On eighth grade picture day, I wore aquamarine.
Namely, I wore aquamarine jeans, a matching aquamarine shirt and hoop earrings. I looked like a poster for Sea World. Somehow, my friends during that harrowing time are still my friends today, even after witnessing me commit fashion suicide.
In the sixth grade, I met three girls that would change my life forever. Known together as T.H.E.Y., we created an acronym with our names with a secret meaning that only we knew about. T.H.E.Y. helped me through my first long distance college heartbreak, even though half of us lived far apart. I imagine these girls standing by me at my aquamarine and white wedding, re-living our middle and high school days together.
My T.H.E.Y. girls and I each attend a different colleges in three different states. During my first year of college away from them, something felt missing at school. I hadn’t made many friends. That next summer I worked at Parent Preview, a program created to help parents adjust to their child heading off to college. Through the long eight-hour days of bed making and skit-rehearsals, all 12 of the student workers bonded.
This is where I got to know Mirii, a spunky Argentinean who brought me the missing piece of my intricate college puzzle. One night, she invited me to hang out with her friends. Most first encounters with potential friends, I engage in boring small talk and hold up a wall because I don’t want to reveal too much.
First friend-dates are more stressful than first Tinder-dates.
But that night, we told each other everything. Everything about my night with these girls felt effortless. If we weren’t having a heart to heart, we were breaking out into massive fits of laughter.
College was finally falling into place.
As I sat on my best friend Deanna’s bed at the University of Miami on my first day back from winter break, I began to feel self-conscious. As we chatted, I juggled updating Deanna on my newfound college life and glancing down at my phone to keep up with “the Toni’s” group chat, the chat that belonged to my new college friend group.
And that’s when I freaked. I realized that everything I told Deanna was about my new friends.
Was I cheating on my best friends from high school? From that moment, everything seemed like a sign that I was an unfaithful, two-timing friend. The “Best Friend” list on my Snapchat changed. I’d say two words in the T.H.E.Y. group chat and say twenty in my new college one. I even made plans to go back to school a weekend early in order to spend more time with the Toni’s, even though I knew it potentially meant less time at home with T.H.E.Y.
My old friends knew the “Me” that preferred watching Netflix alone to putting on a cute boho top and skinny jeans and walking around downtown Westminster. My new friends knew the “Me” that freaked out over lack of plans for the weekend.
I struggled to figure out which version of myself I liked best.
After a battle with my over-thinking self, I realized I preferred the “Me” that balanced herself between the two groups. T.H.EY. brings out the hardworking and dedicated side of me, encouraging me to make good choices and giving me love and support despite the distance between us. With the Toni’s, every weekend is a different adventure, like crafting a pumpkin-carving of Fetty Wap’s face or learning the Mean Girls dance the day before a final. They continuously teach me that college is a balance of school and finding yourself–something I didn’t see my freshmen year.
My friends from high school will always hold a place in my heart, but as we grow older, it’s inevitable for us to venture out and make new friends. I might not speak to my T.H.E.Y. girls every day like in high school, but the moment we meet up after months away at college, we pick up right where we left off.
T.H.E.Y. will always be the Peyton Sawyers and Haley James to my Brooke Davis–but that doesn’t mean I can’t make my bridesmaids list a little bigger than I initially planned.