Different, but similar, Alex and I came from very different lives, but we were able to form a strong bond that blossomed into a wonderful friendship that we hope will last a long time. Throughout our lives, we have learned how difficult it is how to make it through life on our own, but being friends with someone who truly cares for you, no matter how different they may seem, will help you out for the rest of your life. Your differences can make up for weaknesses, and you can find common ground that most would find surprising.
Alex has been diagnosed as clinically depressed and bipolar. She appears somewhat intimidating and unapproachable to the average, “normal”, high-school student at our private school. A few people, however, recognize her many gifts. She has faced many challenges in her life: an abusive father, now divorced from her mother, boyfriends who have betrayed her, beating her up, a middle-school filled with people on drugs and drinking alcohol, and pregnant girls younger than I am. She was not accepted because she wasn’t interested in such things; she has managed to land a scholarship at the most academically challenging school in the city. Alex is a fierce opponent, having achieved a black belt in karate, and able to flip someone twice her size. She is a gifted soprano, capable of reaching notes that most professional singers have difficulty with, high and low, even able to sing with the men
I, on the other hand, have Aspergers, a form of high functioning Autism. At times, among my peers, I feel like an alien from another planet, so I try to stay unnoticed. My parents have been married for twenty years. My family is moderately wealthy, though it’s not something that I consider important. . I am also a singer, but I am not as experienced as Alex is, as I have only been singing for three years. Music is “my diary screaming out loud”; my whole life is written into my music, telling the truth about who I am.
Our love of singing is something that brought us together, but our favorite genres differ. I prefer classic rock, especially from the ‘80s, including Bon Jovi, Journey, U2, and Aerosmith. When I sing, it’s unlike when I’m around my peers, and I always find this confidence that I didn’t have before. The stage is one of the few places I feel safe and not vulnerable. Alex listens to Japanese pop music, heavy metal groups, including Disturbed, and Evanescence. Unlike me, she is confident on and off stage, with a passion that cannot be vanquished. However, we both appreciate Broadway – including Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, Rent, Jersey Boys, South Pacific, and Oliver (based off of one of my favorite novels, Oliver Twist). Our love of music is not the only similarity, though.
Last week, Alex and I went to C.A.M.P., a camp for children with developmental and physical disabilities, where we became counselors and each took care of a child. We both enjoy taking care of younger kids, playing with them, and helping them through tough times, which come frequently for children like them. I was assigned a camper who had Autism, like me, but more severe, who had difficulty playing with the other children. Autism can make it very difficult to approach others; especially one’s our age. My camper loved the ball pit, but was frightened to go in it because there were so many children already in there. I convinced him that to enjoy life, you had to take chances, and that he couldn’t let his disability keep him from doing what he loved. He played in there for about two hours.
Alex was assigned a child who could not speak; all he could say to the adults was “meh”. However, Alex could tell exactly what he wanted, and made him smile so widely that I doubt he wondered where his parents were. I did not see him most of the time, but I could tell how excited and thrilled he was to be hanging out with her. After the parents picked their children up, and the counselors were sitting and eating pizza, she told me, “These kids are all normal. You can’t just look at them like they’re different, because all of us are. None of us are any better than them.” Sometimes I wonder if they’re better than we are.
This concept of normal is at odds with how we should act. Normal means not being who you truly are, and it is nothing but a mask that we all wear in some way or another. Alex acts tough to “protect her heart”, yet it is still a mask hiding how kind and caring she really is; I could not say what my mask is, but I hope someday a friend will tell me. So I can remove it and let people know who I am. Alex and I both realized that these children aren’t afraid of who we are. In a way, they have become our role models for who we want to be.
We are both conservative Republicans and Christians who want to do what’s best for everyone around us. We also can’t stand revealing clothing, and support abstinence; no matter how much we may love someone, we swear not to sacrifice our morals for them. We are both willing to die for those we love, friends, classmates, and family, and we have an agreement that we are always there for each other. We dislike receiving expensive gifts, because of the cost the giver has to go through. We both have an obsession with languages, she with Japanese, and I with Latin. We enjoy watching horror movies, especially those directed by Alfred Hitchcock, reading books, and writing poetry and music. We are both extremely stubborn and like to argue, so if we have a disagreement, it can go on for hours on end. Most people we are friends with have learned it’s a bad idea to interrupt us, because we won’t stop until one of us is convinced by the other.
As our lives progress, I doubt that our differences and similarities will stop changing, but in a way, it’s a wonderful thing. We’ll always be learning something new from each other, and it helps us to become better people than we could be alone. We have also learned that we can always trust each other, keeping each other’s secrets, even if they are okay with telling them. We guard each other, and would never let someone hurt the other. Never before have I had a friend whom I could say such a thing about.
Although we come from different lives, and different ways of life, we have found similar interests and have developed a strong friendship that cannot be broken. If people from different cultures were like this, finding their similarities in-between great differences, maybe we can find a way to end conflict. Even when Alex and I argue, we always find a solution that suits both of us. It’s important to look past what differs and find something that you agree on.