Growing up with an older cousin to look up to is the biggest blessing you can ask for. You have a mentor, a partner in crime and a best friend all in one. It honestly couldn't get any better. When you have an older cousin, she can make all the mistakes for both of you so that you don't have too. She can go to college before you and tell you everything not-to-do. She can go to college before you and tell you everything you must do. She can travel the world before you and tell you everywhere to see. She can travel the world before you and tell you everywhere not to see.
My older cousin has done all of this. She has been my rock, my hero, my role model and my biggest motivator. Ashly is three years older than me. There are pictures of her holding me around my neck at our family Christmas but I promise it isn't what the picture shows; her and I's bond really did start when I was born.
Our moms grew up like sisters. They were insanely close. The only difference is that when our moms were young, my mom ratted on Ashly's mom for throwing a party when her parents were out of town. Ashly and I? She invites me to the parties she throws when her parents go out of town.
Ashly and I grew up at our family's lake house, going to tubing and skinny dipping in the lake in the dark. Once, our dads told us they would give us $50 each if we camped out in a tent in the backyard. We set the tent up as close to the door as we could; the zipper door on the tent actually led right onto the porch. Ashly and I were determined. We were prepared with plenty of snacks, things to keep us occupied and a speaker. We even chugged two large Monster Energy Drinks so that we could pull an all nighter. We were doing exceptionally well until the battery in the speaker died and one of our flash lights dimmed down. It didn't take long for us to start hearing noises. We had left our Monster cans in the yard. We could hear something in the yard, tearing at the Monster cans. It didn't take us long to panic and use our cell phones to call our dads who were both dead asleep in the house. It was 2 am but we made my dad come out to get us and make sure we safely made it the thirteen feet into the house. Needless to say, Ashly and I never got that $50.
That's honestly one of the more mild stories that I could share about Ashly and I. Her and I went through our boy crazed stages together and holy shit, was that a wild ride. Ashly and I went through all of our annoying, girl stages together and I can't tell you that one of them was pleasant nor easy, but I am beyond grateful to have had her by my side.
A year ago, Ashly left me to begin her study abroad adventures. First, she went to Spain for a semester. She left in August, shortly before I left for my first year of college. Even though she was thousands of miles away, she was there for me every single step of the way. We FaceTimed almost daily as she told me every detail about her trips and I told her everything about my average life in Latrobe. She came home over Christmas for a couple weeks and then she was gone again. But this time, she was off to Chile. Again, we FaceTimed almost daily and constantly texted. Even from different continents she helped me through my boy troubles and the normal college freshman girl struggles. She came home over Easter and met my now-boyfriend. She gave the much needed approval I needed from her. And yet again she was back overseas.
When she came home in July, her and I became attached to the hip and we've been that way ever since. We hung out every single day and even as I moved into college it was like she moved in with me; she was on campus practically everyday.
Now here we are, I just finished my first week of my sophomore year and she just left me yet again; off to Loyola to finish her senior year. Tomorrow will mark the beginning of my last weekend of Summer 2016 with her at the family's lake house. But, even when Monday comes and she drives south to Baltimore and I drive north back to Pennsylvania, I know that after her and I are both graduate and get ready to start our lives, we'll be starting them together; somewhere new and adventurous. Side by side, two cousins, in a new city, in a new state (broke as shit and living off memories).