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There are lots of things that can shape a friendship —good times, bad times, mediocre times—and then there are rivers. I know this sounds dramatic, but it’s really just one afternoon. And it ended up being a positive experience, albeit hilarious.

Over the summer, three of my friends from high school and I finally managed to find a weekend where all of us could meet up in the same place at the same time. After nearly five years of planning, The Posse managed to get ourselves to Minneapolis for a weekend of booze, gossip, and adventures. One of which included some river tubing.

Now, when I normally think of a lazy river, my mind automatically floats to a Disney theme park with chlorine-filled water and people sipping piña coladas with tons of sunscreen on their faces. It did not occur to me that it would be an actual, real-life river.I guess I’m more of a city-slicker than I ever believed.

After loading up all of our snacks, adult beverages, and applying sunscreen, we set out through the Minnesota crop fields and ended up at an old mill by the river, full of rubber inner tubes.

Now, there aren’t many times where I’ve felt like a “city slicker,” but entering an old fashioned, cash-only mill was one of those times. After scrambling to find an ATM, tubes in tow, we boarded an old school bus and made the drive further up the river, bouncing along a dirt road in this time capsule that made me feel like I was back in summer camp again.

After getting to the river bank, all four of us plunged into the slightly cool water and figured out how we could tie our four tubes together with twine. Then we set off, with only our legs and hands to steer this makeshift raft. As we drifted downstream, it was clear which groups had done this before—with their elaborate tube rafts and floating coolers—and who was new to this. Like us, and our boxed wine.

Soon, however, it became clear that this river ride was not going to be as lazy as we expected. While there were no level-4 rapids, we had to work hard to avoid sandbanks, overreaching trees, shallow patches, and other tubers; all while rotating and trying not to drop car keys or my insulin pump into the river. Depending on what direction any of us faced, we took helm on navigation. I elected to shirk these responsibilities, always facing the opposite direction of where our tubes drifted.

Through all the shouting, kicking, and laughter, we made it through the three-mile drift without any major injuries or getting sucked into the rapids just past the float’s ending point. We had conquered the mighty waters of whatever river we just floated down.

Now, here’s where I could take some liberties and make this into some grandiose conclusion. I could pretend that my experience was some kind of metaphor for life, where “navigating life’s unexpectedly tumultuous river” relies on friends and laughter, or something. But why? Why does everything have to be bigger than it is? Can’t four friends just enjoy an afternoon adventure on some nameless river in Minnesota without it having to change our lives? Sometimes adventures just happen, and it’s our responsibility to enjoy the moment and focus on wherever the water takes us.

Jessica Lulka

Jess Lulka is a Boston-based creative. When she's not writing or editing, you'll find her at any bookstore, art museum, or looking at cat pictures.

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