Before I had children. Before I was married. Before I moved away to follow my soldier across the country. Before all of that, there was you, my best friend from “before.”
In what now feels like a past life, I was blessed to have a best friend that I just knew would be with me through it all.
We were going to do life together: college, adulthood, parenthood, jobs, ups, and downs. Maybe we would buy homes on the same street and then, when we grew old, we’d move into the same nursing home and play Hearts while drinking boxed wine and reminiscing on a lifetime of laughter and friendship.
You were my ride or die in college. I survived and thrived in college, largely thanks to you. We were there for each other through exams, relationships, parties, new jobs, spur of the moment adventures, girls’ nights, inside jokes, laughter, tears, graduation, and plots to bury a body if we needed to. We occasionally drifted a bit apart but found our way back to each other again and again. To me, it felt like we shared everything, and I had never known a friend to feel so much like family.
You knew even before my family that I was engaged. You helped me plan the wedding down to the smallest details. You let me voice my nerves, my second-guessing, and my search for validation.
A few weeks before the big day and my impending move across the country to our first duty station, I called and asked you if we would still be best friends once I was married and moved away. I can’t remember now if I cried (though I certainly am crying now, as I type). But right in that moment, I wanted you to know how much you meant to me, and that no matter what, you would always be an important part of my life. We promised we would stay close, and it was that promise that gave me the courage to move away, trusting that I would always have a place back home if I needed it.
You stood by me on my wedding day, held my dress up while I peed, dealt with wedding day hassles on my behalf, and made sure not a hair was out of place all day.
Two days later, I said goodbye and flew to my new home. And that was the beginning of the end.
At first, we talked practically daily. Soon, calls turned into texts. Daily check-ins became weekly, and then monthly.
I got pregnant right away, and suddenly we had next to nothing in common. You were still a carefree young professional, single, and living in my favorite city in the world. I was unemployed, married, pregnant, and lonely. Nine short months later, babe in arms, the wedge between us grew even deeper. My days were a hamster wheel of diapers, naps, spit up, and drool. Yours were still fun, frivolous, and full of adventure. Maybe I was jealous; maybe I was just depressed; maybe it was me that distanced myself from you.
I probably stopped texting first. I didn’t check in anymore. I didn’t have much news to contribute (because look, I get it. Not everyone cares that my child might have accidentally rolled over or maybe it was on purpose, but I’m putting it in his baby book anyway. Also, all I do is cry basically all day because postpartum depression is very real and I love my baby, but why won’t he sleep?!). Soon, I also realized that I wasn’t all that interested in hearing about first dates or nights out on the town.
My life had changed. Yours had, too!
It hurt back then. I didn’t understand how our promise to stay best friends could dissolve after such a short time. I was angry. I blamed myself. Sometimes I blamed you. Mostly I felt a bit lost without you. In the year or two that followed, I wanted so badly to reach out to you, my old friend.
But I didn’t reach out.
I may have texted an “I miss you” once or twice, or maybe I actually just gave up and I didn’t call. I was scared. Timed had passed. Things had changed. I was prideful. I was defensive. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know how or if it would even be possible to rekindle our friendship.
So, I didn’t call. Neither did you.
Six years later, here is what I want you to know:
My dear best friend from “before,”
You are an irreplaceable and unforgettable part of my story. You were my person long before my husband and kids came into the picture. You were there for me in ways I can’t begin to recount, remember, or even want to relive. I have never in my life had a friend as wonderful, genuine, and loyal as you.
When I see your life updates on social media, I feel joy for you, even if I only show it with a quick “like.” I think about you often and wonder where life has taken you, and how you’ve changed and grown as a person. I pray that you have found happiness. I care about you today as much as I did then, and I would still drop everything and hop on the next flight to be there if you needed me. I would be there if all you wanted was to watch Grey’s Anatomy and share a pint of ice cream. I would be there.
We can’t go back to before, but, my friend, I will never forget, replace, or stop cherishing the best friendship I had from “before.”
I hope you don’t, either.