How to Grow Apart From Your High School Best Friend

College is a time of self-discovery and exploration, but there are always things you have to leave behind. For me, that was my high school friends.

I remember on my first day of college, after orientation activities had calmed down, I sat and my dorm and facetimed my closest friend back home, the way we had always done. She was the person who had seen my worst sides, from my selfish bitterness to my deepest insecurities, and cared and understood. But I knew something was off when she spent her first night at college partying instead of staying on the phone.

My first semester of college was a lonely one. I struggled with making connections, establishing a presence on campus, and it was so easy to retreat into the comfort of my dorm rather than face the possibility of rejection from speaking to someone new. Anytime I felt particularly lonely, it was only a phone call away to hear my friend’s low, soothing voice. And still, every time she didn’t answer at 1 a.m. on a weekend, I knew it was because she was having the time of her life while I was alone in my room. She made me doubt our closeness and her loyalty to me as a friend, but at the same time I didn’t want to get in the way of her new life. More than ever, it weighed on me: the pressure to be happy.

When she started to choose a college friend over me, I became irrational and cut her off. Her choosing someone else felt like the ultimate betrayal, after all those promises and wishes we made. She told me she would always support me, always prioritize me, always care. I know that she still does, even though it often feels like she would rather be sharing stories and dreams with someone else.

I learned then, after my high school friend started to choose her college friend over me, that in some ways, you need distance. Feeling like a broken friendship broke my heart, I latched onto any of my college friends who were kind and willing to listen to me spill my feelings of hurt. In the process, I’ve found some closer friends. I’ve spoken to one girl who misses her high school friends to death and can’t let go, and another who has explored so many new things and can’t speak freely to her childhood best friend anymore. All of us have had completely different years without the ones we cared about, and its changed us. I still care about my friend so much and even though it’s hard to wish the best for her when I’m not there, I’m doing my best to reach a place in which I can celebrate her newfound self without thinking of myself.

Friendships and relationships are hard. Hard enough that it’s easy to ask— why bother? But I know that when I go back home, even through all our new experiences and different knowledge, that the high school friends that truly care about me will still be there.