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Lions Roar : January 2010
65 now we both live in new York, and while we are only a short subway ride away from each other, she is the only one of the group with whom i have lost touch. Still, i have wonderful mem- ories of her. once, when were eight, we sat on the floor next to my four-poster brass bed, leaning on my hot pink beanbag, and somehow our conversation led to the confession that each of us felt somehow special. “Chosen,” i offered. “Yeah,” said Elizabeth, brightening. During college, we studied together in England, traveled in italy, and took trips to visit her aunt’s antebellum mansion in Kentucky, where we wrote our names in an ancient layer of dust on a mirror in the haunted attic. whenever we wanted to commu- nicate something for no ears but our own, we used the code “chosen.” while writing this article i reconnected with Eliz- abeth, who spent the summer working for the Amer- ican Civil Liberties union and was about to start her third year of law school at Fordham university. After graduating from the university of pennsylvania, she had spent four years living in Quito, Ecuador, where she worked for indigenous rights and environmental conserva- tion and participated in social and political organizing. Latin America was a proving ground for Elizabeth’s political passions. “it changed my whole view of the world and of who i wanted to be,” she says. For the first time, “i experienced happiness in a different, much more profound way. i saw that people with so much less were so much happier, through family and their own work, not through a career set on making money.” Though her mom urged her to come home so she could begin building a career, Elizabeth says, “i stayed for four years because i was at peace there, and i was terrified that if i came home i was going to lose that. i finally came home when the peace had become part of me, a place in my mind.” unlike many of her law school classmates who are champing at the bit to practice in the corporate world, her focus is pub- lic interest law. Last year, she took a fieldwork trip to Cambodia with the walter Leitner international Human rights Clinic at Fordham Law. She contributed to a project researching forced eviction and resettlement in Cambodia, interviewing families who were the victims of forced eviction by the government and trapped in miserable living conditions. Me: The writer “You’ve always been a writer,” Vanessa reminds me. “You always had lots of ideas flowing through your little head,” says Jill. The summer before our freshman year of college, Jill, Lizzi, and i got together for a road trip to Starved rock, illinois, where we camped and hiked, surrounded by cornfields. The day it rained, i bought an old Smith Corona typewriter at a garage sale and we spent an afternoon typing our collective story at the local BeeHive restaurant until the waitress asked us to leave because the sound of the keys was irritating the other customers. our friendship was strongest in middle school, and while we grew apart during high school with the arrival of a new cast of characters, most of us re- kindled our friendship in our early twenties. But it is the early time the five of us spent together that continues to live on and inform the way we see ourselves and our capacity as individuals to shape our desti- nies and change the world. “one thing that has struck me as lasting is our creativ- ity,” says Lizzi. “we were very crafty. it was clear which of us were more artistically in- clined, but nobody ever said, ‘oh, i can’t do this.’ it boosted our confidence that we could do something beautiful in the world.” “i was thinking it would be fun if we had a reunion,” confesses Vanessa. when i tell her that, at first, i hadn’t heard back from everyone for this story, she hastens to add, “But i don’t know...” our relationships over the years have not always been blissful. Secret jealousies and hurt feelings go back years. But, slowly, ev- eryone came together, each one’s memories setting off the next. Drifting off to sleep after a day of writing, i remember how Lizzi would make us utter the incantation “open Sesame” be- fore entering a wooded area in her backyard. now seeking out our spiritual beginnings, searching for seeds sown when we were young, i think that perhaps the treasure i am after is in a cave, the mouth of which is sealed by magic and memories. ♦ SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2010 clined, but nobody ever said, ‘oh, i can’t do this.’ it boosted Lily Elizabeth