May 10, 2010

A few thoughts on friendship

As a "part 2" of my vacation recap, I promised you some deep thoughts. Turns out, that also equals many, long thoughts. So grab a snack and settle in. I hope you'll think it's worth it.

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When I was a little girl, having a "best friend" was everything.

It didn't matter if your best friend changed every year, or even every week; you just had to have one.

Someone who sat by you during lunch and made up silly games with you at recess, who invited you to her sleepovers, and got into giggle fits with you, and told you all her best secrets.

From ages 6-12, my best friend, P, and I were inseparable. Absolutely joined at the hip in every way. Other friends came and went; P and I were steadfast. We went to church and school together. Her older brothers teased us relentlessly; my little brother drove us nuts. Our parents patiently listened to giggling well past 3 a.m. nearly every weekend. People at church told us, "You know, when we think of the word 'friend,' we think of you two."

Peas in a tiny little, sheltered pod.

P knew every single one of my secrets. From the silly to the very, very serious. To this day, she is a guardian of one of my biggest secrets, and I'm not sure if she even remembers anymore.

When it came time for high school, our paths divided. And while we still called each other "best friend," and we still saw one another all the time...things changed. Other friends entered our circle. We spent weeks apart.

By the time college rolled around, I still loved her, but things had clearly changed for both of us. It happens. It's a part of life.

As one of my favorite bloggers says: Friendships have a lifespan. Very few are meant to actually go the distance. And that's OK. Life happens. It's OK to let go.

I met B when I was 18. Immediately, we had a lot of surface things in common: Both music majors, both singers, both freshmen at a new school. We discovered we both liked boys who didn't like us back, and we agonized over this mutual slight.

And as the year wore on and we spent more and more time together in dorm rooms, concert halls, dining halls, classrooms and tour buses, one thing became clear: B was really, really funny. And she made me funnier. And together, we could make each other laugh like no one had ever made us laugh before.

Me and B, 1996:


And when we started singing together, just us, in coffee shops and concerts and sometimes just in our rooms? It was like something finally clicked in me. Here was someone who could bond with me over the most fundamentally personal thing I had -- music -- and make me burst into uncontrollable laughter at the same time. For me, this was as close to magical as friendships got at that point.

There was something there, something we recognized in one another -- this kind of sameness.

We were as different as two people could possibly be in almost every way: Our backgrounds, family life, taste in almost everything; we're even polar opposites in hair color, height and body type. But when something made me laugh, it made her laugh, too. Even when no one else in the world got the joke, I knew B always did.

At a time when I was barely becoming an adult, and I had left P and my family behind, and I was secretly sure no one in the entire world would ever, ever really GET me?

She did.

B transferred to another school after our sophomore year. I was crushed, of course, but, in a selfishness only a 19-year-old can display, I had other things going on that seemed more important at the time. We were both dealing with a lot of issues, including "What Do I Want to Do With My Life?", and our paths just naturally divided. We still kept in touch and saw one another fairly often. But that feeling of sameness and safety waned.

Our friendship followed the ebb-and-flow pattern that I think a lot of adult friendships follow. Drift apart, drift back together. Drift apart, see one another again, have a great time, drift apart again. We both got married. We moved to different cities. We started new lives. Friendships have a lifespan. It's OK to move on.

And yet, we never quite did, not completely. We still called each other on our birthdays, and had the occasional dinner. B got divorced and moved back to my area. We saw each other a little more frequently.

It's amazing how conversations change as you get older: Suddenly we were talking about things like our careers and having babies and buying houses. We didn't burst into spontaneous songs at the drop of a hat. We didn't talk in weird voices, or make inappropriate jokes about the waiter, or laugh so hard we cried. It was nice. It was grown-up. Grown-up friendship. Not quite the same, but: Nice. It was lovely to have her as more of a regular part of my life.

When we decided to take a trip together, I'll admit (to her for the first time, too): I was a little nervous about it. Yes, we've been friends for 15 years; yes, I still consider her my "best friend," whatever that REALLY means when you're 32. And it's only four days. But...

But we haven't been together for more than a few hours at a time since we were 21. Will we have enough to talk about? Will it be awkward? Will we want to do the same things? Will we fight? Will we annoy each other? Will we spend all day on the beach in silence and then retreat to separate corners every night to talk to our respective boyfriend/husband and secretly sigh, thinking that we have four/three/two/one more day(s) of this?

My fears were assuaged almost instantly. The night before we left, we stayed up almost until we had to get up again, talking with my mom, reminiscing about all the silly things we did in college and giggling like idiots.

When the plane was readying for takeoff and B started looking nervous, I hesitated, then said, "Wanna hold my hand for takeoff?" When she didn't look alarmed or uncomfortable, I knew. It was going to be fine.

I wish I knew how to describe to you what that weekend meant and still means to me. It was a reaffirmation. Not just that I can still honestly call B my best friend. But that, even at 32, the idea of having a friend who is that in tune with you, who gets you, who loves you and listens? Really listens? And who can know all your best secrets and still not judge you, and will give you honest advice? Who can see a clown wig and automatically know what to do with it?

It's still possible.

It didn't feel like a "grown-up" friendship anymore, where we have a great time together, but it's all at arms' length, on the surface. There was true honesty there, and an ability to just be myself. Really ME. I can't think of anything more valuable, or more rare.

And while I'm lucky enough to be able to call B my "BFF" in the truest sense of the word, I'm also blessed beyond reason to have a whole group of 14 other amazing women (including our own Two Pretzels, Metacognitive Musings, Trophy Life, Chewlies, Aimless Oasis and Snappy Tulip) who have all those "true" friend qualities, too. They'll stop whatever they're doing to just be my friend when I need them, and they know I'd do the same for them.

Even as we grow older, and our lives change and move and grow, and we become more isolated as we have children and families and careers, and life gets in the way, it's still possible to have what we had as little girls. That feeling of sameness, of family, of understanding.

It's possible to be a wife and a star employee and a mother and all the millions of things you have to be each and every day, and still be selfless enough to listen, and laugh, and be someone's best friend.

And while I've really had that all along, it took this trip to really bring it into focus for me. And I'm so grateful for that. And I'm so grateful for B, and my amazing college friends, and all you fellow bloggers, and everyone reading this right now. So, thank you. :)

And thanks most of all for reading if you've gotten this far. I know it rambled a bit. I'd love to know your thoughts about this, too. Do you have a best friend? Tell me about it.

Me and B, 2010:

4 backtalk:

65 Roses for Marcia said...

Yes, I agree...I have a college friend that I don't see very often, but we can pick up where we left off whenever we see each other! Really good friends are like that...

Kendra said...

This just about made me start crying, S. Yes. A true friend. *Sigh.* It is sooo good to be able to spend time with that best friend who gets you, inside and out, through all the twists and turns life takes.

Amen.

wrestling kitties said...

I enjoyed this post alot, thank you for sharing :)

My best friend is my sister, which is cheesy but true. I was VERY much a loner growing up and only really had a few "friends" because I was always uncomfortable around people so stayed to myself alot. When I went to college I met alot of people, but most of us did not stay friends. It is interesting how many of my friendships that I thought were strong crumbled after college and some that I didn't realize how special they were turned into amazing, deep, and lasting friendships.

I have to say that I honestly do not think I really knew what a great friendship was until a few years ago. Many of the best or deerest friendships I have at this point in my life are nothing like what I had in college. When we talk or hangout we do it for hours but can also go forever with out talking, but seem like no time has passed when we do catch up. They are just friendships that seem SO easy and SO natural....and I love that. Over the last 5 years I have had some new and wonderful friendships go to a deeper level and they are continuing to grow. I never had many friends growing up, so I am loving where ALL my friendships are going at this point in my life (whether new or older) and for the first time in my life I have been open to making even more friends. I think that support, respect, and love for other people who understand each other is very special!

I am glad you have such a special person in your life to share experiences like your vacation with!!

Trophy Life said...

so late on responding to this even though i read it the day you wrote it and REALLY devoured each sentence. i appreciated the kudos and am so glad to be part of your life and vice versa.

good little piece of wisdom with a lot of truths mixed in, this blog post.

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