What is the meaning of the word friend? For years, I had wondered. For years, I will wonder. 4th grade me thought of it like a partnership for life or some person you found at school you deemed to be a "bestie" or "BFF". We would wear heart-shaped necklaces, and when you held them together, it would form a whole. Friendship, or at least I thought it was, was a thing that could also be non-existent. I called my books friends, computers, my favorite video game. But family couldn't be friends, I told mom one rainy afternoon. She responded with, "You are almost 11 years old. Push through it, and you'll find friends. Besides, you have your sister Bea." Bea disagreed even more than I did, but why should I care? She was meaner than the Grinch.
"Bea isn't my friend because she isn't nice!!" I protested, but after that day I never mentioned the word friend again in fear that Bea and I would have to do more family bonding activities. After that day, I recognized another issue with my life but simply decided to push through it. Every year, I switched schools because of something 'not being right', and that year when I was going into fourth grade, my parents had run out of schools to dump me into, so they sent me to the public school nearby, Juniper Prep Elementary School. It was an odd name for a school, but the kids there seemed nice enough, so I coped.
Rule number one of switching schools: never trust the nice kids, because the minute I stepped inside, a tall girl, one of my ambassadors, asked me if I played a sport quite rudely. The elementary school was known for its famous sports programs, and every kid strutted in the hallways, muscular and tall. Rule number two of switching schools: lie when needed. Of course, I stated I didn't play a sport, and you could tell from my twig-like small built frame. The tall girl smirked, and since then all the way through October, nobody ever picked me to be on their team during PE or played in the fields with me during recess. I was busy wondering what I could've possibly done wrong.
Determined and desperate to fit in, I watched yoga and muscular training videos to build muscles but gave up seeing mom bringing in a dozen cupcakes from the grocery store. My sister also began working out, but at gyms with fancy machines. She went on weekends and spent the whole day after coming back talking about all the people she talked to and the friends she made. Seeing her glowing face made me disheartened, so I threw away my BFF necklaces and tried to focus on my grades instead. Nothing felt right, nothing could cheer me up. Not until the note arrived in my room, perfectly positioned on my desk.
The note was perfect like somehow someone had known I needed help, but what was peculiar was the signature. In my room, I sat cross-legged to read it for the first time and was appalled. It listed an email address to one.peloton.com, and then in very small print, the words, "I think this will help. Try out the free trial. From, a friend." This wasn't right because I had no friends, not even my dog was considered friend-like to me. He often peed on my shoes. Nonetheless, I googled the website online to find people working out on a bike. Sighing, I closed my eyes. Not this again. But I had to try and become taller, muscular, and better. Maybe then I could make friends.
Without asking anyone, I took the free trial where I did yoga, cardio, strength, and enjoyed listening to different instructors talk about positivity. I never really made any friends in school, but somehow I felt whole inside. And, of course, whoever gave me the link was my best, best friend. I only wished I knew who that was.
Around Christmas, my 30-day trial expired, and I couldn't take classes. My birthday was today, but I knew I wouldn't get what I wanted. Bea surprised me with a bear hug and led me downstairs, clutching my arm tightly.
"I know we're not friends, but can you at least be my sister?" She pulled out a card, different from the one mom and dad had given me, with the peloton link on it. "I got it from my gym two months ago, and mom and dad decided it would be for the best-" I jumped into her arms.
"Thank you for changing my life, Bea." Bea and I embraced and for a long time, nothing else mattered. Had one online website reunited my sister with me? Mom and dad joined in on the hug, and they showed me to the basement. In my wake lay a peloton bike, weights, and two pairs of shoes.
"Give it a try Nia!" I put on the shoes and got used to the tiny seat, but when I saw my families faces, I realized what I had to do. I ran up to Bea, and smiled. I took turns with each of them, trying to make up for what I hadn't realized before, even though they'd have to help me clip onto the bike after I was done.
"Thanks for being my friend." Bea twirled me in the air and picked out a ride for me to try out.
"Together we go far ride. This is us. Together, we'll go far." She handed me a half of a BFF necklace. "Sorry for being like a Grinch."
I was wrong. I knew that one day I would be humbled, but next time I hoped it wouldn't be by my older sister. She was a Grinch, I still thought to myself, but perhaps she was a friendly type of Grinch. I pressed play on the touchscreen to start the ride, a feeling of joy in the air around me. "Welcome to Peloton!" Then, the instructor said the words I'll never forget.
Together we can go far.