After spending my entire childhood and teenage years in a small, rural town in Wisconsin, I was determined to leave for some place bigger and better as soon as I could. It wasn’t necessarily the lack of a Starbucks or the inconvenience of driving two hours to the closest mall that made me want to leave (although those certainly didn’t help), but the drama that comes along with everyone knowing everyone else’s business. I also never really meshed well with the girls in my class, so I spent most of my time in high school with my boyfriend or my sister and her friends. Finally, when senior year came and I was accepted to the biggest university in the state, my hopes of finding my own best friend were high.
Not long into freshmen year, I found her — the best friend, roommate and everything else I’d been looking for. Three years later, we no longer speak.
Alyssa and I lived in the same dorm building freshmen year. Unfortunately, the nicer dorms often tend to be less sociable, which was certainly true of our dorm. With the addition of sophomores and the subtraction of communal bathrooms, people on my floor didn’t really need to interact. My best friend from high school was younger and had yet to leave home, and I was in a frenzy to make new friends. Luckily Rachel, a nice girl across the hall with a wide connection of friends from high school, brought me to a party with her the first week of school.
It was there that I met Alyssa. She was an acquaintance of Rachel’s who went to high school in the suburbs of Milwaukee, just like everyone else at that party… and what seems like half the student body at UW-Madison. Alyssa and I clicked immediately and I knew I’d found my new best friend. She was friendly, funny and laid back — a quality I desperately needed in a friend after four dramatic years of high school. We kept hanging out after that night, and soon it was rare for anyone to see us apart. That winter we signed a lease to live together the following year.
The first few months of sophomore year went according to plan. I loved living with my best friend; she was always there when I wanted someone to tag along for lunch, when I got an unfortunate text that I desperately needed to discuss or any other reason I could possibly need her. We had three other roommates, though, and as you would expect in an apartment of five girls, there was the occasional conflict.
When it was time to start looking for a place to live the following year, Alyssa started being distant. For some reason, I think she blamed me for the tension in the apartment. We came close to signing multiple leases and each time she backed out last minute with a weird excuse.
I was confused and upset. We had so much fun living together and I’m a clean, quiet roommate. Why wouldn’t she want to live with me again? Eventually I decided to find a new roommate, but I was still hurt and we didn’t speak for a while. Honestly, I don’t think our relationship ever really recovered from all those words left unsaid.
Junior year, we lived on opposite sides of campus so hanging out wasn’t very convenient. I also had a serious boyfriend and after getting tired of waiting for her to make an effort to see me, I decided to forget about her and try not to care. I had an adorable, funny boyfriend who treated me well and it was easy to spend all of my time with him. He saw how hurt I was by her inattentiveness and constantly reminded me that she wasn’t a good friend and wasn’t worth my tears.
Towards the end of junior year, I landed an internship in Prague for the summer. Alyssa texted me a few times during the final weeks before my departure saying that she wanted to see me before I left, but it never happened. I was going to live in Europe for three months and my “best friend” didn’t even care to see me.
After I moved to Prague, I often wished I had Alyssa to talk to about all the things that were happening there. I broke up with my boyfriend and met someone new, struggled through a difficult internship and countless cultural differences, and I missed my best friend. After months of overanalyzing our friendship and a few too many glasses of wine on the Fourth of July, I decided that maybe it was my fault things went wrong; maybe I was so blinded by my boyfriend’s presence that I didn’t realize I’d abandoned her for him.
So I texted her. I told her that I missed her, how sorry I was that our friendship isn’t the same and that I should’ve paid more attention to her the whole time I was dating him. Those words were hard to say and I thought “taking the high road” would pay off; I never got a response.
To this day, I really don’t know what went wrong with our friendship. Maybe some things just aren’t meant to work out.
Looking back, if I had a chance to change where I lived freshmen year, I would. Living in an all-freshmen dorm might have given me a wider network of friends, in which case, I wouldn’t have depended so much on one person throughout my college years. As painful as it was, losing my best friend taught me that people leave and life goes on. Everything works itself out eventually.