Living

When Less-Than Circumstances Tangent to Beautiful Friendships

Since I returned from my vacation and visit with my family, I’ve been reflecting on the other things that make me happy in my day-to-day life, like my amazing friends. I have friendships old and new. Some date back to college. Others are from work. Still more are people I met through writing or through other friends. What I realized, though, is that a couple of my best friendships came as a result of circumstances that were less than ideal.

Marzipan fruits in a display case at London's Fortnum & Mason.
Sometimes something as sweet as the marzipan in this case at Fortnum & Mason in London can emerge from a trying experience.

Escaped a roommate. Won a friend.

I had multiple roommates at NYU my freshman year—and not all at the same time. It was 1990, and I was excited to be in Greenwich Village at a really creative time for the city. My creative writing class had invited representatives from the AIDS advocacy group ACT UP to speak to us. I left class with posters from them that I then tacked up on my dorm room wall.

When I returned to my room after a meal, I discovered that my roommate had ripped down the posters. She found the posters, which were inspired by the old Bennetton advertisements and featured a diverse group of people kissing, offensive. This was just the beginning of a tumultuous situation from which I often sought refuge.

One such place I turned to was a classmate’s dorm room. It was here that I found closer friends, including one of my closest friends today, Rachel. Rachel was and is still funny, wry, knowledgable about random and useful things, and (I discovered later) an amazing cook. Rachel and I lost touch for a couple decades, until I moved to Pasadena from Philadelphia. I accidentally found her living just a couple miles away while searching for NYU contacts on LinkedIn. When we reconnected it was as though no time had passed. We’ve since taken girls’ trips together, decorated her Christmas tree, and enjoyed tons of dinners, brunches, and movies. But I never would have met her if I hadn’t had that terrible roommate!

Wanted: ideal job. Found: best friend.

I also might not have reconnected with Rachel if I hadn’t taken the job that brought me to LA in the first place. When I decided that I wanted to move to California, I knew I had to have a job before taking the leap. While I applied for many marketing, advertising and entertainment jobs, I had no bites. Finally, as a last resort, I applied for a job in proposal management working on government bids. This wasn’t the exciting, glamorous career move I had envisioned for myself. But I knew I could do the work, since I had done similar work in Philadelphia.

I applied, instantly received a response, and soon I was flying out to LA for an interview. I got an offer the next day that included relocation expenses. While my expectations for the job weren’t high, I could never have anticipated the multitude of stressors that would come from working there.

I also could not have anticipated that I would meet my best friend there. Among the many people who worked there but who had other aspirations, Robin had a cool haircut, cool clothes, and an irreverent sense of humor. We instantly bonded over being Jews from the Northeast U.S. similar in age. I couldn’t imagine what had brought this creative soul to this soulless place.

It wasn’t long before she was lovingly giving me tons of flack for my inadequate musical knowledge. Eventually I was reading books about trucks to her toddler, taking weekend strolls with her to Starbucks, and spending Christmas Eve with her husband’s large extended family. Since then, she and her family moved to the other side of the country, but we still go on regular trips together and enjoy long visits when they return to LA for the holidays. I look forward to visiting her soon in Brooklyn, too. I consider her and her family to be part of my family.

So here’s the thing about that less-than-ideal job: Neither of us wanted to be there, but it’s where we found each other.

This is how I try to look at unpleasant circumstances whenever I find myself in them. This may not be fun now, but something good is bound to tangent from it. I have the proof, and if I’m lucky it will last a lifetime.

Robyn Kern is the Tangentier. A long-time writer based in Los Angeles with a degree in screenwriting and an interest in mindfulness, many tangents led her here: a place where people can come to find and share inspiration, dwell in each others' passions, and learn how to surround themselves with what they love on the daily.

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