Growing up, I think I was pretty envious of friends who had been best friends since “1st grade” or “5th grade” or “freshman year,” even. Even though I never moved more than a few miles away, I changed schools in 3rd grade, I went to a different middle school than 90% of my elementary school in 6th grade, and then I went to a Pre-Engineering high school where I only knew a handful of people in 9th grade. This meant I only went to school with the same friends for 3 or 4 years at a time.
In hindsight, I think this was really good for me because:
- It allowed me to reinvent myself. If I had graduated high school among the same friends I went to kindergarten with, I’m sure I’d have been known as the kid who cried every morning we had a substitute teacher, the one who switched the tops on all of the markers, and, also, the one who threw up on a pile of backpacks.
- It prepared me for moving away. Living with new people in college and adjusting to life post-grad where I’ve been dropped in D.C. and then Tallahassee and expected to make friends on my own over and over would have been a LOT harder if I hadn’t been practicing the art of meeting new friends every few years anyway.
I like meeting new people. I love it, actually. But it’s so comforting to have friends who just KNOW you already. It’s simple. It’s comfortable. It’s such a rich feeling of acceptance to be in the presence of friends who have seen you at your best and at your worst and continue to love you anyway.
One life-changing thing I did in high school was try out for the Marching Band’s color guard. I made a lot of wonderful friends through this experience. One year I went on a band trip to Myrtle Beach, and shared a room with three other girls who made me feel comfortable and accepted. We were in a big fancy room with two rooms and a kitchen. I remember that two of us preferred to sleep in a dark cool climate, and two of us craved the sun and opted to sleep on a pull-out bed by the sunny balcony. We walked over to get breakfast in the morning and carried extra cups of juice back to our room to keep in our fridge. I don’t remember a ton about this trip that happened TEN YEARS AGO, honestly, but I do remember posing for this picture before we left:
These girls had been friends since middle school (or earlier?) and I was so grateful to meet them. They were nice, and real, and not catty or mean or manipulative like so many high school kids can be. I was so happy to spend a week with them. This picture was taken during my sophomore or junior year of high school in either 2003 or 2004. I can’t remember if we roomed together for another band trip, but after that, we spent our senior beach week together.
If you’d asked me then, I probably wouldn’t have guessed that three of us would end up going to James Madison University together, and the fourth just an hour down the road at UVA. I just feel at “home” when we’re together. We continued to be really close in college and spent a cold, snowy girls weekend together in West Virginia, and also a Spring Break together in the Outer Banks where we took THIS balcony picture standing in the same order about 5 years later in 2008 or 2009:
None of us can remember if we intentionally planned and posed this picture to match the other, but I got really excited a couple months ago when I read this sweet article, and realized we were on track to take a balcony photo every 5-ish years for the rest of our lives! We’re due for a photo so we’re planning a long weekend this summer to spend some time together and of course stand exactly in this order on a balcony somewhere. We haven’t decided where we’re going yet and there’s only one real requirement: there must be a balcony.
I think it can be hard to stay in touch after high school and college. It’s a lot easier to maintain friendships when you all live within a couple miles of each other, have the same friends, and the same schedules. Right now, the four of us are spread out living in Florida, Virginia, and Boston, MA. We all have our own jobs and our own friends and our own routines… BUT we have a weekly google video chat that keeps us in tune with each other’s lives. I love that. I look forward to it every week and I always feel better after we talk.
I feel like this balcony photo will continue to play a big role in our friendship. It may be the very thread that keeps us close for years and years and decades to come.