"Some people count sheep while falling to sleep—I count quilted Chanel purses. Like many who are fashion-obsessed, I dream about slinging that gorgeous chain strap over my shoulder and walking down Broadway with those linked Cs at my side. The bad news is that I have some five-digit college loans to pay off before I can even entertain the notion of owning such a thing, but the good news is that I have a quilted bag that's far more precious than anything Kaiser Karl can come up with.
"Let me rewind for a second. I met Ji Min on my very second day at Middlebury College. I was a transfer student starting my sophomore year, which means I was the awkward new kid who couldn't even pass off her awkwardness on being a first-year (it sucked). She was a freshman who had just made the long trek from Seoul to Vermont. At the last minute, I decided it might be a good idea to attend the formal welcoming ceremony for all new students. We happened to be standing in line next to each other, and an hour later, we were laughing about how Ji Min had slept through the entire ceremony. We made plans to have lunch at the dining hall later that day. By the end of the week, we were inseparable.
"I received this tote bag from Ji Min when I was at Midd's Language School for the summer, trying to cram as much Russian into my head as possible. It came in a little care package along with some crackers, nice pens, and gummy candy that I devoured instantly. In a card, she said that she had started making it months earlier, and had finally finished it. The bag is definitely handmade: The stitches are uneven, the spacing is off, and the hearts are kind of lumpy. But that's exactly what I love about it: It was made for me by my best friend. There's no other bag like it in the world.
"Ji Min was the sister I never expected to have. We were inseparable for three years. We complained about homework and how Bannerweb always crashes when you try to register for classes, so it ends up that there's nothing good left by the time you actually sign up, and how it's really annoying that Ross only has fried food because Proctor's food is always better but it's so cramped in there. We watched Futurama when we should have been studying for midterms, cried over boys who didn't love us, and argued over who the hottest member of Big Bang was (#wesupportdaesung). We used a broom handle to roll out pie crust and ate fudge straight-up on Sundae Sundays. Pardon the cheesy metaphor, but we were each a lot like that tote: uneven, lumpy, and often pieced-together, but unshakable trust and friendship always seemed to hold things together in their own beautiful way.
"Then, all of a sudden, graduation was upon us. This was it. We were being separated.
"It's been over a year since we last saw each other, and full-time jobs on both ends, plus a 13-hour time difference means Skyping isn't as frequent or easy as we'd like, but I think the true test of friendship is being able to talk after months of silence, and feel as though no time has passed at all. As for the tote bag, it, in all of its lumpy-hearted, unevenly stiched beauty, comes with me every day to the R29 office. I never leave home without it. It is the faithful companion which reminds me that friendship can travel 7,000 miles with ease, and that one day, someday, Ji Min and I will see each other again. Chanel, eat your heart out. My quilted bag is priceless."
Photographed by Julia Lola Wang