Growing up, my friends and I did everything together. We completed fourth grade, were at each other’s birthday parties, went on double dates together, and consoled each other through countless breakups. We picked colleges together, rushed sororities together, and took classes together. At the same stages of life, we could relate. We weren’t doing any of it alone – providing the perfect camaraderie and help when life got heavy.
But something weird and unexpected happened after college.
It wouldn’t have been unexpected if I’d known to look for it, but it was. I’m sure I was warned about it several times, but I thought we were exempt – me and my best friends.
When we graduated college, we went separate ways. Not all at the same time, but slowly.
The summer after we graduated we were together for a while, two of my best friends and I taking a road trip up the west coast.
It was the perfect post-grad present: endless time together, exploring new cities, really good food and lots of time at the beach. We went to Vegas for my birthday, to southern California for Kelsey’s, and ended up at her parent’s house in Portland, eating breakfast at noon and drinking really good coffee.
But then things changed.
Kelsey left for a DTS in the Dominican Republic and I went to Ghana. Michelle went to Costa Rica and then I came back. Kelsey was still gone, and in a heartbreaking phone call, Michelle told me she was staying in Costa Rica for an extra three months.
I spent my first few months post-college, alone.
Then things changed again. Michelle came home and so did Kelsey and for a blissful few months we were all in the same place.
And then I left for the World Race, and Michelle left for Spain. And this time Kelsey was alone, missing us terribly.
This pattern has repeated, all of us moving pieces on a chessboard, our lives changing drastically over and over again. And that’s just with three of us. I can’t even begin to talk about Shannon or Laura or Lauryn or the rest.
My girlfriends make up a whole game of musical chairs, covering the continent and sometimes even the globe.
It’s happening with relationships too. We each move into one and sometimes out again, each one of us being the only single one for a while. We ask the same questions, go through the same heartache, and panic about being left behind. I began a relationship when nobody else was, and then Michelle joined, then left, and now it’s Kelsey’s turn.
Our lives are changing completely independently of each other and sometimes it’s really hard.
We’ve cried and lamented and we’re praying that we’ll get to live close by again soon. But here’s what I’ve realized in the meantime.
The thing holding us together is understanding.
We each are going through different seasons, working in different jobs, dating, not dating and breaking up. We’re happy and sad and conflicted, at different times and over different things. And sometimes it threatens to pull us apart.
The pain of loneliness hurts so much more when you’re the only one feeling it, and happiness feels lonely when you’re feeling it alone.
But we’ve tried to understand.
As we’re lonely and isolated and happy and confused, we’ve done our best to meet each other in those moments. We’re learning slowly what it looks like to be loving and supportive and unbelievably excited for someone who’s going through something entirely different from us. We’re learning that our love for each other doesn’t rest on season or situation or any external factors. It’s more than that.
And so sometimes it comes in the form of being excited for each other when our own relationships are falling apart, or being happy for someone leaving as you’re getting left behind. It comes with listening when each other is hurting, even when we’re the happiest we’ve ever been, and understanding the craziness of a new relationship when we’ve never been more single.
It’s hard and uncomfortable and sometimes it seems easier to throw up our hands and say ‘you just don’t understand.’ But it’s really good.
It’s so good and it’s worth it. Having people who understand you and love you, no matter the season is priceless, and it just takes getting over yourself for a second and taking the time to listen.
I’m praying that some day we’ll all be in the same place – with houses in a row and lots and lots of parties. But until that happens, we’re going to talk on the phone, and laugh and cry and visit. And no matter the season, we’re going to continue going through them together.
And so to all of my soul mates living all over the country, to my friends who are married and dating and single and somewhere in between, to everyone who’s unemployed, under employed or living their dream come true, to my friends who have seen my best and my worst and everything in between, I love you. And I can’t wait to live in a row of houses and have lots and lots of parties.