Erin Pirkkanen #empoweredWritten

Well, it's day 6 of my #empoweredWritten project, and my nerves... have not dissipated at all. Not even a little. If anything, they're getting worse. See, I'm starting things off by writing about the women I love dearly and talk to regularly, women who know full well how much they mean to me. But as the month goes on, I'm going to be writing about people who passed in and out of my life years ago, or new acquaintances who have made a big impression, or people I've never even met and have admired from afar.

It's scary putting my writing out into the world, especially writing that's so vulnerable, but I've seen how important it is to be brave and face down your fears. My dear friend Erin has shown just how worthwhile bravery can be.

Erin and I became fast friends back in 7th grade, and from then on, her house was The House for our group of friends. You know the one I mean: she had a great basement and her parents are always genuinely happy to see me (even the times they found me in the pantry with my arms full of snacks). But it wasn’t just the basement, or the pantry, or the parents who tolerated our late night laughing fits and cooked us breakfast in the morning — Erin has always had a magnetic personality. She has an easy, infectious laugh and a sense of humor that can still make me laugh so hard I cry. She somehow always knows the best gossip and the best plans for the weekend. She’s adventurous and always looking for something new and fun to do. And as someone lucky enough to consider her a best friend 17 years running, she’s also incredibly kind and loyal.

Here’s the thing: Erin also, like so many of us, struggles with social anxiety.  On the drive to every school dance, I was one part motivational speaker, one part DJ, desperate to keep the mood up. To this day, anytime we walk into a crowd I can sense her anxiety and wish that it was socially acceptable to hold her hand.

But half an hour later? Erin’s the life of the party.

Erin’s always loved roller coasters. At least once every summer, she’d get everyone together for a trip to Great Escape, an amusement park in upstate New York. Her excitement was infectious — until I was trapped in the seat next to her on a roller coaster, feeling like she was going to crush all the bones in my hand. Erin loves a good roller coaster, but she HATES heights. For the duration of the long, agonizing crawl up the first peak, Erin would be panicked, eyes shut tight, muttering expletives. But as soon as we crest the top, her hands are in the air and she’s screaming with glee.

There are so many adventures I never would’ve had without Erin in my life. Her loyal friendship has meant so much to me over the years, and her support since I launched Written Paper Goods has been indispensable. But what inspires me the most is her bravery. She isn’t fearless — none of us are. But she’s determined to face her fears and enjoy the ride.