Our friendships are so very important as we grow up. They help us to become who we are ultimately meant to be. I've had friends who have built me up, friends that challenged me, friends that make me think, and friends that comfort me -- the best friends do all of these things and more.
When I was a little kid, I remember having groups of friends -- no one any better or worse than the other, we were all just friends. But at some point in our childhoods, our friends begin to take on classifications and we inevitably decide that we click with one or two more than the others, we decide that we don't really play as well with this one or that one, and then there is the whole boy/girl thing that changes the dynamics of our relationships. I remember thinking of someone as my "Best Friend" for the first time when I was about 7. She and I spent the night with one another, we passed notes folded into complex shapes and drawn on with big balloon letters, and we could communicate with a smirk, a raise of the eyebrows, or a wink in the middle of class. We planned to grow up, get married, raise our kids on the same street, and do everything together. We were "Best Friends Forever."
Except that we weren't. About 5 years after we made those plans, there was a boy that she liked. She asked me to talk to him to see how he felt about her, and I did. The conversation happened at the skating rink. When I asked him about her, he told me that he liked me. I was shocked. My best friend was prettier than me -- she was blond and petite and I...well, I wasn't. I wasn't fat or anything (although I thought I was), but I was already 5' 7" and just "bigger" than nearly everyone. I did not make the best choice that day at the skating rink. I wanted to save her feelings, so I didn't tell her the truth. I told her that he liked someone else, but I didn't specify that it was me. It became this secret between us. It grew like a cavity. By the following school year, as we entered Jr. High, we were no longer close. I had a new group of friends (all guys, incidentally) and she was a cheerleader.
In high school, I had lots of friends -- but 2 who stand out as those I would consider best friends. One who was easy and comfortable and one who constantly challenged me. These two danced in and out of my life throughout all 4 years of high school. They were both great friends for their own reasons, but they were like oil and water -- they did not mix. Upon graduation, one friend and I had entered the "frienemy" stage while the other friend and I were still very close. We made great plans about how we were going to be best friends for the rest of our lives. We planned to take a trip together to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta -- we would be Seniors in college or out by then. Our colleges were about an hour away from one another and we had plans to visit each other often. However, life happened. We went to our separate schools and we grew apart. Our lives took totally different directions. It wasn't until her wedding 6 years after high school that I realized we weren't really best friends anymore. I was happy for her, but when I cried at her wedding it was not out of happiness for her, but because I realized that this friendship had morphed into something new and I was mourning the loss of my best friend. Now, other than connecting on FaceBook, our lives never intersect. But just the other day, someone asked me about her and a million memories flooded my head and my heart. I smiled to myself and thought "I used to know her."
Woven in and out of all of these relationships, was the relationship with my cousin. She and I were close as kids, as teenagers, and as adults. We were family. When her first marriage ended, I was on the phone with her constantly -- listening and offering comfort and advice where I could. During our financial difficulties, I would vent to her about our problems and I always felt better after talking to her. I told her everything. But at some point, she began to think that by venting to her about my problems, I was condemning her success. She was remarried. She had started a family. Her career was skyrocketing. And I was "complaining" about my problems. She blew up at me one afternoon on the phone one afternoon, unfriended me on FaceBook, and I have not seen or heard from her since. That was nearly five years ago. I made some attempts to reconnect with her -- At first I called and left her messages, and now I send her a Christmas card every year, but she has made it clear that she wants nothing to do with me and I have accepted that. Friendship cannot exist on only one side. Sometimes, friends leave and we have to just let them go.
There have been many other friends in my life. Some friendships were intensely close and ended extremely fast -- like shooting stars trough my life. Others occur in waves -- appearing briefly at different intervals but never lasting more than a few weeks or months at a time. There is an old saying "True friendship never ends," but I do not believe that is true at all. Every single one of my friendships were true. They were exactly what was needed in both of our lives at the time. My friends have all helped me become who I am in one way or another, and I believe that I have done the same for them.
There are currently 3 women in my life that I would consider my very best friends. One I left in Texas, and two are here in Alabama. All three of these women are precious to me. One of them lived with my family for a month this past Summer with her kids while she and her husband were going through some stuff. She and I text or talk everyday. Another practically lived with us in Texas -- our kids became like siblings to each other and spent every weekend, every snow day, and every holiday piled up together in a sleep over and even our husbands became good friends. It was not unusual to find all of us laughing and talking around my kitchen table at 2 or 3 am on a Friday or Saturday night. They helped us pack our belongings into an 18-wheeler to move back to Alabama in a monsoon despite how badly they wished we weren't leaving. We still talk and text all the time and when we do it is like we are back around that table again. The third I have known since I was about 14, but our families have only become close in the past few years. Our lives are very much alike and our families mesh well together (in fact, her girls were at the slumber party last weekend). I could tell these three women anything. I know that when I tell them something in confidence, it will stay that way. I know that when I complain about my husband or my kids or my bank account or ANYTHING that they will listen, commiserate with me, and then remind me of how good I have it. I know that if I needed them in the middle of the night, they'd be there (even if it was just to let me cry to them over the phone). And I would do all of that and more for them.
Close friendships are a wonderful and beautiful thing. Like almost all relationships, friendships have to be nurtured but cannot be forced. And regardless of how badly we want them to last forever, no matter how hard we try, some friendships run their course and end. I mourn the loss of past friendships and I celebrate them for what they were. My friends have celebrated the best moments in my life, they've gotten me through things I never thought I'd survive, they've cried on my shoulder and I've cried on theirs. As I changed and grew or as they did, these friendships changed too. Sometimes the friendship ended with a chapter of our lives and sometimes it morphed into a different, more distant relationship. People and circumstances change and they are supposed to. We grow and we change and sometimes the paths of our lives no longer converge with the paths of those that we consider our closest friends. And that is okay.