I didn’t grow up with a best friend. I grew up with the kids of my parents’ friends. We did everything together, but we were far enough apart in age and life experiences that we never got emotionally very close.
I didn’t have a best friend in school. As an only child, I’ve always been pretty independent. I had lots of friends, but no one I would have called to bail me out of jail or hide a body. I did have two partners in crime in high school. We were close then, and remain friends now. But despite all the time we spent together, I’m sure they would both say they had closer friends growing up. I didn’t find my “best friend” until college.
I met her when I moved to Austin. We lived in the same apartment complex, though really we basically lived at each other’s apartment. I was in her wedding; she was in mine. I was with her as her father’s health declined and he eventually passed away. She was my safe haven as my husband’s mental health declined. I moved away, but we stayed in nearly constant contact thanks to the power of the internet. We reconnected when I moved back to Austin just as we both divorced within a few months of each other. We shared the highs and lows of dating. We shared career frustrations. We were so close that our conversations often consisted of just the first few words of a sentence, flung back and forth at lightning speed. As my friend found her feet after her divorce, I went to law school. I started a new career and a family, and our lives took very divergent paths. Although we live less than 100 miles apart, we only saw each other a handful of times after I moved for law school. I haven’t actually spoken to her in a couple of years now. She had some health scares. I had new babies taking all my focus. I discovered a few months ago that she unfriended me on Facebook. And though I was sad, I was also a bit relieved. I will always and forever love this woman who knew my soul inside and out. But, the reality is, we all have seasons in our lives. As we grew apart, I felt incredible guilt about not being able to talk to her for hours on the phone, or take off on a random Saturday to go have lunch. This guilt made me drag out the inevitable split because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. But I continued to hurt her every time she reached out and I didn’t have the time or energy to give.
I don’t think that I will ever again be so intertwined with someone that they are my one and only, my “ride or die,” the other half of my “Best Friend” charm. What I have now is a complete puzzle of besties. They all fill a differently sized, differently shaped puzzle piece in my soul. They are the ones I call for advice, for support, or just to laugh at the stupid thing my kid did. The woman who can recognize and appreciate the successes and failures in my work may not be the same woman who can offer a shoulder when I’m fed up with raising my kids. A different friend may need me to talk about her aging parents. Or another might just need some downtime by the pool while our kids wear each other out.
I do know women who have a single best friend. Usually they grew up together, or were in a sorority, or went through some other major life experience that bonded them forever. But those women seem fewer and fewer the older I get. Much as we wear a dozen hats—as mom, wife, daughter, professional, sister, volunteer, community leader, etc.—we need friendships for those different roles.
My daughter and son come home talking about their “best friends.” The names change almost daily. And, honestly, I’m relieved. I want my kids to find people they connect with. I want them to make lifelong friendships and build close relationships. But it seems to me that when you break that locket in half and stake your claim on someone, you’re limiting your possibilities. I hope they have a dozen best friends in their life. Instead of merely two heart halves, I hope their best friend locket is a 100-piece puzzle.