Allowing My High School Friends to Change Saved Our Friendship
It's the Saturday night of the super-low-key bachelorette party I insisted on — a spa weekend with all of my best friends. Outside, by the lake of the fancy resort where we're staying, I'm running behind the bare bottom of Erica, one of my best friends from high school. Her white backside practically glows in the moonlight while we shriek with laughter streaking across the lawn. It is stupid and immature, but also, I have to admit, kind of magical.
A few months later when I got married, another friend from high school, Emma Kate, stood beside me as my maid of honor. I know I'm lucky that we've made it through this many years of friendship. I still talk to my three closest friends from high school about once a week.
Many of the friends I've made in adulthood aren't so close with their high school crew, and honestly, I can understand why. I'd be lying if I said my relationships with my teenage besties haven't gone through some growing pains.
In high school, I wore my friendships like a security blanket. During those years, it was socially important to be able to claim someone as your best friend. We did grand birthday gestures, had too many inside jokes, and talked on the phone for hours at night, even though we'd seen each other practically all day. Frankly, we were probably a nightmare to be around. But for me, they were happiness, and back then, I felt like there wasn't anything I didn't know about my friends.
That changed abruptly when I moved 1,000 miles away for college without them. At first I spoke to them every day on the phone or through instant messages, but that didn't last forever. During my freshman year, I had a particular affinity for watching Sex and the City in my dorm room, nostalgic about the close group of friends that I missed back home. But I had to admit; keeping up our constant contact was like trying to sprint through a marathon. I didn't see them on a daily or even monthly basis. I had an entire group of new friends they'd never met and frequented places they'd never seen. And let's face it: it's no easy task to be interested in the lives of people you don't know.
Meanwhile, they had other things going on in their lives, too. Even stranger was how I'd casually learn they'd befriended people whom we didn't even like in high school. I couldn't help but feel annoyed and betrayed.
The problem was that up until college, we'd all shared the same life experiences, more or less. We had a stockpile of collective memories. Sure, we still have those, but gradually, our separate lives have overtaken the time that we once spent together.
The only way to have any longevity in friendships is to allow the people in our lives to grow up and change.
We can't communicate every day, and there's never enough time to catch each other up on the full backstory of our lives. These gaps give way to what can feel like completely random and inexplicable phases that I have to watch my friends go through from halfway across the country — live-in boyfriends who have set my teeth on edge, odd jobs, and delayed education. I've been on the other end of the phone, listening, like: no, that's not you; that's not the girl I knew from high school; you're doing it wrong!
Except 99 percent of the time, I'm the one who's wrong. I'm lacking context. Much as it pains me to say it, I'm no longer intimately familiar with the texture of their lives. Worse — they have other friends who are.
In my absence, my friends have grown into women who are in some ways different than the ones I imagined they'd be. Occasionally, these changes have felt like they're snatching away my security blanket and even my sense of home.
Time and distance have made it so that there are pieces of my friends' personalities that I never see, that make them feel like a mystery to me. But if there's one thing they've taught me, it's that the only way to have any longevity in friendships is to allow the people in our lives to grow up and change. That way, very occasionally, say, on special bachelorette weekends, you can get together after years apart and it's like no time passed at all.
Chandler Baker grew up in Florida, went to college at the University of Pennsylvania, and studied law at the University of Texas. She now lives in Austin with her husband, though her heart remains at the beach. She strongly believes that writing quality improves vastly if done while staring out at a large body of water and daydreaming. Chandler is the author of the young adult thriller Alive, as well as the High School Horror series. Her latest YA novel, This is Not the End, is available now. Connect with her at www.chandlerbaker.com or on Twitter @chandlerbakerYA.