All names were changed to protect people’s anonymity.
Let me set the scene of my senior year of high school for you. By the time March rolled around, I was getting straight A’s, knew I was going to Chapel Hill for college and had a really tight-knit group of friends. My closest friends were three young women in my grade, all of whom I knew since my first year of high school. There was Beth, my best friend, who was straight-by-the-books, but witty and caring. Louisa was my second closest friend, and being around her always made me appreciative of our friendship. And lastly, there was Layla. Layla and I weren’t as close, but she was still one of my great friends and always made me laugh.
Fast-forward to now, when my second year of college is coming to an end, and I’m not close with any of those young women. Beth, Louisa and Layla were my best friends. Being the romantic that I am, I pictured us always being friends, being each other’s bridesmaids and supporting each other until we were old and grey. My yearbook quote was even “friendship never ends,” ala The Spice Girls (Yes, I do see the irony).
But my naive dreams about our friendships didn’t come true, and I’ve made my peace with that.
For me, it’s easy to look back on these friendships as picture-perfect, but doing so doesn’t reflect some of the deep-rooted issues my group of friends had. For instance, Beth could be rude and mean, sometimes without even knowing. Louisa didn’t communicate that much with us as her first relationship became more serious, making us feel like a lower priority. And Layla could be very judgemental of other people, making me wonder what things she didn’t like about me. As is the case with all friendships and relationships, my friendships with these young women were much more complex and meaningful than I can put into words.
During my first semester here at UNC, my friend group imploded. Beth said something really offensive and triggering to me about my body, causing Lousia and Layla to end their friendship with her. While I didn’t cut off Beth completely – I knew she didn’t realize the power of her words, and it was an innocent mistake – I did tell her that I needed to take some time away from her to learn how to love myself, my body and how to not let people’s judgments affect me so greatly.
As I was working on myself, my friendships with Louisa and Layla just fizzled out, as is the case with a lot of high school friendships. Louisa was living in our hometown, taking community college classes and preparing to apply to UNCC (and get accepted!!), while Layla was in Baltimore studying at Johns Hopkins. I know y’all; I got some smart friends! As college and our new lives got in the way, I didn’t make communicating with them a priority. And while I do miss our closeness sometimes, I recognize that we have all grown as people since our senior year of high school. We’ll probably never have that strong, all-consuming friendship, and I’m okay with that. I still think of Louisa and Layla as dear friends, and I know we’ll hang out every once in a while. But for all of you who are drifting apart from your friends, I’m here to tell you that it’s okay. Drifting apart from people is just a side-effect of growing up and making a life for yourself. There’s no reason to feel guilty for it.
As for my friendship with Beth, we’re both working on it. After a couple of months where we didn’t talk, I reached out to her. We’re definitely not as close as we were before, and I don’t think we’ll ever be, but it’s nice to have her as a friend again. During my senior year of high school, Beth knew me better than anyone else; she was a huge part of why my senior year was so amazing. We still have our differences and are still navigating how to better communicate with each other.
When I think of my three closest friends from high school, I look back on them with fondness and nostalgia. Senior year was a very care-free time for me, after I got accepted into UNC, and Beth, Louisa and Layla made it amazing. Though we’re not close now, I’m so grateful for their friendship. As spring comes along, don’t think about just cleaning your physical spaces. Clear the air on strained friendships, come clean to yourself about faded friendships and don’t feel guilty for growing up and moving on from high school.