For eight years in grammar school, you're surrounded by the same 20 or so people and develop what seem to be lifelong friendships. Yet, once the calendar reaches mid-June of your eighth-grade year, those lifelong friendships seem to fizzle out as you are forced into the hectic world of high school, where everything is new and things come to pass.
But just because your schedule gets a little busier and you don't have to write book reports anymore doesn't mean that you're leaving your pre-high school life or friends behind. A good chunk of your classmates end up going to the same neighborhood high school as you. Occasionally, you'd see Jasmine or Ana nod their heads in recognition as they walked down the hall in the opposite direction. You'd send each other messages on MySpace and plan hangouts after school and tried to sit together on your bus ride home, and you all truly believed you'd make your friendships work.
And for awhile, you did.
You didn't stay friends with a majority of the people you went to high school with, but with the rampant rise of social media, it's like you never stopped being friends. You've kept up with your old besties via status updates about their boyfriends, pictures of their children, and photos tagged of them at Wingstop. As these people became nothing more than status updates in your newsfeed, you realized it was pretty much expected that these friendships wouldn't last. Nobody makes solid friendships until you're in high school. At least that's what you were told.
So now you're in high school, awkward and disliked all throughout your freshman year (okay, kind of throughout the entirety of high school, too - let's be honest). Anyway, you play the hand you've been dealt, and by the grace of God, make a tiny group of friends that you hold onto for the next four years like Rose held onto that door as Jack faced certain death. They are your rock.
By junior year, the pressure of standardized tests and soon-to-come college applications is breathing down you and your friends' necks, so two of 'em disappear into student orgs like International Club or StudGov so they can pretend they've actively been a part of these things the past three years and write them off on their college applications to prove their academic and extracurricular ~diversity~ to UCLA or USC or some other Californian dream school they won't end up getting into.
But it's fine, and you don't miss them too much 'cause you and your other friends still hang out at Domino's by the train station every Thursday afternoon and talk about life and class and crushes and your hot English teacher who totally has a thing for Julie or Katie or whatever. (He doesn't.) You laugh until your ribs hurt and hold each other tight - crying in unison when you find out Michelle's mom has been diagnosed with breast cancer - and it wasn't caught early.
These, you think, are the undying friendships everyone had spoken of. You were in the clear. Solid friendships had been built on an unbreakable foundation. Instilled in you is as a sense of security that the people sitting on either side of you at your graduation in the Grand Atrium would be in your life for the long term.
And for awhile, they are.
But after six months pass and the hangover of high school life wears off, things begin to change. Michelle couldn't bear staying in the city after her mom passed away, so she went on a low-budget, high-adrenaline cross-country road trip to help her cope. She'd snap you pics of herself at state parks and the welcome signs from whatever city she was passing through, captioned "Wish you were here!". Kevin went to school three states over, but promised to keep in touch even between juggling a science-heavy class load, soccer, and rushing frats he said he'd never join. He'd shoot you a Facebook message in the middle of the night with a silly meme to assure you he was thinking of you. Avery stayed in the city as you did. She went to community college while you pursued a degree in cultural anthropology at one of the city's best universities. You'd talk occasionally, grab lunch even, but something was different. What once had been deep, emotional conversations had morphed into superficial gossip about TV shows and celebrities - shallow things. There was a disconnect. An uncertainty. Slowly but surely, her texts lessened and calls ceased.
This wasn't the case with just Avery, though. It happened with Kevin and Michelle, too. You'd reach out once or twice a week to each of them, to short burst replies and countless "I miss yous!," but soon realized your efforts were one-sided. None of them ever text you first. They stopped commenting on your statuses. They wouldn't reply to your snaps.
Maybe they're really busy, you think. You give them the benefit of the doubt. But you're really busy, too...and you can't help but notice Avery posting pictures of herself at parties with her community college friends, red solo cup in hand, right hand on hip. Or Michelle smiling strongly with that new guy she met and started dating as she ventured across the nation. Or Kevin throwing up hand symbols with a group of muscular guys in bro tanks, donning Greek letters you couldn't understand. Or maybe you didn't want to understand.
You didn't want to understand how your closest friends could drop you so easily after all of the moments and memories you shared. You didn't want to accept the fact that your high school friends had moved on without giving you their two weeks' notice. You didn't want to believe any of it to be true, but you did because you had to.
Flash forward two years ahead - you're in college, a sophomore. You've been working an on-campus job you love. You're the receptionist for the cultural center - something you're almost more passionate about than your degree program. You've made new friends - closer ones, even. You are well-liked in college. You have finally found a place where you fit in. These are your people. This is your home. There's Casey and Shawn and Evangeline, and you love each and every one of them more than you can explain.
The last two years fly by, and before you know it ahead of you lies a stage decorated with banners and flags, flowers and microphones. A stage you and your friends will be crossing into new lives. You're nervous to leave the place you've grown accustomed to for four years and nervous to leave the comfort of your friends who have become closer to you than family. You have nobody else to turn to, but don't need anyone else. This time around, you think, no - you KNOW - it'll be different.
And for awhile, it is.