This year I reconnected with a friend who had lived across the street from me for the the majority of my childhood and adolescence. We spent a few hours catching up on about ten years worth of experiences. It was one of those times where you would normally say, “it’s as if no time has passed at all!” But that’s not entirely accurate. I actually feel like the reason we had such a blast reminiscing and then sharing about where our lives had taken us is because we acknowledged that so much time had passed. That we’re not those same kids but our new commonalities gave us a rapport whether we met today or 29 years ago. We just happened to make the plans because we had known each other previously, but now we would continue what felt like a new friendship, born again between our adult selves of our own choosing.
As a kid you hang out with other kids who are geographically convenient. They live on your street, attend your school, or their parents are friends with yours. You don’t know who you are when you’re a child and your choice of friendship is heavily reliant on circumstances while you’re attempting to navigate the road to self esteem, being secure in yourself, and figuring out how to not forget your locker combination.
The reason I thought about this at all was recently when I was describing two of my girlfriends to a person I had just met, he asked, “Oh, are they your best friends?” And I paused. I had *only* known them for a couple years. “Best friend” to me always seem synonymous with oldest friend. The person you’ve known the longest. But is that even true? The people I’ve known the longest don’t necessarily know me the best.
Friendships that have lasted for years and years are always held up as a success story. Look at these two people, or this group, they’ve known each other since they were in diapers! And I think it’s great to hear that, but it’s not the case for everyone. And I think it’s important to not put friendship on a shelf and assume it will just stay there untouched solely because there are years of foundation that supposedly can sustain it.
Friendships that have stood the test of time are amazing, and I think the key to remaining close with someone for so many years is allowing that person room to change and grow. I have occasionally run into people who I haven’t seen since I was a teenager and they assume everything that they knew about me then is exactly the same as today. Disregarding everything that I’ve experienced or really not caring to know. And if it’s an acquaintance? Then who cares. But there have been times when I’ve had to come to the realization that friends I’ve had for the majority of my life follow the same assumptions. Choosing to not acknowledge the fact that I’m not the same girl they met in the fourth grade or high school or even college. I have changed and evolved into the most powerful confident version of myself over the years and I make no attempt to hide it. Which means they’re not listening or nurturing our relationship because they feel they don’t have to, as if all the work to maintain it happened years ago and now it will always be status quo. But for me, true friendship is embracing a person as they are and as they evolve, not pretending things don’t change or refusing to see that things have.
In my twenties and thirties, the friends I made were not necessarily geographically convenient. Their parents weren’t friends with mine. They were people who I clicked with, who were fun to be around and who listened when life gave you lemons and Beyonce hadn’t yet released “Lemonade” to make it all better. But most importantly they were people I got to know at a time when I finally knew myself and that is what makes all the difference and why I believe my closest friends were people I met after college. That’s not a coincidence. We don’t need years and years of history to call each other best friends. We need time, sure, but when you know who you are, you also know who you want in your life and you know far more quickly than you did as a kid. You can have best friends from childhood and you can have best friends that you met mere months ago. Time doesn’t necessarily dictate who deserves that label. As an adult you know who matters to you and what company you prefer to keep.
And the next time I was telling that same story about my two close girlfriends to someone else? I thought about how they were both the ones I ran to when a guy broke up with me via text message (at 6a.m.!) How I loved to go see one of them perform and how much she makes me laugh whether she’s onstage or across from me at brunch. And how the other one constantly challenges me to get better at my writing by editing my work and creating incredible work of her own that inspires me with its wit and creativity. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t known them my entire life. I still KNOW them and they know me. So I started telling that story by saying, “So this one time? With two of my best friends….”