Somehow everything can always be traced back to him. My best guy friend—and the bane of my existence.

He taught me D&D. He got me this job. He taught me about love. He taught me about lust. He unknowingly taught me so much about myself, and he still has no clue how important he truly is to me.

We met in middle school. When his family began attending my church, I wasn't his friend at first because despite being in the same grade, he found his way into a group the year below us, and all my people at the time were in our year so we scarcely mingled. It wasn't until my old friends had all gone that I connected first with his people before finally, inevitably befriending him.

My first memory of him is that shirt. Brightest white short-sleeved button-up with unnervingly blue paint splatters. I wanted that shirt. He wore it a lot, almost as often as he liked to show off his piano skills. "The Other Side" from The Greatest Showman was his favourite to play, and it was my favourite to hear. We didn't talk then or even really acknowledge each other, but he would sit down at the choir room piano before and after Sunday school, singing harmony as he played the melody and I couldn’t help but join in from across the room.

Soon after that initial connection, my brother was born. His mom made enchiladas for the meal train, one with onions and one without—because, having five boys of their own, she knows how picky kids can be.

I loved the enchiladas better than the entire rest of the meal train, so you can imagine how excited I was when, not quite a year later, March of 2020, they had my family over for dinner—and of course, there was enchilada with onions and enchilada without.

The irony of the game we played—and lost—that evening never ceases to amuse me; we’d just finished our run-through of Pandemic when the alert went out to quarantine ... for the actual pandemic.

Even though I knew his name by then, he was and always will be the Enchilada Boy to my Enchilada Girl. Apparently he talked a lot about me without knowing my name, and that nickname has earned its place as his contact in my phone.

There was also a phase when I held the title of professor, all because I was simply good with words in the way I shared my testimony over YouTube live-streamed youth group. I became his editor for a time before his novel-writing hyperfocus fizzled out into the Dungeons and Dragons bandwagon that I happily hopped on and don't plan to get off anytime soon.

Over three years and at least five campaigns later, he is not only the brother I've always wanted, he's the best kind of friend I never looked for. He’s the crush I always hoped for: butt-of-the-joke comic relief kinda nerd, like a Dipper Pines meets Robbie Shapiro.

I told him one Christmas that I liked him; it was the beginning of me letting myself be unapologetic about my feelings and I remember exactly how I did it. Christmas Eve service, I handed him a sticker that said “Failure Keeps You Humble” on a banner curled around a crit failed d20. On the back of the sticker, I’d written in the dwarvish runes he taught me, “Merry Christmas. I like you. Deal with it.”

He didn’t talk to me for a week. The Sunday after Christmas, I saw him at church of course, but it was so far across campus that I could tell he was avoiding me, and I did respect his space despite how sad not seeing him felt. Then I received an email where he apologised for ignoring me as well as for not returning my feelings because he only sees me as a sister. I told him I forgave him and still wanted to be his friend if he was okay with it, which he was.

It was awkward for several months, but we’ve since gotten over it. I’m honestly grateful for those times because growth is always awkward and if someone sticks with you even after and despite all the weirdness, that’s how you know you’re truly friends. To this day, my sticker is proudly the first one stuck to his waterbottle.

Another awkward time for us was our first church camp together when he got me hooked on the idea of becoming a FUGE staffer. At the time, he was interested in a friend of mine who asked me to go with them to the “So You Wanna Be A Staffer?” meeting at the end of the week because she didn’t want to go with just him. He quickly moved on from her, but he and I have gone to that meeting every year since, and even though I was never actually interested in staffing, I was interested in living life with him. So when he said we should do the Student Leader Apprentice program together, I was all for it. A trip across the country and two weeks of camp with him? Please and thank you, sir.

August of ‘22, he texts me the dates and location he chose on his application.

I select the options he tells me to, send off my application, and hear back a couple months later. I got in. I got in.

My nana likes to give gifts of experiences, and seeing how my eighteenth birthday was approaching, I asked if she’d buy me my plane tickets. She said yes, we booked the flight and in just a few more months I’d be in Tennessee … by myself.

He never even got a rejection email in response. The program he was interested in, that I was merely onboard for the sake of his company—he didn’t get in. And I lost almost all interest.

Growing up going to FUGE Camps was certainly a blessing, and I’ve gone more years than most if you include CentriKid in the third and fourth grades. But I always knew, especially in high school when the depression and anxiety really set in, working for them was not at all my calling. Camp ministry, maybe; youth ministry, definitely. But FUGE staffers are basically contractually obligated to function on level eleven all day, every day. Me personally, I’m not physically capable of such inertia, and without his energetic self beside me, I knew I wouldn’t be able to live up to FUGE standards.

But I went anyway, and not just because Nana already purchased my tickets. I knew it would still be a good time, and I was right in so many ways. As much as I knew it would’ve been more fun with him there, it was the most spiritually fulfilling two weeks ever.

My prayer life was strengthened immensely. I made some deep godly friendships that felt like family within the first day. Of course I was exhausted 24/7 rather than the permanent go-go-go of actual staff members, but by the grace of God I somehow managed to keep up appearances and not pass out (although my roommates and I did get sick week two).

During my time in the SLA program, a lady in our church named Kathy (who’s somewhat of a surrogate grandmother to me) heard I had travelled for a camp opportunity and reached out to my father about a position her son Curtis had just accepted. She thought I’d be interested in this program Curtis was now director of, and that my dad would be interested because it was only two hours away from home instead of 2,000 miles. The program meant I’d not only be full time staff but also receive intentional discipleship throughout my contract.

She was right that I’d be interested, and my dad knew it, but I find it funny that he didn’t consult me at all before just texting me the application link—while I was still in Tennessee.

I didn’t say exactly this but I told him I was too busy to look at it, which I was. Even when I wasn’t, and even after I got home from the trip, I had promptly forgotten about it until Kathy saw me at church and asked what I thought of the job. Sheepishly admitting that it had slipped my mind completely, I did finally open the application when I got home that afternoon.

The link sat open in my web browser for three months before I actually filled it out.

But once I did, they got back to me very soon; a video call interview was scheduled, which went very well. Two weeks after that, Dad brought me to the camp for a secondary, in-person interview slash tour of the campground itself. I met one of my housemates-to-be, and some other staff members as well. Two weeks after that, I officially got the job and moved onto the camp.

None of which would have happened if not for him. It’s all thanks to that piano show-off, D&D-obsessed dork of an ex-crush. I wouldn’t be who or where I am now without him. While I can reiterate how grateful I am for what he’s done for me, I’ll never be able to fully express my gratitude for who he is to me.

Thank you, Enchilada Boy, from the bottom of my heart.