Not everyone is lucky enough to hold on to the relationships they held so dear in elementary school. Due to their families moving or simply growing apart from younger social circles, you make new friends and forget the old ones. I, fortunately, have held onto the friendship that I have considered sacred since I was 7 years old.
We recently just celebrated 25 years of friendship when my childhood friend traveled over 1,000 miles from our hometown in Boulder, Colorado, to come visit me in my new home in a rural mountain town in Oregon. It was during one of the moments that we sank into deep nostalgia that I came to realize what an impact she has had on the adult I recognize myself as today.
I feel it is a rite of passage as an American teenage girl to talk badly about yourself — both in your own mind and to others. Mass media taught my generation that to be considered beautiful was to be tall and thin, with the perfect teeth, hair and skin. If you didn’t have that perfect combination, you were nothing more than average. To me, nothing was worse than being average.
However, my bestie would never hesitate to chastise me when I would say things like, “my hair is ugly” or “I hate my freckles.” She would say to me in the most genuine yet threatening way, “don’t talk about my friend like that.” In turn, she would try gentle suggestions like, “maybe you could try to stop chewing your nails if you hate the way your nails and smile look.”
That repetitive reinforcement had its effects over the years. I have found myself having thoughts of how I could change the things I disliked rather than using negative self-talk as I got older.
Faith in Humanity
As we grow and experience the gamut of different relationship dynamics, sometimes we can be left scarred and heartbroken. Your best friend is there to hear about every breakup and heartache along the way. Even on the worst of days, my best friend helped to restore my faith in humanity. I could trust her with anything that was on my mind, and that helped me to learn to be more vulnerable and trusting with others — even when I felt like the world was out to get me.
My bestie also helped me to learn that it is totally acceptable to be sad. Like many others, I suffered from bouts with depression throughout my life, even at a young age. When she would call and hear in my voice that I wasn’t doing as well as I had tried to pretend to be, she would advocate for me to talk about it. Too often we mask our true feelings from others for fear of how they may react. Some have speculated that destigmatizing depression and mental illness may help in reducing the rate at which suicides occurs in our communities. My bestie was an example of how others should support one another who suffer from anxiety, depression and other mental illness — these conversations are so typically swept under the rug.
One of the great things about having a close girlfriend is that you have the unspoken right to be brutally honest with one another. As we get older, we learn to do it with a bit more grace, but it can still sting no matter how softly it is delivered. When I would call for advice about a situation I intuitively knew was a bad idea to begin with, I learned how to accept being told I was thinking irrationally and not react by being defensive.
My best friend was a safe sounding board for the unintelligent thoughts I was having without exhibiting any criticism or judgement. It was how I learned to accept I had made a mistake and then be able to change direction to move forward. When I feel cautious about making major decisions and don’t have the ability to pick up the phone to call her, I try to imagine what she would say to me. Her opinions and steadfast friendship have supported me in my decision-making skills that I so heavily depend on as an adult.
It puts a smile on my face to think the child that I used to play Nintendo and eat potato chips with has become the leading example of what a strong and stable woman looks like for me as an adult. I am so thankful to have her beside me (often in spirit rather than physically) throughout life’s trials and tribulations. She has served as a mirror for myself, allowing me to look at the truer version of myself than I perceive myself to be.
To those who still keep in contact with their childhood friends, reach out and give them a call. Maintaining that connection has more value that you may not recognize today but perhaps will tomorrow.
Photos Courtesy of W.M. Chandler – all rights reserved
Guest Author Bio
W.M. Chandler is a Colorado native and works best with her head in the clouds. She is an avid researcher and enjoys writing about unfamiliar subjects. She writes passionately about nature and the outdoors, human connections and relationships, nutrition and politics.
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