My first blog post

I started making websites when I was around twelve years old. My first website was made on—one of the original drag and drop website builders—and it was called The Link Tube, made up of links and clip art. The world wide web was evolving quickly and I continued to adapt, making websites on Angelfire and Geocities until I eventually learned HTML and could code my own websites in Notepad. I remember how excited I was when I learned frames. Around the same time I purchased Paintshop Pro and taught myself some graphic design. I don’t remember the exact timeline, but around 2000, I registered the domain, switched over to WordPress and began blogging.

I wish there was a way to visit my early 2000s websites because I really have no idea what 15-year-old me blogged about. I do know that my websites were much more about showcasing my graphic and web design skills than what I had to say. But making websites and writing on my blog was an escape for me. I spent hours and hours on my family computer, often late into the night, working on my website and chatting on AIM with my likeminded online friends.

I didn’t live my entire life on the Internet though. I had a lot of real-life friends too. I’ve always been very social and I’m a textbook extravert. While I was never one of the most popular kids in school, I did get along with the majority of my classmates and always had a nice group of really good friends. For awhile I balanced my online life with my offline life and had friends in both places. But around junior high, I stopped blogging, abandoned my website, and focused on being a teenager in the real world.

It wasn’t until college that I started blogging again. At first, it was a travelogue that I started while I was studying abroad in Italy my sophomore year. During that time I also kept a journal and it made me realize how much I enjoyed writing. So I registered the domain and just short of a decade after making my first website, I created another one. The Internet had changed immensely during my hiatus and personal blogs were all the rage. It was easy to meet people through blogging because it was no longer a nerdy hobby and there were meetup groups in every major city filled with young bloggers.

During the first year after I started, I graduated college (a year early), did an internship in Chicago, and then moved to Santa Barbara for a nanny job. I blogged about my dating life, chronicled my days as a nanny, and wrote personal essays about any topic that popped into my mind. My blog became pretty popular and I connected with other twenty-something bloggers all over the country.

After living in Santa Barbara for nearly a year, I was accepted into a graduate program at DePaul University and moved back to Chicago. That move changed the trajectory of my life in many ways, including the beginning of my relationship with my now husband, but that’s a story for another day. This story is about how I met my friend Allie. I had been in a group called Twentysomething Bloggers and they had a Chicago chapter that I joined pretty much the minute I moved back.  The great thing about this new era of personal blogging was that it was much cooler than it used to be, and thanks to, your online friends could also become your offline friends.   

I met Allie at a Chicago Bloggers Meetup event at a restaurant in downtown Chicago on November 21st, 2008. (I was able to look up the exact date in my email thanks to my bad habit of never deleting anything in my inbox.) I had never heard of her blog, The Creative Career, before and even though I sat directly across from her, I honestly don’t remember that much about what we talked about. At the end of the evening, everyone there who didn’t already know each other exchanged blog links and Twitter handles and we went on our way. Not long after, I got busy with grad school, a full-time job and my new boyfriend and blogging went to the wayside. I instantly lost touch with all of my blogger friends.

Fast forward to spring of 2010, I was taking a course on social media and one of our assignments was to post regularly on several social media platforms throughout the semester. I hadn’t been on Twitter in over a year, but my account was still there so I decided to revive it instead of creating a new one. As I was scrolling through my feed, something Allie had tweeted interested me enough to make me click on her profile and then follow it to her blog. The details are fuzzy, but I must have read the about me section on her website and was surprised to learn that we had the exact same life. We were both from Michigan and living in Chicago. We were both the third child with an older brother and an older sister. We had both studied abroad in Italy. We had both been camp counselors at sleepaway camp. We both loved photography and had careers in media. And we were both beyond excited to have our first nephew born the same year. Something made me email her. I don’t know what the email said, but it was probably something along the lines of “Hey! I found you on Twitter and we have the same life. We should be friends!” A couple of minutes after hitting send I realized that she was the girl I had sat across from at that blogger dinner eighteen months prior. I was so embarrassed that I sent a second email apologizing for being obnoxious and telling her that we had actually met before. While most people would have been creeped out and ignored me, Allie responded and suggested we meetup for coffee. As it turns out, she took a photography class right across the street from my apartment every Thursday and we made plans to meet at Starbucks the following week.

To say Allie and I were fast friends is an understatement. We met at that Lakeview Starbucks on April 8, 2010 and have been best friends ever since. Okay, so maybe it took a little longer than that, but we talked that day for probably two hours or more and afterwards, I felt like I had known her my whole life. I’ve never known anyone else that is so much like me and the similarities in our lives are downright eerie. Throughout our friendship, our parallel lives have continued in many ways. We both had destination weddings. We closed on our first houses on the same day, except one year apart. (The exterior of those houses were nearly identical even though they were in different states.) Our oldest daughters were born ten days apart. Our older sisters both had their second sons the same year, and then daughters several years later after thinking they were done. We both quit our jobs and started photography businesses. Our parents both bought lake houses the same year. And there have been dozens of other insignificant things like buying new throw pillows or hosting our kid’s first sleepover unknowingly on the exact same day.

After that coffee date, Allie and I started hanging out often. It was probably less than a month before we got our now husbands together too. I still remember telling Paul that we were going to go hang out and play board games with this girl I had just met and her fiancé. We were going to their apartment on the west side and in true Paul fashion, he was probably worried that they were going to murder us. I believe Allie’s fiancé, Jeff, had similar concerns. But we all got together and had a good evening and I’d like to think that those guys are pretty glad they went against their gut that night and agreed to hang out with strangers.

Less than a year later, Allie and Jeff decided to move back to Michigan. With our friendship still in its infancy, that could have easily been the end of it. But instead, we started traveling together. The first trip Allie and I took together was to Portland and Seattle. I had to go to Portland for work and on a whim, I asked Allie if she’d like to come along. She was working for herself and had the flexibility, so she agreed. I don’t remember being worried about spending all that time with her (the trip was 5 or 6 days long), but I think Allie was secretly worried that we would run out of things to talk about. As it turns out, we had the opposite problem. We talked nonstop for days and didn’t get enough sleep because we had a hard time ending our conversations. I think back to that trip as the one where we really got to know each other and it solidified the fact that we were meant to be friends.

In early 2013, we brought our husbands along for the first time and the four of us went on a ski trip in Colorado. This trip is significant for multiple reasons, the first being that it was in Colorado when our husbands realized that they are also very similar and were meant to be friends. And the second reason is because it was on this trip that I accidentally convinced them to have a baby a year before they were planning to. (And thus, their oldest daughter has me to thank for her life.) Paul and I had been married for about a year at this point and were ready to start a family. At some point during the weekend, this came up and Allie expressed that she wanted to wait another year. I don’t remember trying hard to sway her otherwise, but apparently I did because a few months later Allie and I were on another trip together in Mexico and she nervously announced that she was eight weeks pregnant. Luckily, I was also pregnant and later that year our daughters were born only ten days apart. When they were one month old, on New Year’s Eve, Allie and I texted each other from our couches and vowed to go somewhere warm together the following NYE. That’s how we ended up in Hawaii a year later with two one-year olds, and the start of our children growing up together as travel buddies.

In our fourteen years of friendship, Allie and I have traveled together to New Orleans, Punta Cana, Portland, Seattle, Colorado, Mexico, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Austin, Martha’s Vineyard, New York City, a Caribbean cruise (with adjoining cabins), Miami, Charleston, Mexico again, and the Bahamas. We have also spent almost every New Years Eve together since our oldest daughters were born, and we’ve done a lake house trip nearly every summer as well. When I was growing up, one of my best friend’s family used to go on vacation with another family and I remember thinking that I wanted that when I was an adult. I not only ended up having vacation friends, I was fortunate enough to find the kind of friend that you see in movies, that knows you inside and out, has been there through all of life’s milestones, forgives you when you do something stupid, apologizes when they hurt you, and that you never get tired of being with. I know that there are people that envy our friendship and when I think about how lucky I am, it is sobering.

Our friendship isn’t perfect. We’ve had some arguments and pissed each other off more than once. We have different love languages and there have been times we’ve had to accept each other at face value and look past shortcomings. We live in different states so we don’t get to hang out regularly or see each other on birthdays and holidays. And while we know each other’s families and share some of our friends, when we’re not together our lives are pretty separate. Sometimes I wish we lived close by and we’ve jokingly tried to convince the other to move on many occasions. But if that ever happened, it would probably take away from the time we spend together on our trips, and that time is so special to me that I wouldn’t want anything to change it.

Today is Allie’s birthday and our 5034th day of being friends. She doesn’t care about cards or gifts (unless it is chocolate) because her primary love language is quality time. So while I can’t spend the day with her for her birthday, I wrote this post so that she can think about all of the quality time we’ve had together and also to remind her how important she is to me and how grateful I am to have her as my best friend. Happy Birthday Allie!