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Lessons on friendship from a fictional pair of pants

I'm 18, standing by my car on the street outside an ex-boyfriend's house, sobbing uncontrollably. 

I'm over the ex-boyfriend, who's still a friend, but I'm fairly certain I will never get over the heart break of saying goodbye to my best friend in the whole world. I sat - anxious and afraid - around a campfire with friends all night, dreading this very moment. 

In the morning, I was headed to college. Although I was staying close to home, my friend would fly across the county later in the week to move into her dorm room. We hadn't been apart for more than two weeks since we became best friends in second grade. What on earth was I going to do without her?

We held onto one another and cried for a long time. My crying wasn't unusual. I cry constantly. I love to cry - both happy and sad. But she rarely did, which made things all the more fraught. If this sounds melodramatic, it's because it was.

From the way we were carrying on, you would have thought we would never see one another or communicate ever again. But honestly, when you see someone almost everyday for a decade, imagining life apart is hard. Imagining making new friends is hard. Will friendship ever be the same?  Am I going to have to spend the next decade trying to find a friend I love as much? As an introvert, nothing sounded worse. 

Like many teenage girls in the early 2000s, I was obsessed with Ann Brashares' The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Other than the Harry Potter series, I bet it's my most reread book. I read it constantly, and I loved it every time. I don't remember what kept me coming back then. Maybe it was the exotic places (Greece is still on my bucket list), maybe it was the good lucking young men (I sound like my mother), or maybe it was the fact that I was on the verge of true teenagedom and all the drama that comes with it. Whatever it was, I was hooked.

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I joined a real live book club in September. It has been one of the happiest parts of my year. We meet every other month, and I look forward to it with genuine excitement every time. For July, we decided to lean into summer and treat ourselves to an old favorite. Yep. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants will be subject to our every thought and feeling in July. I cannot wait.

I was thrilled to have good reason to reread this book. I knew I'd love it, but I wasn't prepared for it to hit home quite so hard. Once again I was wrapped up in the beautiful places and the budding romance and a hardy dose of teenage angst. But what hit me in my twenties that I couldn't put a finger on as a young teen is the way the author demonstrates friendship.

Friendship with all it's joy and loss and worry and care. I wish I would have seen it then.

I was distracted by Kostos, no doubt. 

More likely, I just hadn't lived the experience of leaving friends yet. I hadn't lived through friendships that changed or morphed or dwindled. In college you make new friends and they literally live with you, down the hall from you, or across campus from you. 

No one tells you when you reach “adulthood” how much work friendship takes. You don’t have proximity on your side to help you keep in touch. You have to make an effort. You have to set up phone calls or Skype dates or be okay with your main line of connection being Snapchat. Or maybe you have to find a pair of pants that keeps you together. Whatever works is fine. 

I'm lucky enough to be able to say that this friend who I was so sad to leave is still my best friend. Sure, we only see one another once or twice a year. I haven't spent more than a week with her since a trip to visit in 2014, let alone getting to see her every day on a regular basis. We're lucky if we find time for long phone calls once a month. But it doesn't matter. I still love her just the same. We learned to survive without each other's constant presence. Of course our friendship has changed, but it's still just as perfect as it was when we were eight and twelve and seventeen. Different, but still great. 

As I finished my recent reread of this old favorite book, I was comforted by the epilogue.

Maybe there is more truth in how you feel than in what actually happens.
— Ann Brachares

I don't need my friends to be physically present for our friendship to actually happen. The truth is that I care about my friends. They bring me joy and make my life infinitely happier. I love you, friends. That's the truth that makes friendship actually happen. 

 

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