far (Las Vegas! Ireland!) - our toasts, our celebrations with friends, our great times and our heartbreaks, our life lessons and little wins. I look ahead to the next 15 years of our lives, when things will continue to evolve for us both. I wish you wonderful things to come - in your career, your home and your heart. Thank you for being one of my best friends of all time. You're awesome.