In January, my best friend called me and told me she was pregnant. She was also getting married in less than 48 hours.
We had both known for months that she was dating the guy she wanted to marry. While catching up with her over burgers and fries in December, I became certain that come her graduation in May, she would have a ring on her finger. Anticipating her phone call, I knew that the news could be nothing less exciting than her engagement. But a baby? And a wedding? It was surreal.
I was overjoyed. One of my favorite people in the world was getting a mini–me, a chubby–cheeked baby girl to whom I would be “Aunt Ellie.” One of the most beautiful souls in the world would multiply.
But it also felt like a robbery. It wasn’t like I didn’t know this was coming, but I thought I had at least a few more months where I could be one of her top priorities. Suddenly, she had a husband and a baby to put before me. She was going to be responsible for raising a child, teaching her moral behavior and a way to make sense of our world. What a daunting, all–consuming task.
Our friendship inevitably had to change to accommodate all these new responsibilities. I’m 21, unmarried, and jobless, and I wanted my best friend to be lost just like me. And now she was on a completely different plane than I was.
I don’t think you realize you’re at this stage of life until you collide with it head on: engagement photos on Instagram, wedding invitations on the refrigerator, sonograms in your text messages. It just starts and doesn’t stop. Suddenly, I’m attending two weddings this summer and scheduling a flight to see my friend’s baby, and oh, one of my friends bought a Tesla.
So many people in my life are quickly encountering huge life changes. And if you aren’t one of the few to find the love of your life at 19 or earn enough dough to purchase a luxury vehicle at 21, it’s easy to feel like you’re standing on a racetrack with cars shooting past you at lightning speed. In the blink of an eye, you aren’t so young anymore.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m content to stay near the starting line. It’s watching everyone else zoom away that just chips at my heart a little, especially when it comes to my closest friends. If they get married, where does that leave me? How will our friendship evolve? Will it dissipate? I’m heartbroken at the thought of my ride–or–dies having to leave me in the dust just to move forward with their lives.
In facing this insecurity, I’ve become more convicted of my beliefs about friendship. A friendship that doesn’t know how to evolve probably doesn’t run that deep. During my last three years at Penn, I’ve been advised to embrace temporary friendships and be content with the four–year expiration date. It’s freeing, they say. Some friends are only for a time. You can meet new people without getting your heart all wrapped up in obligations.
While meeting new people has been a great part of my experience at Penn, I’ve had trouble with this temporary mindset. My instinct is to plant and cultivate roots. Recognizing the reality that most friendships are not meant to last forever, I still want to seek what’s long lasting, what will weather the ever changing circumstances.
I want to be able to expect something from my friends, not accept them disappearing from my life with the excuse of difficult schedules. A good friendship makes you feel seen, and if you truly see each other, you don’t disappear without a fight.
I’m stubborn enough to apply this principle to my friendships post–Penn. My friends may be moving at faster speeds than I am, but because I trust the relationships we’ve built, I’m sure they won’t leave me in the dust. If they must, they will drag me through this life with them. That’s a confidence I’m thankful to have as I enter this next phase of my life: Though most things may change, there will be a small handful of things that won’t.