On fate, best friendship, and ‘Cats’

Gigglers, remember last December when we asked for your stories of best friendship for our Tale of Two Besties contest? Well, we’re super excited to announce the finalists and grand prize winner. Starting today, we’ll be counting down our runner-up besties stories, and on February 18th will announce the winner—plus reveal the ‘A Tale of Two Besties‘ cover! Check out Kara McCauley’s story below.

It started with binoculars.

I remember being six years old, begging my grandpa for a pair of professional bird-watching binoculars just like his, and how excited I was when I opened that box on Christmas morning. I remember gingerly placing them over my head, like some kind of woodland coronation, and stubbornly refusing to take them off, even as my mother put me in the car on our way to Cats, the musical. I sat in that theater with my binoculars glued to my eyes the entire performance that night.

Fast-forward ten years. My best friend, Erin, is sitting next to me while we eat strawberries and listen to Taylor Swift. My youngest sister walks into the room wearing the same t-shirt I got that day at the theater. Erin turns to me and casually mentions, “I saw that with my family, too; like ten years ago.” Later that night, Erin calls me and asks where I went to see Cats. I tell her, and she exclaims, “KARA! YOU WERE WEARING BINOCULARS!”

My best friend is a lot of things. She is beautiful and hilarious and brilliant. She is unceasingly kind, and gutsier than I could ever hope to be. And she is observant. She remembers looking around that theater, right before the curtain went up, and seeing a little blonde girl with ridiculous binoculars too large for her head. She remembers her face, too—which explains why she always thought I looked familiar.

It’s important to note that Erin and I grew up in different towns, about an hour apart. This story is a fairly recent revelation for us. We were friends for a long time before we realized that we were probably brought together by divine intervention (or, at the very last least, binoculars and a love of Cats).

The first time we actually met one another was at a birthday party in the 3rd grade. There was a swing set in the yard, and while everyone else was on the trampoline, dancing and singing, Erin and I sat on the swings, just talking. I had found my kindred spirit. But while we had many school projects and lunch table conversations together in the years that followed, it wasn’t until the 7th grade that we truly crossed into best friendsmanship.

At the peak of my awkward, I decided to shed the cloak of trying-to-be-cool in favor of let’s-just-be-really-weird-and-see-if-anyone-still-likes-me. A lot of people say that college is when you really find yourself, but I truly believe it happens around the 7th grade, when you enter teenage-hood and where you’re just kind of bouncing around, trying to decide when it’s appropriate to act fully yourself around people.

That March, on my 13th birthday, I walked my little group of friends over to our local grocery store for a party. It was a carefully laid out plan, and in the chaos of the first of many scavenger hunts through the aisles, screaming and laughing and crying and racing shopping carts, I found my best friend for the third time, sans binoculars or swing sets. I don’t remember what we were looking for, or who won, but I remember Erin walking up to me holding a denim bib around her neck and singing, “I aaaaammmm the blue jean queeeeen!”

And that was it. She became my person. She became my lobster. To quote every single Pinterest board, we became “a brunette and a blonde with an inseparable bond.”

My mom has this thing she likes to say about marriage, that it is more about loving the other person than it is about the other person loving you. And that has proven true time and time again. Of course, I have never felt as loved as I do with my best friend, but the moments that actually make me sit down and say, “Thank God I know her,” are the ones where Erin is sending me videos comparing the sizes of spoons she’s found in the dining hall, or doing impressions of famous historical monuments, and I become so overwhelmed with love for her that I just don’t know what to do with it all. Best friends are there to make you feel loved when you tell yourself it’s not possible, but the most important thing I’ve learned from my best-friend-marriage is that I am here to make her feel loved, too.

Now that we are in college and living exactly 32 stairs away from each other, the nature of our friendship has changed. Sometimes, Erin just needs to watch Frozen at 2 in the morning, and I am there. Or sometimes, I need to eat a hot cookie covered in vanilla ice cream (the pride and joy of our college), and Erin is there. Or sometimes, we both have an uncontrollable desire to praise Queen Taylor Swift in an aggressively enthusiastic dance party, and there is nothing stopping us from doing it.

She is there to laugh at my joke about the shy pebble. And I am there to applaud when she sings “Sweet Child of Mine” as Louis Armstrong. We don’t know how we’ll go back to living in different buildings, or different cities, or—gulp—maybe even different countries one day. But I am absolutely fearless about where we end up. It is important to be independent and interview for your dream job and set the world on fire, but Erin reminds me that sometimes it’s just as important to sit with your best friend and talk about dreams and love and family and God and everything in between.

This essay was written by Kara McCauley.

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