Why It’s Okay to Grow Apart from your BFF

I attended elementary school just down the street from my house.  My babysitter (who pinched my ear whenever I stepped out into the street without looking) would walk me to school.  I’m not exaggerating when I say this but at my school, everyone wanted to sit and eat lunch with me.  Every person I sat with was friendly.  Bullying didn’t exist.  Mean girls weren’t even a thought.  We all got along.  Recess was just an extension of lunch time practically.  I knew everyone.  And if I didn’t know someone, I became friends with them.  I couldn’t have asked for a better life.  I was actually eager to go to school.  I was happy…

When I reached the fourth grade, my mother had decided to uproot me from my school to another school entirely.  She had told me that I wasn’t being ‘challenged’ enough.  Thanks Mom–it’s not like I enjoyed my life or anything.  No time to wave goodbye to my friends. No time to say goodbye to my teachers. 

If you’ve never been the new kid, I’ll let you in on a little secret…

It sucks.

As a kid, I was into generic tomboy things; game boys, dinosaurs, tag football, legos, Pokemon, etc.  I was the kind of girl that wasn’t afraid to climb a fence or get grass stains on their jeans.  I wasn’t afraid to shoot cans off my wall with my BB gun.  I thrived on watching Nickelodeon cartoons that were obscure and wacky (ie: Rockos Modern Life, Aah, Real Monsters, Doug, Ren and Stimpy).  I read Goosebumps religiouslyI was one of the boys!  So, when it came time to start at my new school, I was immediately an outcast.

I had learned very quickly that nobody wanted to be my friend.  I got picked on more than ever.  This was torture.  I had never encountered such cruelty from kids my age before.  How do you go from eating lunch everyday with ten kids to virtually none?  Adjusting to that kind of lifestyle when you’re that young is rough.  I had to result in eating lunch alone and being picked on by the other girls for ‘going to bed early’ and saying the word ‘dude’ or in some cases not watching ‘7th Heaven’.  (I swear, I was ridiculed for not watching that stupid show.)  I remember going home and crying.  I was absolutely miserable.  I just wanted my friends.  Couldn’t I just go back?  My mom ignored my feelings about it and completely brushed me off.  I was so angry.  I had to go to a school that I hated.  I had to eat lunch alone.  I had to hangout by myself at recess.  I had virtually no friends for a good while until I finally caught a break in the fifth grade…

I met my childhood best friend purely by accident.  When I was growing up, I had casually hung out with this kid named Ricky, my neighbor who lived directly behind me.  Ricky and I would spend hours shooting cans off my wall with my BB guns.  It was refreshing to hang out with someone after a long day of being cast out from your peers.  One day, him and this neighbor kid Jeff had agreed that could be fun if we could all hangout together.  Ricky would bring his girlfriend along too in hopes that her and I would hit it off.

When I first met her, I was extremely cautious.  People were mean as shit to me at school, and I felt like I had to walk on eggshells when it came to making new friends.  After a few standoffish moments, I had come to realize that we had things in common. We both enjoyed reading and writing short stories.  We both had enjoyed playing video games.  And we had the same sense of humor.  Making gal pals was never in my wheelhouse, but she seemed to fit.  And to be honest, she showed up at a time when I needed an actual friend.  What made it even better was that she lived just around the corner from me…

Our friendship became an inseparable one.  As we entered middle school and met our own band of friends, her and I were still BFF’s.  When dial up internet existed, we would log on and talk on instant messenger for hours.  We would tie up the phone lines until we both exhausted ourselves online or when our parents demanded that we’d go outside and get sunshine.  I’d beg my mom to spend the night at her house almost every weekend.  We’d scrounge up quarters from wherever we could find them in our house and walk to the pool at the park down the street.  We had dreams of going to college together.  We were determined to be in one another’s lives in one way or another until we were buried side by side.  Till we were haunting people.  We were two peas in a pod. 

As we suffered through high school, we had still remained the best of friends.  She was devoted to her academics and knew that she wanted to pursue higher education.  Young, bright and determined, I knew that she was going places.  I was just trying to graduate although I was encountering some personal demons of my own (here).  My mom had been battling breast cancer.  It felt like my life was in utter turmoil.  But she was right there to pull me through it.  Her family was like one of my own.  They were my support system. 

After graduation, we were going in different academic directions.  I enrolled in community college not too far from my home, she had been accepted to a university that was out of state.  She told me how her life was living on her own, I had complained about my problems while living at home.  Every holiday, she would come home to visit.  We were still incredibly close… 

I won’t lie to you.  During my college days, I was the stereotypical ‘starving’ student.  I could barely afford my social life.  I was juggling my full time job with my status as a full time student.  I was also paying bills and thanking the lord that I wasn’t paying rent.  I’d hang out with my small semi-circle friends who understood that I was broke as a joke.  Sometimes they’d treat me to dinners or special events as a nice gesture.  I was just lucky to be around people who were kind in that way. 

When it came to re-connecting with my best friend, I’d have to tell her that I couldn’t do certain things since I was strapped for cash.  I felt awful.  And to be honest–I was also extremely embarrassed that I had zero money.  She was in town and I had to keep telling her no when it came to spending any kind of money on certain things.  So when she was in town, she’d have to think of something ‘free’ for us to do.  She had taken up an interest in bird watching.  I had never done it before, but if we got to spend time together without spending money–I was up for it.

I wish I could have been more interested in her hobby.  But truth be told–I knew nothing about birds.  And because I wasn’t well versed on the topic, my eyes were completely glazed over.  I was practically a zombie on our walk around the estuary.  My boredom didn’t go unnoticed.  I had hurt her feelings.  I was unwilling to embrace her hobby and get to know it better.  One simple thing that could have been fixed exploded into a full blown argument.  The common theme of our squabble was that we were falling apart and neither one of us knew how to handle it.  And the results were devastating.  We had stopped talking.

How do you go from talking to someone everyday to not talking to them for over a year?

The adjustment period was rough to stomach.  I was not used to it.  I had been friends with this girl for over ten years.  She was there in my adolescence when I felt like I didn’t have anyone.  We had watched each other grow up.  We got our periods at the same time (sorry, not sorry.)  We were practically sisters.  And now, she was literally becoming just somebody that I used to know.  I was absolutely heartbroken.

Was this kind of thing supposed to happen?  Are people supposed to grow apart?  I had always thought we’d be friends (literally) forever.  Isn’t that included in the standard BFF clause?  I was still wrapped up in that whole idea that our friendship that had been cultivated since our adolescence could triumph through the murkiest of things.  I had lost my best friend.  I was upset.  And I was angry

My overwhelming anger and stubbornness took over my ability to see things clearly.  I was too upset (even though I wouldn’t admit it).  The biggest problem was that I was viewing just my side of the story.  I wasn’t looking at this holistically.  And I refused to reach out.  I refused to apologize.  Why should I?  I had done nothing wrong.  Or at least that’s what I had thought… 

In August of 2015, I was recovering from severe family issues (here) which resulted in depression and anxiety.  I even developed an eating disorder.  An unhealthy darkness was looming over me.  I was absolutely lost.  I felt like I had no one at that time.  Nobody would understand what I was going through.  And not to mention–I didn’t really want to dump my problems on someone else.  (Aka–me burying shit and dealing with it later).  I was struggling to stay afloat.  I was practically alone with my thoughts and feelings when it came to what I was dealing with.  I was in a dangerous spot.

I don’t remember how it began.  I don’t remember who reached out first.  But I guess it didn’t matter.  What mattered is that we pushed the bullshit arguing aside and pushed forward….

It took a lot of self-reflection and time to realize that eventually–we all need to set forth on our own and grow the way we are meant to grow.  And a lot of times it will happen with or without your childhood BFF.  In the end, we both realized that we were simply growing in different directions.  We were taking on different paths.  And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  

We still talk.  Do we talk every day?  No.  And that’s also okay.  We didn’t need to hang out every day.  We didn’t need to have exactly the same interests.  It was okay for us to develop differently in our own way.  We understand that we are both living our own lives.  Maybe we weren’t meant to be living together like we had hoped.  And maybe we will never be buried alongside one another like we joked about.  But I’d rather have grown apart, learned a little and re-patched our friendship than to go on living like I had never known her…

“Because I knew you, I’ve been changed for good.”

xx Meg

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3 comments so far.

3 responses to “Why It’s Okay to Grow Apart from your BFF”

  1. I am no stranger to friendships growing apart, I say it all the time I am a great but terrible friend. I am absolutely a good friend to everyone I know, but I am also sometimes too much of an introvert and solitary soul. I know we all grow, sometimes together, others apart.

    My was given a BFF very early in life, almost more of a built in best friend. I was just a month and four days older, we lived next door to each other forever, and she was also my cousin. We did everything together, experienced so much of life together. We went to tiny school, you knew everyone, you got a long with everyone. It was actually pretty easy. K-12 always together.

    College came around and we went different directions, she wanted to be a teacher. I wasn't a fan of school so I picked Graphic Design, something fun that I could get a degree in 2 years and be done. We were close still, between classes and our first jobs.

    I thought for sure we would be BFFs forever, I mean we are family what could happen? A wedding and three hours distance. I moved away into a big city, which I completely love and don't regret one bit, but it put a strain on a lot of the friendships I had. And she was getting married. I started as the Maid of Honor, time went by, I missed a few things in her life, she didn't like my hair and I was threatened out of the wedding. It got pretty nasty there for a minute, and I could not believe it. The day of the wedding came and I stood up there with her, the furthest away from her, with a wig on. I did what I could to make the best of it.

    We didn't talk for years after that. We still barely talk. I see her every once and a while at family events, which in the beginning was awkward. But thankfully I have grown so much from my life experiences that I have let go of those things that hurt me so long ago.

    We actually had a long talk about our lives now last weekend. I offered to be the friend she needs now with her new stay at home mom status and a traveling husband. Maybe we are coming full circle, maybe we won't. But I was always thankful for her, despite everything. Growing apart sucks, but growing yourself is totally worth it.

  2. I love this post. I have dealt with this same thing recently. I made a lot of excuses for my friend simply because we have ben friends for so long. However, I have come to realize that we are just two very different people and do better with some distance. One thing I've learned through my personal therapy and work as a therapist is that setting boundaries is the most important thing to help us thrive and live healthily. Great post.

  3. La dame chat says:

    I have dealt with one (well two) recently knowing since kindergarten till college. I may write one, I will let you know and great post!

    Michelle| http://www.brokebutflawless.com

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