Chelsea Hawkins
June 07, 2015 6:00 am

Whenever we talk about BFFs we always talk about the good things: the mix CDs, the wasted summers, the first illicit sips of alcohol, and all the secrets shared. That’s when friendship feels otherworldly and undeniably special; so sisterly and full of love. But when things get tough and friendship is tried, that’s when you really learn what you are made of – and that’s what separates a casual acquaintance and a forever-totally-true-bestie.

I’m lucky enough to say I have had the same BFF since I was in high school. I still remember only a few days after we met, it was my birthday and she brought me a little bejeweled picture frame (which I totally still have!). When I asked her why she got me a gift — seriously, we barely knew each other — she said it was because “She thought I seemed special.” Yeah, I promise this was real life and not some cute indie flick. I love this girl like NO other and I feel totally lucky she has stayed by my side throughout the first half of my 20s. But let me be real with you: there were times we fought, times we didn’t speak (and a few weeks felt like centuries), and times I said some truly terrible things to her. Still, we’ve weathered it all together and remained tight—even during some of these true tests of friendship:

If you can survive each other’s first loves: Oh man, I was such a fool the first time I had a boyfriend – but who isn’t? I definitely acted like a jerk and prioritized a boy over my wonderful gal-pals, but my friends forgave me in the end. My BFF definitely wasn’t thrilled about the choice in boy, but when everyone else was SUPER mad at me, she was sticking up for me (even if I hurt her feelings too).

If you can stay close, when you’re long-distance: My BFF and I don’t even live in the same state right now – and there was a good while we didn’t live in the same country. Each move means less and less time together, and sometimes that causes problems. Like major communication breakdown kind of problems. Plus it’s hard to expect people will love you the same when they haven’t seen your face in over a year, so homecomings can feel awkward and forced.  Although my BFF and I struggle with the distance, we have learned to deal with it — so every minute we DO get together feels like winning the lottery.

If college doesn’t come between you two: University was the first big hurdle of our blossoming-teenage-BFFship and it was UGLY. It was probably the time we fought the most, but it was also a huge time of change for us as individuals. It’s hard to grow up into the person you want to be when you feel like your past is hanging out and holding you back. But here’s the thing, even if I didn’t realize it then, my BFF was definitely not holding me back – she was cheering me on.

If you’re respectful of each other’s sexual and gender identity: I remember the first time I told my BFF I was probably-not-totally-100-percent straight. It went something like this, “So yeah it’s been whatever at college – oh yeah and then there’s this girl I kissed.  I kind of like her a lot. I don’t know. Anyway.” And that was that, more or less. She obviously wanted to know more, but there was NO judgment. Then came the long, slightly torturous process of telling family, friends, co-workers….that was a challenge. It made me a little crazy, nervous and not-so-fun to be around. I was super emotional and scared (for no real reason, as it turns out). Becoming who you are is really difficult and navigating something as personal as sexuality is uncomfortable, but the people who stick by you through it all are the ones most deserving of your love.

If you can differ on politics and still appreciate each other’s point of view: My BFFship is fortified on an intense passion for the world and all its nasty, twisted glory. It also means there are a lot of heated political debates during our friend-dates. I realized my bestie was here to stay when we were able to discuss our sometimes differing opinions in a really constructive way. That sounds silly, but I promise you, there are quite a few people who have un-friended, un-followed, blocked or generally avoid me because of political misunderstandings or disagreements. My BFF and I don’t always see eye to eye but we get on, political divergences aside.

If you can respect and learn from each other’s religious or spiritual beliefs: My BFF isn’t of the same religion as me, but I’ve always been fierce about her right to freely and comfortably practice it. She’s Muslim. I’m not. But I will protest for her rights as soon as I will my own and if anyone attacks her, it feels like they’re attacking me. Our differences in religion have also been a moment for learning; we have always openly discussed her beliefs and reasons for it. Even when my questions or curiosities made both of us uncomfortable, she was patient and taught me about her faith – and in turn, I became more tolerant.

Nearly a decade of friendship and a lot of feelings later, I can safely say my bestie is really my other half. I wouldn’t even question if she felt the same. Actually, I just texted her and yep, she does! But if I’m honest though, there is one thing I would change about our friendship: Not. Enough. Selfies. Together.

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