Sometime during the fifth grade, between obsessing over purple pens and flipping on the monkey bars, I met my best friend. Fast-forward nine years later, and we know each other’s darkest secrets and deepest fears. We’ve been through everything together: first failed exams, boyfriends and of course heartbreaks. Our understanding of each other is so deep that we don’t judge each other for wearing MAC’s Rebel lipstick in the middle of spring or staying in pajamas at home for literally 24 hours.
When the time came for college, we both decided to attend the University of Florida. However, she started college in the fall, and I waited to start until the spring as a part of the Innovation Academy. The sad reality of our separation meant that we wouldn’t get to buy the multicolored rug we spotted in Target to decorate our future dorm room or walk around campus together as wide-eyed freshmen.
The night before she left, we promised to arrange FaceTime dates and update each other on every single detail about college life. Easy enough, right?
For the first time nine years, we experienced a first day of school without each other. In those first few weeks, I learned about her new roommate and that walking to class proved more of a workout than expected. Each story exploded with descriptions of the new people she met and clubs she joined, and I couldn’t be happier for my best friend.
But as the semester went on, classes got exponentially harder with exams crammed into a single week. It’s safe to say our FaceTime dates were sacrificed. I considered myself lucky if my texts received a response the same day. She started living a life without me, and this foreign concept was one I sure as hell didn’t want to be the new normal.
When I finally moved to Gainesville for spring semester, I knew our daily childhood play dates wouldn’t pick up where they left off. With a whole semester’s worth of college experience over me, she knew how to navigate campus on the RTS and ran to multiple meetings after classes.
The most nerve-racking upper hand she held was new friends, especially since she rarely introduced me to them. I didn’t want to invade her new friend group; I just wanted to connect with my best friend and her new ones. In one semester, they created their own traditions of getting boba tea and laughed at inside jokes, leaving little room for the two of us to make new college memories. We didn’t completely lose touch, though. Taco Tuesday dates at Tijuana Flats squeezed into our schedules every so often, but they required at least a week’s notice.
Well into sophomore year, we’re more involved and living more separate lives than last year. She joined a sorority and I joined a dance team, and when she finishes a club meeting, I start dance rehearsal. When her schedule is free, I work all day. Phone calls scheduled for 7 p.m. get pushed back to 11 p.m. The little spare time available fills up quickly with sorority events, catching up on sleep and second jobs.
When I noticed these patterns, I questioned whether or not I was losing my best friend. I wondered if her sorority initiation events and her new line sisters would overshadow my upcoming birthday festivities. People say that going to college with your best friend is the true test of friendship, and I believed our nine years would triumph and prove those haters wrong.
But if I hadn’t heard from her in almost two weeks, whom did she turn to in times of need? I found myself asking if she lost sight of our friendship in the midst of the college experience. The uncertainty saddened me, to say the least.
Then one late night phone call lasting nearly two hours reminded me that we created this space and distance ourselves. She learned that I started tapping again in my dance company and I learned that she finally got a work-study job on campus. But that night, I learned something more significant than the fact that her roommate’s boyfriend practically lives in their apartment. I learned that my best friend wasn’t ignoring me out of spite or malice; rather, she wasn’t ignoring me at all. She was growing and learning about herself, and she didn’t need me there every step of the way. And most importantly I recognized that it was OK.
Sometimes, you won’t hear from your best friend in a day or two, or even a week, but if you truly understand and appreciate each other, picking up where you left off will come naturally. Over the past year and a half, I learned not to let the vast college world allow me to stray away from essential people in my life or think that it’s pulling me apart from them. The space often created between you and your closest friends is normal and crucial to self-development and discovery. When you feel alone, don’t forget phones work both ways; just call up the person you miss.