My friendship with Marie* has spanned continents and major life changes. We grew up together in France. After high school, I moved to New York and then to Buenos Aires, Argentina. She graduated and moved to London with her boyfriend Julien*.
She was the relationship friend, and I was the perpetually single friend.
She went vegan and stopped drinking alcohol, whereas I live in one of the barbecue capitals of the world (where going to bed at 5 a.m. is considered an early night). Even through all of that, we always remained close.
We hadn’t been in the same country, let alone the same room, for nearly two years when she announced that she and Julien were going to come visit me in Argentina while traveling through South America. It was going to be an epic journey over months and multiple countries.
One week before their departure Julien broke up with Marie. She took it about as well as you would expect; with hours spent crying on the phone and days spent wondering what to do now. She decided to embark on the trip without him, even if she was nervous about traveling alone.
Instead of welcoming a happy couple to Buenos Aires, I braced myself to host a heartbroken friend.
In the months leading up to their trip, I had watched her worry about the planning, the prepping, the booking, etc. She had bought plane tickets, found Airbnbs, and compared pros and cons of various destinations. She investigated different health insurances, figured out the best ways to get money abroad (cash or card? How do you use a traveler’s check anyway?), and contacted places that were looking for volunteers.
Her ex had helped, but she was the engine — pouring thoughts and energy like gasoline into their trip planning. She considered each of their options carefully to make sure everything went smoothly. The more she worried, the less he stressed. And the less he stressed, the more it made her worry. She wanted this trip to be a team effort, dreamed up and prepared together. But even if he chipped in to help book tickets or choose accommodations, most of the minutiae was still up to her. I watched it all from a continent away, not realizing that his lack drive and his tendency to let himself get carried by the current was weighing on her; that their relationship was no longer working.
The day Marie arrived it was pouring rain and freezing. Buenos Aires is a city built for summer; cold, rainy days feel more miserable here than anywhere else. The sidewalk tiles are uneven and hide muddy puddles underneath, and apartments are drafty and poorly heated.
When she arrived, she was stressed. She was anxious. She was unhappy. She was everything you would expect after such a relationship implosion.
Marie had always been the “on her game” one in our friendship. She was the one who found the concerts or picked the music festivals. She was the one who remembered appointments and compared bank interest rates before opening an account. I have always been much more lax about my own to-do lists. But she was also the one who could make strangers laugh, who spun mundane stories of what happened last night into epic tales, who owned her convictions to the fullest. Now she was a bundle of anxiety.
I thought she would be mourning her relationship for weeks, even months. Instead, as the days and weeks passed, I watched her relax. And laugh. And make plans for the future, plans like becoming a flight attendant and moving back to London. Plans she couldn’t make before because they wouldn’t have worked with her relationship. It was as if, without even realizing it, the relationship she had long taken for granted had become a source of anxiety, and that source had now disappeared.
She stepped outside of her comfort zone in ways big and small: traveling through Patagonia by herself (huge), eating alone in a restaurant for the first time (smaller).
It was like getting to know her again, this new, post-relationship, 2.0 version of her herself.
I was meeting someone new.
After being friends for almost 10 years, I had thought that we had discovered everything there was to know about each other.
But I soon found out that Marie 2.0 wanted to travel the Pacific Northwest in a van. She adored potatoes — any kind of potatoes. And she wanted to take trapeze lessons, despite being afraid of falling. Instead of remaining in her comfort zone and relying on someone else for the hard stuff, she wanted to push herself more than ever before.
As Marie grew into herself, so did our friendship. I wouldn’t say that it is the same as before her relationship started, back when we were both still in high school. In many ways it’s better; a friendship between two very different adults who know who they are and what they want.
Even though we are on different continents again, Marie and I talk almost every day. About her travel plans, or my budding relationship, or even this essay, which she helped me write. But no matter where we are in the world or who we are with, our friendship continues to grow—and so do we.
*Marie and Julien’s names have been changed at Marie’s request.