The Long-Term Benefits of Kickass Friends

(This is an article originally produced for a writing class)

One of my closest interpersonal relationships is with my best friend I grew up with, Elizabeth. We met the summer we were 12-years-old out at the marina both of our parents docked boats at. When we were introduced we found out that we were both “going out with” the same boy, whose parents also housed a boat at the marina. Immediately we became friends (and ditched the boy, Brian, since we found it appalling he was “two-timing” us). Each summer thereafter we were inseparable; we stayed at each other’s houses, swam in the ocean, lounged at the beach, took off on one of the wave runners together, camped out, and even worked summer jobs at the same places. The summer when we turned 15-years-old, Elizabeth had major surgery on her cheeks and jaw; a surgery in which she felt her parents were forcing her into as it was completely cosmetic. I temporarily moved in with her family for almost a month to take care of her as she was frustrated at her parents for the surgery and struggling with her self-image (as many girls go through at that age anyway). The same scenario continued when I finally moved to California to finish off high school together, and throughout college and several years thereafter we lived only a couple miles away from each other. We’ve shared all our secrets, fought like sisters, traded clothes, been through partying, dating, moving, buying property, losing a parent to cancer and even marriages and a divorce together.

Our friendship is the perfect description of a symmetrical relationship; when one was hurting, upset, happy, or frustrated the other one quickly became so as well and shared in whatever situation or experience was taking place at that time. We rarely disagreed while growing up, but in the past four years she and I have both noticed a significant change.

The start of the change took place when Elizabeth married and moved to New York. When I went to visit them a few years ago, I noticed in our conversations that on different topics we were on different levels of opinions or experience. For example, her knowledge and opinions on government, economics and world affairs were astounding to me, whereas I seemed to have a grasp on the how-to and realistic nature of timing when it came to home improvement projects and, given I had just been through months of marriage counseling and a divorce, a bit more insight into relationships and fighting fair (even though, as I willingly admitted, in practice I wasn’t as great as the advice I could give out).

Since that time, we’ve openly discussed our friendship and the differences we’ve both witnessed in each other as part of growing up. We’re in separate worlds leading different lives and are not attached at the hip experiencing similar situations together anymore. One of the most amazing things then developed in our relationship; Elizabeth can listen to a problem or situation that I’m going through and agree in some areas (thus confirming my feelings) but she can also confront me on things that I can change and ways I can improve. It wasn’t easy at first, listening to someone who for years was so agreeable and understandable all-of-a-sudden tell me that maybe I need to think about things differently or that I might need to makes some changes. However, over the past couple of years I’ve grown not only receptive to this, but in some ways desiring it. And in turn, I’ve been able to provide the same understanding and feedback on possible ways to improve a situation or circumstance to her as well. While our relationship is still symmetrical in many ways, we’ve reached well beyond the point of agreeing just to agree, and are now able to- when the need arises- help each other grow and learn from our different experiences as well as provide validation on emotions and feelings in the situations we do agree with.

1 comment:

Becca the Brit! said...

Wow, I wish I had a friendship like this - treasure it always. x