Last September, with two of these friends
I am off to spend this weekend with my dearest friends. We met when we were 18, which means we have now known each other more than half of our lives. We are all the same age. We are walking through life together. They are among the closest witnesses to my own life’s bumps, difficulties, and triumphs. Though each of our paths is different – and have taken us as far away as London and Beijing – what we share is a genuine respect for each others’ choices and the ingrained knowledge that comes from having shared what were for me at least the most formative years of my life.
We have gathered in groups big and small over the years since college, to celebrate weddings and baptisms and to mourn deaths and divorces. We have shared achievements large (graduate degrees) and small (children sleeping through the night – though you could argue this is not small) with each other. We have marched in orange costumes down the central road of the campus where we all met, we have closed down more dance floors than I can count, we have all seen each other cry. We have been each others’ bridesmaids, wingmen, and the godparents of each other’s children. We have shared clothes, recipes, book suggestions, frantic check-in emails on the morning of 9/11 (that transcript still makes many of us cry), and many bottles of wine. We have been on the receiving end of each others’ affection, ire, and a singing telegram dressed up as a baby.
I have long maintained that who our closest friends are says a lot about who we are. And on that dimension, I’m off the charts lucky. I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me the further we get from college the more I value these women. We met at the top of a fulcrum, poised at the very beginning of adulthood, on the cusp of our real lives. Now we are inarguably adults. We have made that transition together and are sharing adulthood’s startling joys and confounding darkness. Each of our skies contains a unique constellation of children and spouses and homes and careers and parents and loves and heartbreaks and memories, but they are all full. Perhaps most of all, we can each recognize – and celebrate – the glitter of each others’ stars.
It is with these women that I feel most at home and most truly seen. That doesn’t mean I always feel confident around them: I don’t. In fact I wonder, all the time, why women as remarkable as these would choose me as a friend. But I feel safe, and loved, and known. Our shared history – both deep and wide – is an integral part of the foundation on which my entire life is built.
I’ve written before about how certain moments in our lives particularly lend themselves to developing friendships. This has been true for me and I value immensely the friends who are woven into our daily lives; the friends around me here who pick my kids up and drive them to practice, the friends who know to ask when I’ve had a doctor’s appointment, the friends whose children are growing up alongside mine, the friends to whom I’ve brought a potpie and a bottle of wine when they got home from the hospital with a new baby or after surgery.
But there’s something unique about the friends who’ve known you since way back when, before you were a mother, a wife, an MD or an MBA, a PTA president, a published author, a partner at a consulting firm, or a successful literary agent. Friends who chose you as a friend when you were just you, in an LL Bean plaid flannel shirt, a pair of baggy Patagonia shorts, and a baseball cap. Friends can tell you what your wrote your senior thesis on, remember that one night you drank too much bad white wine junior year, know who it is you first truly fell in love with, know what you called your grandparents (and met them), and with whom you speak in abbreviations and shorthand so complex that other people think you’re speaking another language.
These friends know who you are now, but they also know who you were. This weekend, it is those intertwined years that I celebrate, and the women who have shared them with me. Two and a half years ago I wrote this, and it’s still true:
I can feel you all next to me, your lives flanking mine, my first and most essential peer group. We have traveled together into careers, graduate schools, marriages, motherhood. Together we will face the aging of our parents and the growing up of our children. We have more funerals ahead of us than behind, which is a thought both maudlin and unavoidably true. We also have, I trust, myriad happy reunions, both formal and informal (thank you Allison, for Homosassa 2010!). We have the joy of knowing each others’ children and spouses, and of watching each other flourish. The road is not as linear as I might have imagined all those years ago, when I felt the future sturdy, beating next to me like a heartbeat. Instead our paths loop forward and back, double into unexpected switchbacks, but of this I am certain: you are with me and I am with you. Always, no matter what.