The start of the summer of 2016 was my most memorable. With university out for the season, my home went from a college town to a ghost town. With nothing to do over the break, I took up a painting job on campus. For minimum wage, I spent 40 hours a week coating and fixing the dormitory walls at the University of Oregon. When I wasn't walking around dressed as a Jackson Pollock painting, I was hiding from the heat in my air-conditioned flat.
A month into the break, I met one of my best friends I've made to this date. At 6-feet-1, the blue-haired Hoosier with a nose ring was the kind of gal I never would have dreamed of meeting back home in the preppy traditional suburbs of middle-class Portland. She was a bit of a dork, but so was I. With both having no one else to hang out with, we quickly became friends.
After much complaining, I was able to convince my folks to let me drag her along to our family's yearly retreat to Bend. Each day we went swimming, biking, hiking and visiting the local shopping centers. I had done all of that a million times before, but what made it special this time was doing it with a friend. For the first time I was around someone who I could be myself with. So while the weeklong trip was the same as always, she made it the best one ever.