Memories of my first year of college are a blur of questionable decisions and cheap alcohol that smelt of nail polish remover. I was blinded by the new-found freedom that came as a packaged deal with my dorm room and meal plan. I stayed up all night, every night. I ate whatever I wanted, and however much of it I wanted. I ran wild and free and lived my life probably a little too carelessly. Independence was my new favorite flavor.

I figured going off to college would be the ultimate test for me to prove to the world how prepared and excited I was to be an adult. I assumed there was nothing new I needed to learn. I thought I had it all figured out. As the school year began, so did the tribulations of young-adult life, and I found myself lost at collegiate sea. That's when I met Joey.

We met on the street one night outside of a party. He was so handsome and charismatic beneath the buzz of street lights. I found my usually confident self stumbling over my words and just staring at him. The more he talked, the more my nerves vanished and I felt at peace, not only with him but with the entire world around me. There we stood amid the chaos of a welcome week party, packed with dozens of people, and all I could hear was him. He was the kind of person who could talk to anyone about anything and made it seem so effortless.

I was infatuated.

Weeks after our first encounter, we started spending more time together, as friends. He was and still is the first and only person I could spend hours talking to about absolutely anything and never grow bored. The more we talked, the more we found that we didn't seem to have much in common. We weren't interested in the same TV shows, music, or sports. We had different ways of looking at things. He thought logically, and I thought emotionally. Though we weren't the same kind of person, that didn't keep me from coming over to his house every day just to talk.

There was something about his authenticity. He's the only person I've ever met who's the exact same person around everyone he meets. He never acted like he had to put on a show or pretend to be someone he's not. Most guys I had encountered wore a mask for their friends and a different mask for me. Joey had no masks. Joey was just Joey. This was one of the first things I fell in love with about him.

After a few months of our strange relationship, I realized how important having him in my life was to me. I felt more like myself when I was with him than I did when I was all alone. He brought out all of my best qualities and made them flourish. We learned absolutely everything about each other, and a lot about ourselves, too. He taught me to value myself and to be proud of all of my many imperfections. He allowed me to be 100% myself, all the time. I didn't realize how sweet of a feeling that truly was until it wasn't there anymore. I transferred away from our school and we began to lose touch.

Being away from him made me feel like a sun-deprived flower, wilted and gray. He was my driving force. He made me excited about the day, and everything I had before me. It became clear to me that I felt more for him than I had admitted. A year of friendship was all it took to make me finally pull my head out of my butt and come to terms with the fact that there's absolutely no one else out there for me. Why wouldn't I want to be with the one person who makes me feel so at peace in a world of confusion and hate? It took a lot to move from the friendship circle to the relationship circle, but once we realized that transition is what we both wanted, absolutely nothing was keeping us from being together.

There's no kind of love quite like a love built on the foundation of friendship. I was able to learn how to value and appreciate him as a person before I was ready to love him and cherish him as a partner. I think that was exactly what I needed. I couldn't be luckier to have someone who makes me feel so important and cared for every single day, while still allowing me to feel like an individual and have my independence.

This is without a doubt the happiest, and healthiest relationship I've ever been in, romantic or not.

The moral of the story is: try falling in love with your best friend. Let them love you hard, and love them hard in return. Joey: if you're reading this, I guess you already know that I think you're pretty great. Thank you for being the best person I know and helping make me into a better person every single day. I love you.