Earlier this week I drove down to what I consider my main hometown, Fernandina Beach, Florida. The purpose of my travels was to say goodbye to two of my childhood best friends yet again.
The three of us have become very accustomed to these goodbyes. That feeling in your stomach where you have no idea the next time you will see these people you love so dearly; we get it all the time. Usually it's just me that leaves, but this time we are all headed our different directions, to our different schools.
Jessie and I met when we were babies. We lived in the same neighborhood when I lived in Fernandina the first time. When we moved back when we were in kindergarten, she and I were in the same class and have been best friends ever since. We've done everything together. Her house is my house and her family is my family; I could argue that I'm her mom's favorite daughter. We were both placed in the Gifted studies class in kindergarten, which gave us more time together and really started our academic journey together. One year later Spencer joined us in our Gifted class.
The Gifted Education Program was created to challenge high achieving students that might otherwise become bored in the everyday classroom setting.
We studied topics ranging from the Westward expansion, Medieval Europe, Ancient Greece, and the rainforest. Our Gifted class was by far the highlight of my week growing up.
Fast forward a little, and we are in fourth grade. As part of our Gifted class the three of us decided to enter a state competition for Hispanic Heritage Month. Being the budding procrastinators that we were, we threw most of our entry together the night before at my house. Spencer has always been tech savvy, even as a fourth grader, so our entry for the contest was a mock interview with the first female, Cuban judge of Florida, The Honorable Margarita Esquiroz.
Somehow our podcast interview won first place in the state and so we went to Tallahassee to meet the governor of Florida at the time, Charlie Crist.
Three years and many memories later, my family decided to move to Savannah, Georgia so my dad could take a different job. I was completely heartbroken. I remember the night my parents told me we were moving so vividly. Up until that point, I don't think I had ever sobbed so hard.
Fernandina Beach was where I had grown up, and it was the only place I really knew. Everyone I knew lived there, and that's where Jessie and Spencer were.
When I called Jessie to tell her we were moving, I immediately began crying again. As she listened to me explain everything, she thought I was laughing, cut me off and just yelled "Rachel, shut up, stop laughing and spit it out!" Thankfully that got me to stop crying for long enough to tell her what I needed to say.
A few days before we moved, Spencer biked over to my house to hang out for a while. He forgot to take off his bike helmet and wore it in the house for 45 minutes before I asked him why he hadn't taken it off.
At the time, 13-year-old me was terrified of losing my two best friends. I thought that distance would ruin the relationships that I had nurtured for years. Over time though, I began to realize that it is not seeing someone every day or even talking every day that defines the friendship. It's knowing how to cheer them up, being there for them through family illnesses and deaths, supporting each other through various trials and battles with mental health. Your best friends are people you know you can pick the conversation right back up months after putting it down. They push you to be your best, even when it's a long journey to get there.
But most importantly your best friends are the people you can say goodbye to over and over again, which makes the reunions so much sweeter.