disparate /ˈdispərət/, adj.

Every day at work, I sit on the Internet to follow and find the biggest trending topics of the day and then write articles about these topics. Over the summer, before the election and this reality set in, my fellow writers and I would often comment that the news was only about politics.

Clearly, none of us knew what was coming because I wish I could take those words back.

I now have a newfound gratitude for weekends, not just because I don’t have to go to work, but because they’re the two days of the week when I don’t have to be on the computer watching news stream live on Facebook and the number of articles on developing news exponentially increase as time passes.

The news is rightfully taking up a large fraction of my attention. It is also, however, making it increasingly difficult for me to justify thinking and talking about much else because anything that falls into this “much else” category feels so insignificant and unimportant in comparison.

In other words: I celebrated my birthday this week.

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Bittersweet chocolate tart with toasted hazelnut praline at Chez Panisse | Photo by Courtney Cheng

Today, I’ve had an incredibly difficult time sitting myself down to compose this post. I kept finding myself pulled to reading the news, staying real-time updated on all the dialogue that’s flying around in 140-character tweets, and sharing others’ stories instead.

Just yesterday, I sat around a kitchen table with seven of my closest friends to celebrate my birthday. We teetered, at one point, on the brink of letting our conversation turn political, but we managed to keep the tone light after a couple, brief rants and a half-joking, but half-serious order of there being “No politics in my household.”

Frankly, I am immensely grateful that I wasn’t alone in that moment.

I realize, most people would generally assume a friend group would share at least some larger, overarching sentiments. It’s expected; people tend to congregate and surround themselves with similar minds. This assumption, however, becomes a little harder to fall on when all of your friends (barring two) barely knew or hadn’t ever met each other before yesterday.

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Photo by Courtney Cheng

All of my closest friends hail from disparate places — one each from high school, writing camp, orchestra, freshman year dorms, and the Internet; as well as two from college extracurriculars — but they came together in a way that reminded me of why I’ve tried so hard to keep these friends over the years and why I love them as much as I do.

At a time when so much has become uncertain in the state of the world and our own lives, I have become increasingly thankful to be in the company of these people, my friends. They remind me of the good that remains in the world, teach me to continually push myself to be better, and show me how to love harder.

I am only sad that we didn’t get to take a photo together, but as many photographers have noted: Sometimes you can get too caught up in capturing the perfect shot that you forget to enjoy the moment.

In that case, I’m glad I was enjoying the moment so much that I forgot to take the photo.

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