In fourth grade I was best friends with Emily, Heather, and Casey. “The Fab 4” we called ourselves. Mrs. Brown soon learned she couldn’t sit the four of us near each other, but when we weren’t separated by desks and lessons, we were together.
Then in fifth grade we weren’t together. Emily moved away. Casey was in Mrs. Pierce’s class and Heather and I were in Mrs. Smith’s. But Heather and I didn’t have as much fun together as we had when we were part of the Fab 4. Plus, she wasn’t in my Girl Scout troop and she didn’t go to my church, so we didn’t see much of each other outside of school. As my eight-year-old explained to me last week, you aren’t best friends with someone just because. You have to like the same things. A lesson I learned that 5th grade year.
In middle school, I stuck with one best friend. The two of us had a small circle of four more friends. We remained a group of six close friends friends until the first week of our senior year. Then, the five of them decided I wasn’t their friend anymore. (The story is more complicated than that, but honestly I’m not sure what happened. I think one of them lied about something I had done and the group believed her without asking my side. And I’m 99% sure it had to do with a boy.)
The five girls I had spent every weekend with since we were twelve suddenly didn’t speak to me in the halls. They didn’t wave to me in the parking lot. They hung out without me. They went to lunch without me. They went to football games without me. They did everything without me.
By the time you’re a senior in high school, everyone has their groups of friends. Not many of those groups are open to new members.
There were three girls I went to church with who were juniors. We had always been casual friends, but since I was essentially friendless, they took me in. And even though we couldn’t do everything together (those seniors-only events sure were lonely!), I had as much fun with them as I would have with my original group of friends. When I remember my days in the town I called home for eighteen years, my best memories are with those three friends.
I went to a college where I didn’t know anyone. On purpose. Coming from a small town in Oklahoma where everyone knew each other (and knew your parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins …), I was ready to start again. Ready to see if making a best friend was as fun as it was in grade school, as involved as it was in middle school, or as meaningful as it was when I was a senior.
In college, friendships were made through proximity. You first got to know your roommate. Then suite mates. Then the girls across the hall. You clicked with some and not with others, but in college you’re around friends all the time. It’s pretty easy to find a group (or start a group). By the end of my freshman year, I had one best friend and a bigger group of guy and girl friends. We pretty much stuck together through college.
That one best friend is still my best friend. Fifteen years of best friendship. Only problem is, we aren’t right across the hall from each other anymore. In the last fifteen years, she’s been in Spain, Mexico, and Texas. I’ve been in Texas, North Carolina, and now Pennsylvania. A friendship that started because of proximity has become a friendship that remains no matter how many miles are between us.
Some friendships fail and some succeed. But even the ones that fail serve a purpose. They make us who we are. They force us to really think about what friendship should look like, talk like, act like. They make us better friends to others.
I’m thankful to have friends I had fun with, friends who hurt me, friends who healed me, and friends who have stuck with me. I still have those types of friends now. I’m having fun with some, hurting from some, healing with some, and sticking with a few.
Friendship is hard in fourth grade, in eight grade, in twelfth grade, and when you’re past all the grades. The elements of friendship I learned through each experience are still true. You become friends with the people you’re around. You stay friends because of shared interest.
Friendship isn’t easy and it takes work, but it is worth it.