“Just like the pomegranate, we are undeniably complicated yet irresistibly juicy.” -F.B.
I began my academic journey at CSU Channel Islands in the summer of 2008. This experience began with orientation and ended with the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) Summer Bridge program. EOP Summer Bridge is designed to support first-generation college students as they acclimate to university life, with a focus on academic expectations. It was during a Summer Bridge workshop on writing that I met my soul sister, Kari Moss.
In that workshop, Kari provided valuable information on collegiate writing expectations and strategies. Kari asked the class of EOP students, ”Who in here likes to write?” I was the only one to raise my hand, enthusiastically, I might add. Kari giggled and shared a look of, wow, okay, just us then. That was our first connection, a love for writing as an outlet and tool of expression.
Several months later, after the school year began, I became more acquainted with Kari and her sister, Kirsten, as a member of the Student Programming Board (SPB). Kari and Kirsten were the advisors for SPB; all student clubs and organizations were required to have some form of supervision and guidance. SPB was essentially a student-led organization that planned events and programs to meet the social needs of its peers.
I recall a trip to Ontario, CA for an SPB conference where colleges from near and far gathered to share ideas and gain access to resources for future programs. Kari accompanied the group of fewer than 10 students for the weekend-long conference. During a day of workshops, I got my cycle and cramps soon followed, so I opted to go back to the hotel room and lie down. After a while, Kari came up to check on me and I remember us bonding over shitty periods and the occasional cramps that sometimes become debilitating. After reconnecting years later, I brought up this lovely story to Kari and she highlighted a different memory where my friend, Veronica, and I snuck out of a boring session and walked to a convenience store nearby for snacks and rebellion. I laughed and said, “guess I conveniently forgot about that part“, to which Kari replied, “oh no, that’s what I thought you were about to bring up.” Well, this is awkward, I thought.
We had many awkward moments, Kari and I. I will never forget one particularly uncomfortable experience when I stood in her office doorway as she read the personal statement I used for my EOP/CSU Channel Islands application. We were well acquainted by then, I’d even say we were friends, but she did not know that this bubbly gal had a dark side filled with bouts of depression and self-loathing. In my statement, I revealed some personal details that I’ve only shared with a small number of people. I stood there in her office as she skimmed through my paper, beginning aloud then fading to a whisper until no sound escaped her lips. I’d never felt so bare and seen. I imagine someone with less understanding would have attempted to dramatize their sympathy to match the weight of this new information. When she finally looked back at me, I didn’t see pity. I was still her fun-loving friend, just with a new layer – not like a parfait, like an onion.
Towards the end of my senior year, Kari and I participated in Dancing with the Staff, a dance competition where a staff member and student partner up and perform for a panel of judges. I don’t remember which of us had the idea to enter but Kari and I won the competition with our last-minute choreography to Michael Jackson’s “Black or White”. The best part about our performance, and what likely tipped the scales in our favor, was a set of props we used – two of Kari’s Cabbage Patch Dolls from her childhood. In our performance, I held the White baby doll and Kari held the Black baby doll. The performance represented love and joy and unity, a few things Kari and I have always wanted to share with the world.
Writing our story has helped me see how connected our souls are, long before we were aware of each other’s existence. Our paths had been on a collision course, merging and separating in ways that encouraged growth and wholeness, understanding and compassion, and pain sprinkled with joy.
When we reconnected many years later, we bonded over tragedy, walking, and new beginnings. Prior to my birthday in October of 2021, we’d been communicating over email, text, and the occasional phone call. Kari offered to make me a birthday lunch, so we met in a park that was a midpoint between us both. Seeing Kari again was like a decadent dessert for my soul. I’d underestimated the power of connecting with someone who is made of pure love of good intentions. We enjoyed a spontaneous game of tennis, a casual stroll onto an active golf course, a brisk walk out of the active golf course, and an amazing yogurt parfait. We talked about all that had happened over the years, my journey to myself and the mistakes along the way, my disconnection from people after questioning the sincerity of everyone, and the road that led us back to one another.
Though I didn’t realize it at the time, Kari and I were true friends. We shared important moments and created a bond that perhaps preceded this lifetime as Kari and Franchesca. Now that we’re journeying into the unknown with Love Should Be, we are driven by the passion to love our fellow humans and create a community of belonging and reverence for all life. It’s difficult for many of us to find our place in this world when really, that place is everywhere. We just want everyone to see that we all belong here.