Maybe you are my childhood best friend. Maybe we met in middle school and realized we actually didn’t hate each other. Maybe you walked into my life in high school and opened your heart to our group just as we embraced you with open arms. Or maybe we’ve always run in the same circle and over time, that forced us together.
You were the friends that I saw because I had to, but then I begged to have sleepovers. We made secret handshakes, friendship bracelets, friendship pacts, and late night snacks. When we had crushes on boys, we spent all day writing pros and cons lists to help each other decide whether or not he was a suitable mate (spoiler alert: he wasn’t). One time, we went for a “hike” in the backyard and brought a raw potato as our snack. We pulled all-nighters to prove that we could, only to fall asleep in church the next morning. We also stayed up all night trying to perfectly harmonize Florence and the Machine. We supported each other through our first periods and through our college applications. I have laughed and cried my hardest with you.
We didn’t necessarily have much in common, but you were always kind of there. My childhood best friends knew everything about me and continued to accept me. As our numbers grew and new friendships were formed, what we didn’t know about each other, we learned. And we loved. Sometimes we judged each other openly and other times we whispered behind backs, but somehow we were able to transcend all of that and hold onto each other.
I didn’t think we would make it past high school. We hadn’t all attended the same school, but we were all in the same town and congregated on a weekly basis. We were splitting up between six different colleges and would be spread out across multiple states. Some of us would join sororities and have a sparkly new group of young women with which to bond. We were choosing different majors and meeting new roommates. I started to feel that we would drift apart organically. We just didn’t have enough commonalities to hold us together, and our new lives would take over. We wouldn’t even notice that our old friends were gone. The only thing that had fortified our friendships until now were our weekly rendezvous….right? At that point in time, I thought I was ready to let go of the group. I knew that I would stay close friends with a few of you, but I was prepared for our group to disband.
But we didn’t. Somehow, we made it over the college hump. Even if by nothing more than force of habit, we stayed in regular contact. Because that’s just what we did. I loved you guys, but sometimes I didn’t like to hear about what you were doing at your new schools. I was struggling to fit in and make friends, and sometimes knowing that you were having such a good time made me feel lesser. You never did anything on purpose to make me feel that way, but I let my insecurities get the better of me. Your lives seemed somehow better than mine. You moved on and made new friends, and I still just had you. I felt like the oddball in a group of well-adjusted ladies and wasn’t sure how to express it. Sometimes I felt like a burden. Maybe I wasn’t as ready to let go of you as I thought I was.
We saw each other on holiday breaks and not much had changed. We were all adjusting and discovering life in different ways, but this was not a change from how we managed in younger years. We were only dealing with uncharted territory. I looked forward to seeing you on breaks, and reuniting the group.
Sophomore year of college was the first time I felt burned. There was a miscommunication and it hit the fan. We were young and didn’t know how to say “you hurt my feelings” without it becoming a bigger deal. All parties involved could have handled things with more grace, and I was sensitive and took the blow hard. But we loved each other, and things would eventually cool off and fade into memory. I didn’t talk to you guys as much, but you were still there when I needed you and never let me disappear. We still saw each other on holiday breaks. Still, not much changed.
I started feeling like you liked me for what I could do for you. You never made any notions to lead me this way, but I spoke with you less and twisted things around in my head. I wasn’t sure why we were all still friends. Yes, we had history, but we didn’t have much of any mutual ground. I was losing touch.
I felt burned again a few years later. This time you didn’t even know you had hurt my feelings, and I cried for a few weeks before I said anything to anyone. You were surprised when I finally spoke up, because you had no idea I had ever felt this animosity. It was awkward for a little while.
But then we got together. And not much had changed. I realized that it was silly of me to think that it might. Our friendship hadn’t broken and it wasn’t going to.
People told me that it was time to make the break. If I had been hurt by you, I didn’t need you in my life. Now those people are gone, but you are still here. I have come to terms with the fact that I will never get rid of you, and I never want to. We formed a family—a weird, dysfunctional family where we are all the same age and we are all girls—that will hold tight through thick and thin. We don’t need common ground to be our glue, because WE are our glue. We don’t always understand each other, we don’t all live near each other, and we don’t even all like each other all the time, but I would walk through fire for each and every one of you.
I now expect all friends to love me through all the bullshit the way you guys have, and I have set the bar so high that I may never make another friend again, hah! So sorry about it, but it looks like you’re stuck with me. I will love and protect you for the rest of my life (not just because I know it’s mutual). We don’t need to marry each other’s brothers to be family, because we already are.