Kayla Bacon-Dramatically Skipping Down Road

My Best Friend Never Lived Down the Street Growing Up

Growing up, I lived in the type of suburban neighborhood screenwriters typically copy from real life and paste onto the big screen. It had it all: tall oak trees in every front yard and wide, flat pavement perfect for riding my pink bike. The local kids all went to the same school. It was straight out Hollywood, except I was the young Latina whose best friend never lived down the street. 

I grew up in a Latinx household that highly values the “familia first” mantra. Weekends were always for family BBQs with Grandma and my tias. Summers were for helping with the family business. My parents rarely established relationships with others beyond our immediate family. 

I would be lying if I said I never got lonely as a kid. I was raised to devalue friendships that society told me were the key to happiness. I wanted another person to play Barbie and watch movies with me.

woman sitting alone looking out window

For context, my father is an immigrant from Colombia who is still developing an understanding of American culture to this day. My mother was raised as an only child in a single-parent household and exerted her independence long before she probably should have. I grew up swinging between two sides of a pendulum. 

As the eldest child and only daughter, defining myself as an individual within the independence spectrum always felt like an uphill battle. There was no one to ask for advice because my struggles applied to the minority. I became my own advocate when I wanted to go to a sleepover and later, bring a boy home for the first time. I won a few battles, but more often than not, I just started yelling wars. 

Looking back now as a young adult, I’m just beginning to explore where my personality traits and personal challenges originated. I struggle with initiating friendships in a non-academic environment. When I start to grow close to people, I put up an emotional wall. I have the habit of scrolling through Instagram and wondering why I don’t have 456 “genuine” friendships. That’s when the subtle feelings of anxiety begin to kick in.

At 20 years old, I am not embarrassed or even ashamed of my story. I’ve met other Latinx youth who’ve shared similar experiences. I have two choices: to be angry that I was denied crucial social experiences in my childhood or to be grateful that I was raised with such strong family values. I’m just learning fundamental social skills a little later than most people in life. There’s a reason I didn’t meet my best friend down the block when I was younger. The friendships I’m learning to build today are constructed on new found self-confidence and are strong enough to last a lifetime.