When I went to college, I felt like I finally had freedom. I was like a dog being let out in the backyard for the first time. I could run around, roll in some mud, and chase squirrels. Lol. And I chased a lot of squirrels in college.
But little did I know, it was only relative freedom. A taste of it. My backyard still had fences to keep me from getting into too much trouble. My parents were always right inside if I ever needed them (which I often did).
No. True freedom didn’t come till I graduated. That was when the fences came down and my parents walked outside and said to me, “Boy. It’s time for you to enter the real world, get a job, and use everything you learned in college to become the person you wanna be.”
I had no job lined up. No connections to fall back on. No father business empire to join. No long-awaited inheritance to claim.
I was a little lambradoodle with a Creative Writing degree (lol), a blog I never used (lol), a job as a host at a restaurant (lol), and an apartment in a city that was not conducive to my growth… Lololol.
I decided to move out of my apartment, quit my hosting job and move back to Tampa with just that degree and that blog.
I was looking for something in Tampa. A calling. A job. An epiphany. A grad school acceptance letter. Anything that could help me settle into the real world.
What I found was something I didn’t expect. Something a lot more simpler. Something I needed more than anything else, and that something was three friends.
A HARMless Encounter
I had known the three (some better than others) since high school, but it wasn’t until early 2016 that we were all under the same roof.
The roof was a hotel’s in Orlando, and the occasion was to celebrate my little brother’s birthday.
The four were: the fresh AF FSU graduate, Hoop (me); the lovable chillster, Amir; the purple bomber, Renee; and the glue that would eventually hold us all together, Marissa.
We were all there for my brother, and on that night, we didn’t even really hang out with each other. We didn’t share this magical moment that signaled that we were destined for greatness. We kind of kicked it with who we were close with, and (at that time) that didn’t mean us.
But when the partying was over, we were the only four that would still be in Tampa, old enough to go out, young enough to have fun, and were still living with our parents…
We may not have hit it off that night, but why not give a try when we were all back in Tampa? See what happens?
We formed a groupchat and one of us (I think it was me) noticed that if you arranged our initials in a certain way, they spelled a word.
The inaugural H. A. R. M. groupchat was born, and we counted down the days until our first official hangout.
Out of HARM’s Way
That day came a month later at Tampa’s annual pirate festival, Gasparilla.
I brought everyone breakfast, Amir brought everyone alcohol, Renee’s mom was our designated driver, and Marissa’s brother hosted the pregame.
At the pregame, one of us pooped in the bathroom and stunk up the whole apartment. The rest of us made sure everyone else knew who it was, and it opened the door for future roasting sessions between us.
Once the parade started, I ran around pretending I was Jack Sparrow. Renee was sneaking into house parties. Marissa was documenting the inaugural event with her Polaroid camera. And Amir was trying to keep all of the drunk pirates happy.
We were all different. We weren’t four bros looking to get laid. We weren’t four chicks looking to be the baddest pirates.
We were two girls and two dudes, with different experiences, from different backgrounds, looking to do all different things.
But for some reason, we fit together like four puzzle pieces, and our final picture was that Polaroid photo of four drunk pirates just down to explore.
Gasparilla showed that we could effectively all kick it, but I don’t know if any of us knew what was to come.
The following months were us going out to bars, watching the Lightning in the Stanley Cup, celebrating each other’s birthdays and graduations, and evolving from casual friends with a groupchat to super close friends with a groupchat.
By the time September rolled around (nine months after our New Years run-in) we were halfway across the country in Las Vegas, paying for expensive steaks from Not Gordon Ramsey, taking party buses to strip clubs, winning money at the casino (everyone except me), and taking road trips to see the Grand Canyon.
Peace and HARMony
These three helped me make Tampa a home. Helped make the real world less intimidating. They gave me distractions when needed, listened to me vent about all sorts of things, and were down to ride when I wanted to escape the city.
Since then, I’ve found a job, made my blog into something I’m proud of, and (as cheesy as it sounds) I feel like I just have become more comfortable in who I am and who I’m becoming.
A lot of people will look back at 2016 as the year in their own ways. I’m sure, many negatively.
But I’ll remember 2016 as the year that I became close with these three, and then traveled, partied, and breezed into the real world with them.
Here’s to another great year in 2017 with them and many more.