I Call Her Friend. (The Study of Dena)
By, Heather Rice
Long ago in a super fun land far away, called college, I met a young woman who would change my life: so much more than I could have ever realized at the time. She changed the way that I perceive other people, myself, and thankfully: the world. Looking back on the past 13 years I’m astonished at how many of my defining moments were a result of her immediate reactionary grace. Dena Kology. Otherwise known as “the study of Dena”.
I was 18 and was slightly young for my year in school having a September birthday. I arrived at the UCF Theatre program with a lot of young excitement, a fire for the arts, and like most freshman, zero friends. I am the artsy musician girl and am quite certain that my fellow high school students found me aloof. To a point, my creativity isolated me from my peers, save three dear friends that basically saved my high school years. I retreated into my musical world whenever possible, generally at my piano: alone in my own little world.
In my first year of college I was cast in a play by William Inge. I played Elma Duckworth, a young, inquisitive country girl who dreamt of more. In the play, Elma looks up to the Marilyn Monroe character, Cherie, who is glamorous and unabashed. Cherie was to aptly played by THE Dena Kology. Dena was a star in our program. EVERYONE loved her. I’m not kidding. She smiles at strangers, laughs really loud, and to this day can completely change the energy of a space just by being in it. You need only be graced with a minute or two of her ‘signature undivided attention’ to understand why she is so well loved. She is a great big ball of sunshine and freely gives a ray of it to whomever crosses her path.
It took her only a few days to swoop me up. She has a way of cutting through the bull shit pretty quickly and she saw my heart immediately. Soon I was invited to all the parties and Dena was introducing me to all the best people and giving me the best dirt on all the boys. She introduced me as her “incredibly talented, gorgeous friend that everyone must meet immediately”. Can you imagine it?
I had never really found “my people”. And here they were: a bunch of young vulnerable artists, serious about their craft, chain smoking through deep conversation and having wild dance parties. I think it was one of my first gatherings that Dena asked me to play her one of my original songs. I’m sure it was about one of my silly crushes and was totally awful. I’d only started writing my own tunes that year, but I’ll never forget her reaction. She had tears in her eyes. Out poured a stream of encouragement with an enthusiasm matched only by my blood relatives. She urged me to play it again and made everyone in the entire building come into the room as she said “Sit down, quiet everyone, Heather Feather has written an amazing song!” In that moment, I learned how far a little genuine encouragement can go, how to not only believe in the person beside you, but in their dreams as well. I trace back to this moment having recently released my first full length gospel album, a massive undertaking that I could not have done without her friendship then and even a year ago when I was still on the fence about producing it myself. The ripple Dena made so many years ago has rolled into the wave I am currently riding toward my life purpose. Never underestimate the power of a word, a favor, a gift, a small ripple you can make in someone else’s journey.
Partner in MasterPeace, maid of honor at our wedding, HUGE support to me now at 6 months pregnant, while renovating our first “fixer upper” house AND recording my fifth album. Oh yeah! And she’s also Godmother to our little boy due August. And our friendship is only 16 years old.
This is a friend, nay a sister. We need friends like that. Not the ones that make you feel small, one up you, or talk behind your back. Somebody that teaches you how to be a better, more compassionate person, not just to others, but yourself. A good friend is hard to find, but when we do, we should hang on to her for dear life.
Do you have a woman hero in your life like I do? Send us your story, we’d love to share it with our community! Send to firstname.lastname@example.org, or post it on our FaceBook page. #youareamasterpeace