This past weekend, I helped my best friend sort through some of her stuff, as she is preparing to make the next move in her life. She's onto the next phase of her career, and before she makes the 1,000 mile move, we spent an afternoon organizing into "keep," "recycle" and "sell" piles. Our lives collided at 12 and 13, over a shared passion for music, cup-o-noodles, and Manic Panic hair dye. Our friendship has spanned almost twenty years, and hidden in various boxes were mementos of our bond. There were notebooks from high school, with little notes to each other written in the back. There were photos, and trinkets from school trips. There were letters from our twenties, when we lived farther away, and there were our wedding invitations. All of them snapshots of our friendship through the years.
While sorting through one box, she came across a letter I had written to her, about a year after I had gotten married. Reading it, I felt a pang of guilt for my actions during that time. Shortly after I got married, I received an email from her, voicing her disappointment and sadness over the strain my marriage had put on our friendship. I had rushed into it, and was fully involved in the role of wife and mother, not making time for much, or anyone, else. I remember reading the email, and having my defenses go up, interpreting her words to mean something they did not. In a split second, and without emailing her back, I made the decision not to speak to her. I didn't take her feelings into consideration, nor did I take the loyalty of our friendship into consideration. I simply reacted to words on a screen, and ran away.
A year later, after no communication, I received a package in the mail from her. I cannot, for the life of me, remember what she sent or if there was a note attached, but I do remember writing the letter in response to her. It started as a thank you for whatever she sent, but quickly turned into being grateful that she had reached out. Nowhere in the note, was there an actual apology to her, simply an "I have sincerely missed having you in my life." Standing in the garage reading this decade old letter, the guilt grabbed me by the throat. I was so self-involved, so unaware. Then I looked over at my best friend, and realized in the more than ten years since that misunderstanding, we have become closer and better friends, perhaps, because of it.
We never actually discussed this year long breakdown of communication. We simply just picked up where we left off. The letter was a reminder of how I used to react, and how I have lost many good friends because of my reactions. My best friend, however, refused to let one uncomfortable instance dictate the entirety of our friendship. She reached out, and I accepted. Without a word spoken, the past was forgiven, and an understanding that "we will be friends for the rest of our lives" was established.
Our lives have certainly changed since we first met. While our love for music and a hot cup of MSG remains, neither of us are sporting pink or purple streaks in our hair anymore. (In fact, one of us has quite a few white hairs!) We have seen each other through the most joyous, and not so joyous occasions. We know the other one is there no matter what the hour, what the situation, or what our personal opinions are. She is the person I can laugh the hardest with, especially over the most adolescent humor. Despite cross country moves, medical school, marriages, divorces, hospitalizations, careers, and all of life's other curve balls, we have maintained a friendship that continues to flourish and survive.
By this time next week, she and I will be arriving in her new state. We'll have spent two days in the car, most likely laughing til we cry, and turning rap songs into opera-like arias. I'm sure we will have at least a few more self-portraits to add to her collection, and hopefully some priceless stories to remind each other of in twenty years. Of all that is upcoming and unknown, there is one thing I know for sure. Our friendship will always remain in the "keep" pile.