Seeing my nieces and nephews often helps me reflect on my childhood experiences. I see them learn, grow, and take the world on with such ambition and it reminds me of my youth. I do my best to be a good role model to them and to help their parents instill key life lessons along the way. They love to hear stories about their aunts and uncle when we were young and they remind me of how it felt to go through trials at school especially related to friendships.
When I was growing up I always wanted to have a best friend. I wanted that friend that would ask me over for sleepovers on the weekends. More importantly, I wanted to say I had a best friend. I saw cliques of girls and was friendly with them, but they would never have called me their best friend. I remember the emotion of not getting invited to middle school parties, and Bar Mitzvahs. I also remember wondering what was wrong with me? I always thought, “everyone had a best friend but me!”
Looking back I didn’t recognize my reality. The reality is that since my day of birth I was given some of the best friends I will ever have: my siblings. Therefore, I have always had a best friend. So why didn’t I realize I already had what I longed for? Books, shows, and normal adolescent peer pressure were some of the reasons I wanted more. For most girls this need for close friendship beyond the family usually starts in 4th or 5th grade.
Last year my niece Celia asked me, “who’s your best friend, Auntie?” I answered with what I wish I had known at her age. “You don’t need just one best friend, Celia. You can have several best friends.”
Not hearing what she wanted, she pushed on. “Is it Mommy?”
“Yes, my sister (your mommy) is one of my best friends. I was her maid of honor, and we went to college together. But I have several best friends.”
While I don’t think she ever really liked my response, I will continue to wish she realizes the gift of friendship her sister will offer. Her sister will always love and forgive her. I hope she also learns that there won’t be just one friend to help her along the way but several friends which will bring out her best. That’s my defintion of best friend, those friends that help me improve and support me unconditionally along the way. In other words, I no longer think of the singular, evaluative version of the term “best” when it comes to friendship.
I’ve been single the unsettling majority of my 38 years. Other than a handful of quality relationships my independent status is well-practiced. Fortunately, in my trials and tribulations with dating and relationships my family and friends have been my constant. As we enter into the yearly holiday season, I recognize just how much my friends and family help me get through this season-AKA the time when I’m most aware of my single status.
In every significant stage of my life, adolescence, college, work in the fitness industry, graduate school, teaching in Memphis, teaching in The Woodlands, I can think of new friends that made each of these stages so significant. A few times I’ve been lucky enough to have old friends meet new friends and that is a true mashup of my life. While my family will always be my strong foundation and guiding light, my best friends help me learn and grow. I’m still single because I’ve never met the perfect mate to marry. Thanks to the support from my wonderful family and friends I’ve never needed to settle and more importantly I’ve never feared being alone.
As a girl I wanted that elusive best friend. Now, I’m grateful that my life is full with multiple close friendships. My wish for my nieces and nephews is that they gather friends along their journey that will become close like family, but I hope they always see the timeless gift they received in their sibling(s). I am forever shaped and inspired by those I consider both family and friend. To those I adore, thank you for the gift of quality love and friendship; it is the best!