What I learned when I moved away from my besties
The day I got the phone call has definitely been one of my best so far. After years of working my butt off in high school, college, numerous internships, and then multiple part-time jobs after college graduation, with one small goal always leading to the next, I was finally offered my number one dream job as an editorial assistant at a children’s publishing company in New York City. I’m glad no one was there to actually see me after I officially accepted their offer and hung up the phone, because I pretty much grinned like a dork for a full five minutes and paced around the room in a frenzy, barely believing it was real.
I immediately shared the exciting news with my family, and they were almost as over the moon as I was. They knew how hard I’d been working and how perfect this job was for me, so it was a day full of celebration. Over the next few days, I notified my current employers that I would soon be leaving for a new opportunity in New York (about five hours away from my hometown of Syracuse, NY). I completed official HR “new hire” paperwork, bought new “grown-up job” clothes, and started packing up my room. As my departure date crept closer, I kept busy with these menial tasks and tried to avoid the one downside of my new job: it meant moving away from my home, and from my group of best friends who have been a huge part of my life for at least ten years or more.
Going away to college showed me that what we all have is special. A lot of people I met during college aren’t as close with their childhood friends anymore, or no longer stay in touch with them at all. Usually, they told me, it wasn’t the case of a falling out or some big drama—life just happened. People moved away, got busy with their separate lives and career goals and the friends they made in new places. There’s just not a lot of time to stay as close as you once were. Friend groups that were once eight people dwindle to five and then four and then two, and then maybe nothing at all.
So far, we’re different. All six of us (with the exception of two) went to totally separate colleges. We all made our own sets of friends, developed our own interests, and are currently following very different career paths. But in some ways, I feel like we’re even closer now after we graduated than we were in high school. These girls know over ten years worth of my embarrassing and awkward moments, my failings, and my successes. We know each other’s parents like they’re our own extended family—which they basically are at this point. We still cry laughing until our stomachs hurt, often at something that’s probably not even very funny; but when we’re together, the laughter always has a ripple effect.
So I kept wondering, what am I supposed to do without them? These friends, for the time being, are all back in Syracuse together, and I’m the only one who has moved away. On one of the last nights before I left, they presented me with completely unexpected going away present: a basket of things I could use at my desk for my new job. It was simple, yet so thoughtful, and I felt like such a drama queen as my eyes filled with tears and I sobbed, “I’m going to miss you guys so much!” After all, it’s not like I was going off to a yearlong trek in the Andes or something. New York is not that far from Syracuse in the grand scheme of things, but in that moment it felt like the opposite end of the world. I could practically feel my heart being pulled in two directions: one half running toward this amazing job and what an exciting future it could hold, and one digging in its heels in Syracuse saying, “Nope, I’m just fine here, thanks, go on without me.”
This is why I love them: after I first told them about the job, they all joked about how I’m not allowed to leave, how New York City is a horrible place and surely I don’t really want to move there, and THINK ABOUT THE COCKROACHES, JENNA (that one almost got me for a second) — but in all seriousness, they knew how much the job meant to me. They offered their unwavering support, and immediately started discussing dates that they would be coming down to visit me. It was a given: not “if” they had time to visit me in New York, when they got around to it, but rather when would work best.
I’m about one month into my new job now and it’s truly living up to my expectations. I’m loving every minute of it, and I feel so lucky to have a job so soon after graduating college, one that I really enjoy. But often I still think about how it would be ten times more amazing if I had my best friends down here with me. It’s such a tough decision that many people our age have to make now: do you want to totally go for your dream career, no matter where in the world it takes you, or do you want to settle for something that maybe you’re not that passionate about that allows you to be around everyone you love? And the scariest thing is, there’s literally no way to know which choice is the right one until you just pick and see how it unfolds.
Yes, hopefully you make new friends in all stages of your life — I certainly have. That still can never be a substitute for friendships from childhood that have lasted through middle school, high school, college, and beyond. When it comes to my friends and me, I’m confident we won’t let life get in the way. I definitely won’t see them or talk to them as often, and there will be time when months go by and we won’t know much about what’s going on with each other. But I know we’ll always make sure we find time for each other to check in, catch up — even if it’s sometimes as simple as sending a text that says, “I miss you,” or a really ridiculous Snapchat of something we know will make the other person laugh. If you truly want someone to be in your life forever, you make it happen. I know I can’t hold on to exactly the way it used to be when we all lived within fifteen minutes of each other — but I can, and I will, hold on to their friendship. Jenna Ballard is from Syracuse, NY and recently moved to the Big Apple, where she is trying to get this whole “real New Yorker” thing down (which probably means she shouldn’t be calling it the Big Apple). She works in children’s publishing and loves reading, everything bagels, and quoting My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Follow her on Twitter: @jroseballard.