Emily Simpson is tall, wild, and unforgettable. She leaves a distinct impression on people wherever she goes. These days, she doesn’t seem to stick around one place for too long. She’s always looking for a new adventure.
We are strong personalities, Emily and I. Both of us in one room makes sparks fly. In Ghana, we spent time together every few months, but we lived far apart. We had distinct experiences on our exchange, partly because we sought out different kinds of opportunities than each other. However, spending a year in the same country equipped us to understand each other on a deep level.
When I came back from Ghana, I was a wreck. There were days I would think I had dreamed my entire experience, that the people I had known and loved were ciphers. If I couldn’t see or touch them, I felt they didn’t exist.
I started college and put on a brave face. Sometimes, during those first few months, I was pretending to be happy. My white-brick hallway didn’t really compare to my house in Atwima Boko. The fast paced schedule of a student wasn’t entirely compatible with the new easygoing “Ghana Man Time” I’d picked up. I felt like I had already accomplished my greatest life-dream, and that the way forward was all downhill.
Then, Emily waltzed back into my life, challenging me to re-center myself. We drove up to a Buddhist shrine in the mountains near Fort Collins. She saw right through my “brave face.” “Sarah,” she said, “Your body may be here, but your mind is still in Ghana.” Emily riled me up on that visit, and in a way, I was relieved to see her go back to Laramie.
A few months later, I had a trip planned to Snowy Range, a ski place near Emily’s hometown. The night before I left, Emily called me. I invited her along. We skied together all day, talking out our good and bad experiences. That was a turning point in our friendship, at least in my opinion. I trusted her on a new level, I saw she understood me, and I felt we would enjoy spending more time together.
After that day skiing, Emily and I spent the best times together yet. She came to Fort Collins to visit several times over the next month. In those visits, we sledded, hung out with my college friends, and frequented the Ally Cat Cafe. She went off to India, then to a job in New York, and she visited again on her way home. (That time we camped at Horsetooth...after the campground closed.) We still talk about Ghana, sometimes, but our friendship has broadened to many other topics.
Emily and I still make a room spark. Every time I look at her, I know the people I met that year continue to live, breathe, and grow. It is not our time in Ghana that I love Emily for, it is the way we keep going now. I don’t believe her call that night was a coincidence.