My Friend Family

I grew up as only child. Heck I grew up as an only child who went to her first six to seven years of school an hour away.

Over the years I've learnt a valuable lesson: friendship is truly beautiful. It's raw human connection. And no matter how often or how infrequently you make and lose friends, each friendship is beautiful (a beautiful display of either a point in your life or a display compassion and love).

The friend I was basically inseparable with, from middle school until senior year, well I barely talk to her anymore. We were so close she and I spent a day almost every week at each other's houses. We'd have multiple day sleepovers. We had so many inside jokes that I couldn't honestly tell you them all, let alone remember them years later. Heck, my friends used to use our names as a compound noun. In retrospect, super weird.

It was from being super close to her that I learnt that sometimes the people you love and care about, you grow apart. Halfway through senior year, I was finally starting to learn about myself, about the kind of person I wanted to become. In a sense, I was tired of being a crowd-pleaser, tired of being this person that always had to put on a front and try to be nice to as many people as possible. In short, I was trying to figure out what made me happy, who made me happy, and how everything fit in.

Now don't get me wrong, my high school best friend, she meant the world to me. And she most definitely made me happy. I love her to death and wish her nothing but the best in this world.

But, as I was going through this crazy journey of finding myself (a journey I honestly had started when I went to Ecuador before my Junior Year of High School), we drifted. I was focusing on myself more. And at the time it felt a bit selfish, and it hurt me to see myself without my best friend all the time. But, the time by myself, helped me to grow, to realize the kind of person I am and the kind of people I want to surround myself with. Unfortunately for me, I did that at the expense of one of my strongest friendships.

Every once in a while I fill with regret over how we just drifted apart, with no real goodbye. But I've come to love what the friendship is and was. It taught me more than I could have imagined about myself. It was a center of support and contentment through a really weird point in my life.

I didn't fully learn the true meaning of friendship yet. I did learn very quickly my freshman year of college though what it means to be a true friend.

I had spent the second half of senior year slowly pushing away from the kids of my magnet program, pushing away from all the people who came to expect things of me (the people who I used to consider friend but now often feel retrospectively manipulated by). 

By freshman year, I learnt that the friends I made in high school were much less than the people I talked to in high school. I started my freshman year of college, feeling truly loved and supported by three people outside of my parents. At the risk of sounding like a silly teenager, they were my ride or dies. They never held ill will for me, were there for the good and the bad, and never had expectations.

Even though we all live in different states and different time zones now, I know for a fact that no amount of distance can stop us from laughing, loving, and living. We'll always text and call and celebrate each other's accomplishments and laugh/learn over each other's disappointments. We'll grow together in a way that is just so harmonious, forgetting all the while the obstacles that may exist.

It is an unconditional kind of love, one that feels familial to me.

I started off college with a slightly cynical mindset, that the people I met would not always be friends. And that rang true. The people I hung out with the beginning of my freshman year are not the people I have come to love and care for in similar ways to my high school trio. (That doesn't mean I don't care for them and don't wish them the best. I personally like to consider them as important parts of my life that eroded away by the chaos of life and growing up.)

Heck, the people I used to hang out with in parts of college and the people I want to hang out with my senior year are two different groups. 

But that's what college life, outside of academics, is about. It's about learning how to meet people, how to find friends, how to find family: how to make your life the way you want it to be. Outside of academics, college is about finding and making life-long connections, as cheesy as that may sound.

It took me most of my second year of college to find the people I trust ultimately. It took a while, but I finally have my confidants, my college family.

It always feels silly to me to say that the other friends I have made in college are insignificant. Because well, they're not. They're my friends and I love them so much. The friends I make and continue to make are wonderful people, but I have come to realize that some, some friends, are family.

If anything, I've come to learn from college, that being a friend does not fall under a singular definition. To be a friend to someone could mean weekly study dates, but to someone else it could mean Thursday night TGIT and pizza. Friendship by definition varies. It's up to you to figure out what each particular friendship means to you.

From travelling and living abroad, I learnt an important lesson about friendship that I hope to never forget. Friendship is not based on if you live in the same state or country. It's not based on how long you spend around each other. It's based on an ability to, for however long or short of a period, open up your heart and share happiness. Friendship should not be dependent on if you live near one another. It should depend on the positive impact you have on one another and the growth, experiences, and fun you share.

People come and people go. People grow, sometimes into people you no longer recognize. People laugh and love but sometimes geographic distance is just too much. Sometimes the people you spend the most time around grow on you. Sometimes you spend a year or two getting to know a person only to learn their heart and brain are close-minded, revealing some form of bigotry you just weren't expecting. Sometimes you get manipulated. Heck, sometimes you manipulate.

That's just life, a series of hellos and goodbyes.

But then again, sometimes a person or group of people comes around and none of the negatives phase your relationship. Sometimes a person or group of people comes around and they don't have an alternative agenda. Sometimes, they're just those people that are so warm, so open, and so lovely that you want to bask in their collective awesome, regardless of how short or long that time frame may be.

(I would like to note here that showing love and warmth also comes in different ways. One of my closest friends and I to the rest of the world seem very cold to each other, but in truth, that's just how we function)

These are just those people that I meet, get to know, truly know. These are the people who are open and loving and caring. These are the people I know for a fact I can call at 3 am, make last minute plans with, complain and laugh, scream and cry, and anything else my heart desires. These are the people that love my hyper and are willing to go along with the stupidest of my ideas. These are the people who have helped me grow and learn about myself and the world around me. These are the people that I hope know that I would do the same for them. 

Those, those are the people you never want to say goodbye to.

My family growing up was super small. I know of my cousins. While once upon a time little baby me wanted nothing more than to become close with my cousins and aunts and uncles, grown-up me is okay with never having that opportunity. 

My family is mine, my precious treasure, something I have cultivated and hand-picked. And well, it's more than just my mom, my dad, and me. It's my mom, my dad, and my closest and most caring friends. My family is more than just biological; it's built from friendship.

The one thing I know for certain rings true for my family: I may be a wary person (and sometimes even I'm not sure why I close myself off that much) but once I give my loyalty out, there is nothing in this world I wouldn't do for my family member.

But also know, know that if we don't talk as often as we used to or if we stopped altogether, it does not by any means mean that I do not truly care for you and that you are not in my heart. You had and have a profound impact on my life. You're still, forever and always, my friend.