Over 18 years, I have compiled a substantial group of friends. Eighteen years of play-dates, birthday parties, embarrassing photos, sleepovers, "dates" with the girls ranging from ice cream to uptown dining, road trips, and endless other times spent together make for a considerable stockpile of memories with a wide range of people. While some people come and go to and from my core group of friends, others have stuck with me for many years. At this point, I assume those few are dedicated to our friendship for the long haul.
I have recently realized how much I take for granted those friends that have always been by my side. High school and college can take a toll on friendships, especially if the people involved aren't willing to put in any real effort to keep the friendships strong. Eventually, some friends will slowly fade away. You may still keep up with these friends occasionally, or you may not. However, while some friendships deteriorate over time, others only grow stronger.
In addition to having a couple (very) best friends, sometimes--if you're lucky--God puts someone in your life that's not only a best friend but also a pretty awesome role model. Your parents love this friend like their own child, always asking how he/she is, what they've been up to, how their random injuries are healing. They love to compare you to this friend; sometimes they throw out the old "Do you think x leaves his/her room this messy?" or "Do you think x talks back to his/her parents that way?" which is annoying but you've gotten used to it since this friend is basically your brother/sister anyway. (And just for clarity, this friend can be just as sassy as you are, your parents just haven't witnessed this.)
This friend is the most dependable person you know. He/she is like a 24/7 on-call service that always has time to listen to you, help you out, or give good advice. This friend is ALWAYS looking out for you, even if you don't know it at the time. For example, he/she coughs every time a bad word comes on the radio when you're carpooling in elementary school. If that's not friendship, I'm not sure what is.
This friend has been with you since the days of dress-up. He/she drove you to school before you had a car and introduced you to his/her new high-school friends.You had a leg-up freshman year because this friend helped you navigate around campus and gave reviews of all the teachers and classes when you were making out your class schedule. He/she let you be your own person, but always made sure you were making good decisions. He/she often invited you to hang out with his/her friends, which made you feel cool. (Hopefully, you didn't embarrass this friend too much, but even if you did he/she still loved you.)
Four years after your friend has welcomed you to the world of high school, he/she graduates. If you're younger, you're wishing you could graduate with him/her. Senior year went by and your friend was off at college. You missed seeing him/her around but you knew he/she was always a phone call away. You looked forward to weekends when he/she came home and caught you up on college life. You listened eagerly to him/her talk about how much he/she loved his/her school, and you couldn't wait to experience college for yourself.
You fell in love with the same school that this friend attends. After multiple tours of the campus and overnight stays with both your friend and his/her new friends, you decided this is the college for you. Instead of banging his/her head against the wall because he/she is stuck with you for another four years, your friend was more than happy to have the opportunity to see your smiling face every day for another couple years. (Okay, so he/she didn't say exactly those words, but you know it's true.)
The cycle repeats itself: your friend introduces you to his/her new friends (you're thankful he/she has good choice in friends because her friends soon become yours too.) Your friend is involved in multiple clubs and committees on campus, so you join those that interest you. Your friend reminds you when meetings and social events are and always lets you tag along. If you're ever missing home, you know a piece of home is just a short walk away.
So, this is a big ole' thank you to my friend who I know is my biggest fan. Since our relationship is 90% sarcasm and 10% seriousness, here's a couple things I should probably tell you but don't often enough: Thank you for always wanting the best for me and for leading by example. Thank you for letting me figure things out for myself, but always pointing me back on the right path if I get lost (quite literally sometimes.) You rock, and I hope you know that I'm your biggest fan too.