To Nkoyen

Two years ago today, one of my closest friends in the world passed away.

I say “passed away” but honestly, when you think about it, it’s such a poor and insufficient phrase to describe the wrenching loss to friends and family, that it makes me angry. To say “she passed away” sounds like an action she chose to take – to get up and move away. To say she has “passed away” implies she simply left.

With all my heart, I can attest that she’s not gone from here. She’s some of the best parts of who I am today.

Nkoyen’s greatest gift to me–besides her friendship–was her absolute and unwavering belief that I was capable of doing anything in the world I set my mind to. Of course, I don’t honestly think I can take all the credit on that one—it was Nyk’s gift to everyone she encountered. She seemed to always see their highest potential.

She was always the first one to encourage me in anything I wanted to do. Should I open my own nightclub? “Absolutely,” she would say. “You don’t need to wait to find the right business partners. You’re smart, you have the experience and you can do it yourself. By the way, have you written a business plan?” Or, enchanted by my visits to the Big Apple, I’d ponder moving to New York. Immediate response: “Awesome. You don’t need to wait to find the right job, but it’s gonna cost you at least six figures to live here comfortably. Go for it—just make sure you have a plan.” I even remember a Cosmopolitan-soaked musing over expanding my jewelry design “hobby” into a full time gig. “Oh, definitely. You are incredibly talented and should start your own line. I can help you find investors.” Then, the inevitable Nkoyen coup de grace: “Once you put together a business plan, I’d be delighted to go over it for you.”

Not one single time in our 11-year friendship did she once question whether or not I could actually do something. She just said “Go ahead. You can do it. I believe in you.”

Two years ago, my closest friend in the world passed beyond my everyday life. She’s gone from my ability to call or email her or make a lightning trip to New York to drink and flirt with cute boys and play and shop until we dropped. She’s moved from my ability to seek her advice and encouragement.

I’ve faced a lot of challenges over the last two years where I’ve really needed her. I’ve gone after quite a few goals. Each time, I could hear a voice saying, “Go for it, Kimmie.” With every failure, I’ve dusted myself off and tried again. With each success, my only regret is a frantic feeling that I’ve missed sharing it with someone very important. I search inside of myself desperate to figure out whom, and then I remember.

Two years ago, an embolism took her. It certainly wasn’t part of her plan.

Nyk’s no longer physically here, but she left behind an incredibly powerful gift for me: an unwavering knowledge that if someone as brave and bright and fierce as Nkoyen Edidiong Ekpoudom believed in me, I could do anything. She may have passed, but she didn’t pass away. She left some of that bravery and light and fierceness behind and it’s with me every day, inspiring me to reach further, try harder and achieve my dreams.

When I walk through my new condo (my very own home!), or drive my shiny new car (it starts every time I turn the key) or share my career successes with friends, my first thought is of her.

I know how proud she would be of me. She’d congratulate me and hug me and we’d go out and have drinks and toast to even greater things she was absolutely confident that I would achieve in the future.

But she’d still want to see the damn plan.

I miss you, Nyk.

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