I have some really great friends in Cincinnati who I still miss and wish I could be around, but I was thinking about it and most of my closest friends had moved away during our stay in Cincy. (Columbus, Missouri, and Nevada took some of the closest ones.)
But I always had other friends who welcomed and accepted me so it wasn't too heartbreaking and I didn't feel really lonely. Not like how it's been here in Steubenville.
The past 11 months here has been hard, not only because it's a much different culture but in a larger part because of the loneliness. It's been hard to connect with people here- not because they're unfriendly (quite the opposite) but because everyone is busy with their own lives and families and everyone is so spread out geographically.
Just when I was feeling like I was a lonely island with life just passing me by, I met Stephanie.
Let me just say that she is awesome. It's rare (for me) to find someone I "click" with so immediately. Normally it takes months to get comfortable with someone new and get a feel for where the friendship stands or is going. Not this time. Stephanie is so open, friendly, and fun that it's easy to spend time with her. It's really almost scary how much we have in common (down to the same kitchen countertops and bathroom medicine cabinets!) We've had fun walking through her town (Follansbee, WV), hanging out at my house, watching her and her husband play in a charity basketball game, going out to dinner and watching a movie (it was so nice to not be alone when David was out of town!) and exploring a trail in one of the parks in Steubenville. I'm sure to a "normal" person this would seem pretty average, but with all of my social issues, it's probably the most socializing I've done in years in such a short amount of time!
She is already a much greater blessing in my life than she knows. People underestimate the power a good friend can have, but I know how much it helps me to have someone who encourages me to socialize, accepts me just the way I am, and is excited to do things together.
It makes me a little thankful for the loneliness of the first 9 months here- not because I like being lonely, but because the contrast is so much sweeter when it's that noticeable.
So thank you, to every one of you who has been a friend to me. Your love, example, and influence have blessed my life immeasurably.