Welcome to Ryley Writes, a collection of thoughts, stories, and work from deep in the heart of Texas.

True North

One side effect of working at the rink and covering hockey for three years at Liberty is that nearly all of my friends are Canadian.

This confuses people immensely, my family included, because I'm from Texas; and no one expects anyone from Texas to punctuate their y'all's with eh's or chirp their Leafs gear or have such a very, very, very real Roots problem.

It also means more than the average travel experience for post-grad reunions, and a heavy reliance on iMessage and social media to fill the gaps where constant, physical presence existed not so long ago.

Like short summers, I could put a positive spin on it and say that reunions few and far between are sweeter for scarcity. But honestly, even as I make new friends, I miss old ones. There are plenty of nights when I walk into my apartment and wish for the hum of people — not company or even conversation, necessarily, but the kind of comfort that comes from people who know and love each other past the point of expectation. When you prefer others' presence to their absence, even if you're all just doing laundry or homework, you've found the sweet spot. People you like to go out with aren't really that rare. People you like to stay in with? That's the real deal.

I really found my people in my third and final year of undergrad. I was (as with most everything in college, in the most literal sense) late to the party — a last-minute addition to and beneficiary of a close-knit family built in their underclassman years.

They were teammates and roommates and classmates and couples from all corners of Canada and the odd United State. They were funny and kind, generous and Jesus-loving; the type to keep their doors unlocked and revolving. Like an addition tacked on to a rambling house, I was nonetheless invited to make these people my home, and not a day goes by that I am not grateful for it.

This past weekend, I boarded a plane and stumbled into Halifax Stanfield International Airport at 3 a.m. for my best friend's wedding and a long (and long overdue) weekend with some of those people. And despite being 2,615 miles northeast of Austin, in the midst of the whirlwind of final DIY wedding decorating and details, my soul felt full and settled and at home.

I relished Clinton's sarcasm and dad jokes and adored his wife, Keely, who is the kind of person you want a pocket-sized version of to carry around with you always — bright and sweet and easygoing.

Jeff is the only person I know who can be accurately described as "jolly" without it being weird or without him being a senior citizen. Jeff is maybe, probably, the happiest human I have ever met in my life. He came straight to rehearsal from the airport, burst into the church, and everyone's blood pressures immediately lowered. True scientific fact. He spent the entire weekend snuggling random cats, taking bridal party selfies on my phone, dancing to "You Are the Best Thing" by Ray LaMontagne, and making loud noises. And it wasn't annoying. Jolly, I tell you.

Chad, on the other hand, has always been like reassurance in human form to me. We were never super close on an individual level — just part of that same group our senior years at Liberty — but he has a sort of unflappable steadiness to him that makes me feel calmer whenever he's in the room. Sometimes, if I was nervous before reporting a hockey game and Chad was at the rink watching, I would just go sit next to him and try and siphon some of his Chad-ness, and he never questioned it. He's rarely first to speak, but when he does — whether he's giving advice or telling a joke — I listen, because Chad is the kind of person who it's wise listen to.

Ryan, the groom, has also been a reliable sounding board for me for as long as we've been friends. He has the reputation for being 22 going on 90 (accurate), but the flip side of his occasionally grumpy mannerisms (which I find endlessly humorous, to his great annoyance) is extreme loyalty, faithfulness, and a whole lot of wisdom. I joked in my maid of honor speech that Ryan is basically the best twofer in the history of the world, because how often does your best friend's boyfriend turn out to also be one of your best friends, but I only turned it into a joke to keep from ugly crying, which freaks him out. This is the same tactic I took when he hugged me the night before the wedding & told me I was "always one of the boys," which was, oddly enough, the exact and most comforting thing my heart needed to hear.

And, of course, there was the bride. Carly has seen me at my best and my worst and loves me all the same. She is the best, and we will be friends forever; if only because at this point she knows too much and could ruin me. (<--- Turning things into a joke to keep from ugly crying again.)

There are more and there are others, but just a few days with some of the core members of that group — my people, my first home away from home — filled me in places I didn't even know I was running on empty.

Canada has the whole "true north strong and free" tagline thing, which is super sweet and majestic-sounding; but my little Canadian family has served, in a quieter sense, as a sort of North Star for me more than they'll ever know. When I get turned around, they can take my hand and turn me back in the right direction. They tell me the truth and they tell me who I am, and this week, I am extra thankful for them.

Pura Vida

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