Writing Prompt: First Encounters

I’ve been thinking of some of the people that have mattered to me throughout my life. For better or for worse, everyone you know for any length of time have an impact on who you are.

When I think back to some of my most important friendships, there were some key moments that could have meant that these people wouldn’t have been friends today.

I met my best High School friend, Shelley, on my 16th birthday. Up to that point, she had not thought much of me. We ran in different circles and I believe she mistook my shyness for arrogance. On that afternoon, she had been driving home from school when she spotted Morten, the foreign exchange student from Norway walking along the street. I had befriended Morten that year and he was heading towards my house with a birthday gift. Shelley, who was also his friend, offered him a lift.

To this day, she can’t tell me what made her come in to the house, when the mere sight of me made her want to re-arrange my face, but she did. My friends gathered. around the kitchen table while Shelley stood in the corner. My mother entered with a birthday cake, huge, with white frosting and after making a wish, I blew out the candles. Once everyone had a piece, we fell into chatter and without warning, my friend Glen launched a plate of cake at my face. I was stunned and covered with frosting.  Shelley later told me that it was in that moment that things changed. Had I complained, made a fuss or behaved like the prissy-miss she had believed me to be, the story of us would have ended here. Instead, I grabbed a fistful of cake and screamed “Cake Fight!”. I hurled cake in every direction and the others joined in. When Shelley saw me covered from head to tow in cake, she thought, “maybe Eliza is all right after all?”.

A year and a half ago, I wandered into a room full of people waiting for a speaker to show up and give a marketing talk. I hadn’t really wanted to go that night. A fellow in the group gave the speaker a bit of a grilling and something about his manner made me take notice. He was relentless in his interrogation which impressed me. Later, in the post-talk networking, when everyone else had gone home, there were four of us left standing and he was among them. I had been offered a lift home, but  for some reason, I had declined. I wanted to see where the evening would take us.  Although I suspected this was an important encounter, I couldn’t have predicted that in a short time, this inquisitive young man would be someone so dear to me. Our friendship has helped define what I want in life, both in my career and as a person. To think, I almost didn’t  go and I almost didn’t stay.

In 2000, I sat in a lecture hall on the first day of my MSc course waiting for the start. The talk was about internet security of something similar. Within 15 minutes I was bored. I already knew much of what was being covered, so I set to work on doodling on my notebook. Suddenly, a girl burst into the  lecture hall, her auburn hair was wind blasted and as she lugged her bag up the stairs to take a seat, I admired her outfit, she was every colour of the rainbow, with a multi-coloured scarf and lime green jumper of dark brown cords. There was something about how she hurried in, exchanging nods and smiles to everyone in the room. I had started a term later than everyone else, so I was still a stranger.

We met in the computer lab later that day and instantly got chatting. She was quick to welcome me to the course and during those first few minutes, we realised that we were both foreigners. She from Perth, Australia and I from California. I remember how easy it all was between us. Her, with her boisterous and engaging manner, fond of the same things; films, good beer and girl gossip and I keen to make my mark in London, eager to make friends. I never mentioned that of the three universities I had chosen, I had made my decision to study on that particular course with the toss of a coin.

Her daughter is now my god-child.

I guess the point of all this is that you never know what events will transpire to bring the people you love to you.

Think about some important relationships in your live, both good and bad and try to describe how you met, first impressions, and the impact specific people have had on your life.

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