Most people always remember their first best friend. Maybe you built forts in the woods together, had slumber parties, or played on the same sports teams together. You were probably totally inseparable; nobody understood you like they did. And you were both absolutely positive that you were going to remain best friends forever, no matter what happened or how many years passed. But as you grow and mature, so do your relationships. It can be hard to accept that friendship dynamics change, especially if it’s not for the better.
My best friend and I met when we were nine, in fourth grade. I transferred into a new elementary school, and we slowly became attached at the hip. Apart from my family, she was the most important person in my life. Throughout middle school, we spent endless nights staying up late watching our favorite movies, reading Teen Vogue, talking about boys and eating Oreos and marshmallows. Our teachers went as far as to purposefully assign us to different class schedules, because we distracted each other in class.
When we left middle school and went to different high schools, we saw less and less of each other. We both made new friends and occasionally got tied up in boyfriends. But we talked every day, all day. If anything, we only grew closer, as we relied on each other for emotional support during the hardship of adjusting to new places with new people. She was absolutely everything to me. Whenever I got a new boyfriend, or even developed a new crush, I always sought her approval of the guy, rather than my parent’s. I valued her opinion more than anyone else’s.
When senior year came around, so did the college application process. The only reason I applied to the University of New Hampshire was because she did. My mom constantly encouraged me to apply, but I was dead set against it because I wanted to go to college out of state. My mind only changed when my friend said “Well––I’m applying. Imagine if we both went, and then we could live together!” That was it, I was sold.
But when the fall came, she went away to her dream school in Ohio, and I ended up at UNH without her. I fell in love with UNH, but as it would turn out, her dream school was not everything she had hoped for. So she transferred to UNH our sophomore year, and we moved into an off-campus apartment together, finally fulfilling one our longest standing childhood dreams of being able to live together.
But living together didn’t exactly turn out to be a dream-come-true. I guess I expected that it would be just like when we were kids––staying up late together, laughing and having a good time. Except now we didn’t have to live under our parent’s rules, which made life a hundred times better. But we weren’t nine anymore, we were nineteen––and after just a month of living together, we began to bicker about petty little things like doing the dishes or leaving stuff around the apartment. We had never been around each other for such an extended amount of time, and as the school year progressed, we grew more and more distant from each other instead of growing closer. Being together drove us apart. Despite the fact that we lived together, we rarely ever spent time together. Most of the time we both sat in our rooms alone, with the doors closed. All of the faults that I saw in my best friend suddenly became blown out of proportion in my perspective, and I wasn’t even sure if I liked who she was anymore. Our relationship felt like a pot of water on the stove that was due to boil over any second. For the three months of summer following our first year of living together, we rarely ever spoke a word to each other.
Despite our conflicts, we signed a lease for another apartment for the following school year. Maybe because neither of us had anyone else to live with, or because we were both trying to remain in denial about how badly our friendship had fallen apart. I felt vaguely heartbroken by how much our relationship had changed. For so many years, I was certain that no matter what changed over time, our friendship never would. But by the end of our second year of living together, it was obvious that the friendship we once had was almost completely irreparable. I can’t speak for how she felt about me, but I didn’t like who she was as a person anymore, and I was ready to have her out of my life. The friendship was fizzling out quietly for the most part, but not without some serious tension between us. We were both aware that it was happening, but never actually addressed it. Eventually, the whole thing ended in a massive fight that erupted early that summer.
What the fight was about doesn’t matter––it was big enough to put a nail in the coffin that held our twelve-year friendship.
We didn’t speak for months. I think I may have sent her a “good luck” text when she left to go study abroad in Barcelona the following semester. But the friendship was dead. We deleted each other off all forms of social media. I didn’t even wish her happy birthday when she turned 21 that fall.
It took an earth-shaking catastrophic event to reunite us. November 13th, 2015, ISIS attacked Paris at several different locations. At first, her safety didn’t even cross my mind. She was studying in Barcelona, not Paris. What are the odds that she would be in Paris that weekend?
What are the odds that she would be at that soccer game?
I found out by checking her Facebook the next morning. We hadn’t been friends on the social media site for months, but I just felt the need to check. I immediately burst into tears and sent her a message on every form of communication that I had at my disposal. She had been inside the stadium when the suicide bombers detonated their vests outside. It was the realization that something truly terrible had happened, and I could have lost her for real, forever, that changed everything for me.
Since she’s returned from studying abroad, our friendship has slowly healed. It is nothing like the relationship we had over a decade ago. I still don’t think I’ll ever be able to go back to her house, and our moms will probably never casually chat over the phone again. We don’t talk every day, sometimes we don’t even talk once a week. Our time together has been limited to lunch or dinner dates once in a while. I don’t confide in her about absolutely everything anymore. I have new people in my life that I call my “best friend,” and I know that she does too. But she will always be my very first best friend, and I will always love her for that.
People change as they grow up––it’s naïve to think that your relationships won’t change too. My childhood best friend and I might never be as close or inseparable as we used to be, we might never spend another night building couch forts in her basement or gushing about our favorite movie stars. She isn’t the first person I turn to anymore when I fight with my boyfriend, or when something huge happens in my life. And yes, thinking about that makes me sad, because I will always miss how close we were. But we respect each other, and appreciate the love we have for each other now.
On the day we both graduated from UNH, we found each other in a sea of thousands of people and hugged and cried and smiled. And now, as the years pass, we’ll begin our respective careers, move away to different places, and maybe we’ll lose touch for a while. Things will never, ever be the same between us, but that’s okay. Because I’ve learned to accept that no matter how close you were as kids, people change a lot as they grow up and so do their relationships. For better or worse, you develop strengths and flaws, differences and habits. Your values change. Your focus shifts. You become almost an entirely new person. She and I will never go back to being inseparable pre-teens who depend on each other for absolutely everything. But no matter how much time passes, she will always hold a special place in my heart.