I have this problem. Being occasionally pig-headed, bullish and fiercely independent, somewhere down the line I got this crazy notion that I don’t need people — or, more specifically, friends. That I don’t need friends.
Growing up, I didn’t have the greatest run of luck with “best friends.” My closest buddy in elementary school was Heather, an adorable little thing who came from a big, gregarious family. Heather and I were inseparable, pairing up on field trips and having sleepovers and sharing lunches. She was the first person to introduce me to salt and vinegar chips and, as those are pretty much the greatest snack food ever, I tip my hat to you, Heather. I tip my hat to you.
That being said, I don’t know exactly what went wrong between us. One minute we were splitting heart-shaped “BFF” necklaces (or, back in the middle ages before text-speak, “Best Friends Forever” necklaces) and swapping potato chips — and the next? Well, Heather was on one side of the invisible line known as “popular vs. unpopular,” and I was on the other. Heather was definitively cool, pretty and popular, while I was Toula in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”: swarthy and bespectacled. Cute but chunky, and slightly awkward.
Middle school brought me closer to Kelly, a good friend from preschool, but we lost touch when she went to a different high school. When I entered my freshman year, I joined the theatre department — and that brought a great many interesting characters into my life. I made new acquaintances and formed new friendships, including one with Sarah, who became my best friend for a few tumultuous years. But, like everyone, she eventually let me down.
Maybe I expected too much from her — and others. And maybe they need much less — or much more — from me.
I’ve had friends from work and friends from high school. The ones from college and the ones from internships. There was the best friend with whom I did everything my freshman year of college — who later kissed my boyfriend in an alcohol-induced haze, then tearfully called up to tell me all about it. To be fair, you know, he kissed her back, but who can quite describe that betrayal? Nothing stings more than sharing your deepest feelings with someone — in this case, K. — only to have that someone turn around and stab you. In the heart. It took me a while to call anyone my “best friend” after that.
I’m not here to throw myself a pity party. I’m just giving you some background on what’s brought me to this point — the point where, at 25, I spend the majority of my time with Spencer, my parents, my sister’s boyfriend Eric, my grandparents and, of course, my sister. Through the cycles of friendships (oh, and there have been cycles), I’ve always had my real best friend — Katie — to listen to anything and everything.
Katie is the Ethel to my Lucy — or, more accurately, the Lucy to my Ethel. (I’m more of the straight-faced prankster, if you will, while Kate is the funny, outlandish and gregarious one. And she would look better as a redhead.) But outside of my sister? Well, I’m a Lucy all on her own. Shoving chocolates in her mouth like a lunatic, with no one to share the candy — and lessen the load. Stomping on grapes alone in Italy. Blundering up “Vitametavegamin” commericals without a cheering section.
Oh, and I tend toward dramatics. Have I mentioned that?
Still, it’s been easy to harden myself up. When I didn’t have good girl friends in my life, I’ve almost always had a boyfriend. Spencer has become my closest friend and confidante, and I’m very fortunate to have him in my life. But a significant other, while being a friend, cannot be your only friend. Not if you want a happy, enriched life.
So, friends, I am not an island — and none of us are. Every time I get an email from Erin, I think how lucky I am to know a woman who always, always makes time for me — and who listens without judgment, supporting me no matter what. No one quite gives advice like Erin.
And when I’m typing away in my office, answering the endless stream of emails that blink up from my taskbar? I have Sandy and Brandon, my good friends and officemates, with whom to share anecdotes and rehash the weekend’s events. As we’ve worked closely together over the years, we’ve gotten to know one another inside and out — right down to the tunes they whistle without realizing it (they hum the song from the “Vonage” commercial on repeat. It used to bother me, but now it’s like white noise).
Beyond the folks I speak with often, I have my blog friends — and I consider them just as much a part of my daily life as my “real life” friends. In many cases, I talk to them more often than I do the people I’ve known for decades! I can count on Kari Ann for funny tweets and notes, and Jessica for emails that always remind me what a small, small world we live in. It doesn’t matter that we’re geographically separated; we have so much in common, and always so much to talk about. There’s Nat and Laurel Ann; Lexi and Erica. And a slew of other fine ladies and bloggers with whom I speak often — and think of fondly. We talk books and we talk life. I’m grateful to know so many of you, and hope to meet many of you in the future.
Life is best lived with other people, it turns out. I need the daily dose of reflection I get from sharing my thoughts with others — in person; in text messages; in my newspaper columns; on my blog. I can’t clam up and retreat into my books, never daring to peek up and answer the phone. The real people in my life — the people who know me; the people I know — are there for a reason.
No woman is an island. And I will not live alone.