Dear me at 16:
You have found your first love. You are happy. You have butterflies in your stomach all the time. He makes you laugh. He’s fun to be around. You are spending every waking moment with him. When you are not with him, you are thinking about the next time you get to be with him. And so on.
You now understand all the songs and poems and cliches. Love is incredible. It’s wonderful. It’s nerve wracking and suspenseful and intoxicating. “Love is blind”. It makes everything else disappear into the abyss. Nothing else matters.
“What else could possibly matter in light of this?” you might ask. You’ll soon know. You are about to lose your best friend in the wake of your first love.
At the time, you will rationalize the loss. You will say, “We were drifting apart. We were changing; growing in different directions”. You might think it’s for the better. Saving her the awkwardness of being the perpetual third wheel. But here is what you could not predict: You will always regret this loss.
People are not kidding when they say that good friends are hard to find. If, at the end of your life, you have had any more than a couple truly good friends, you will indeed consider yourself lucky. In your typical stubborn fashion, you are about to learn this lesson the hard way.
You and she had been inseparable since literally the day you first met. Something cosmic clicked between you. It was as if you had always known each other. You frequently laughed so hard together that you thought you might have peed yourself a little.
She was there for you through all your stupid teenaged mistakes. She consistently amazed you with her thoughtfulness. What you did not realize at the time was that she already understood how rare your connection was. She was way ahead of you. And all her thoughtful gestures were her way of thanking you for what she already knew to be special and unique. What you are now about to let drift away.
All friendships experience strain. People do change- especially at your age. Neither of you will be the same people a year from now as you are today. The people you become may not in fact share very much in common at all. But, the key here is not to change together. The key is to experience change together.
Alas, it will take you many more years, and many more friendships to learn this lesson. Your first love will have come and gone. By the time that you fully understand what you’ve lost, your connection with her will be reduced to impersonal birthday emails sent each year as a reminder that you’re “still thinking of each other”. Brace yourself. These will now sting a bit.
You will eventually connect on Facebook. You will speak occasionally, sharing current stories and remembering the old ones. You will be doing this in a rather pathetic attempt to get back to where you once were; because the truth is- you miss her a lot. You’ve had several close friendships since, each pretending to be the kind of connection you shared. But they couldn’t hold a candle.
“Geez. Way to get heavy on me here. What’s the good news?” you might ask.
By the time you know which way is up, you’ll know how to spot a good friend a mile away. You’ll know that you have to nurture your friendships once you find them. You’ll know that good love, regardless of the nature, thrives on honesty, thoughtfulness, and enough space to breath. You’ll know that love is indeed blind, and that it can sometimes feel really good to shut your eyes tight and forget for a while. But you’ll never let your sights wander too far from the ones who really matter.