My entire life, I have longed for a best friend. As a preteen and teen, I consumed books, movies, and TV shows that depicted girls my age with BFF duos that were constantly popping over to each other’s houses, having sleepovers on the regular, and, of course, borrowing each other’s clothes and giggling uproariously over private jokes. I dreamed constantly of having such a person in my life who would know all my secrets and always have my back. That’s how it went, right?
Unfortunately, my childhood years came and went and that never happened.
I was a very shy and introverted bookworm type of kid (surprise surprise that I became a writer) and some of my earliest memories involve being terrified at a class sleepover when all of the other girls were dancing and laughing hysterically and playing pranks on each other while I sat, frozen in my borrowed sleeping bag, wishing I could take on a different personality, if just for one night.
As I got older, things didn’t improve much on the friendship front. I remained painfully shy, and, in high school, dealt with the culture shock of transferring to a public school after spending my elementary years at a private school where there were only 12 kids in my entire class. I watched other girls nonchalantly link arms in the hallway as they headed off to lunch together, while I prepared to eat my lunch behind the pillar, alone, where no one could see me (again).
For a long time, I considered my lack of a best friend a personal failure of sorts. What did it say about me that I never found one?
Once I started having kids in my early twenties, it felt like it was time to get over it. I had started my family young and most people my age were still in college or just starting their first adult jobs, so we were in two different worlds anyways. I tried to convince myself that I had my family and that’s all I needed. It’s totally normal for your best friends to be a bunch of toddlers, right?
But the truth is, I was still desperately lonely. And more than just the loneliness itself–which is exacerbated for any new mom of very young children–was the fact that I remained convinced that my lack of a best friend was directly linked to my failures as a person. It was further proof that I was not enough, that I was somehow “less than” because no one wanted to share matching necklaces with me. Or whatever the adult equivalent was.
Eventually, though, In my new life as a mother, I started easily collected “mom friends,” the moms who have come and gone from my life at different times and different seasons; the ones who are parents of children my kids have befriended; the ones who I could count on to text for missing homework or to pick up my own kid if I was running late; the ones with whom I could share an impromptu cup of coffee and conversation, because with kids, there’s always something to talk about. And although none of my mom friends necessarily turned into a ride-and-die BFF, somewhere along the line, I realized something surprising: I did have friends — a lot of friends — and the fact that I didn’t have a person truly didn’t bother me anymore.
I was finally freed from the feeling that something was missing in my life and, more importantly, I no longer felt like something was missing in me. Because if I’m being honest, for all of those years, I don’t think the problem was ever truly only about a lack of a best friend. The problem was my own deep insecurities. I had longed for a best friend, sure, because it did sound fun as a kid and later, because I was so lonely as a young mom. But eventually I realized that I’d actually been longing for the validation that a best friend could bring. Having a best friend signifies that yes, I am worthy enough for someone to want to be with me. I am loved. Sure, I’d found a life partner in my husband, but even a spouse isn’t the same as what I imagined came with the bond of a best female friend.
These days, I’m finally learning to be fine with who I am. I’m no longer that awkward 13-year-old wishing I was someone else at a sleepover; instead, I’m a 33-year-old mother of five, admittedly still awkward, but finally, finally learning to love herself the way she is. Still quiet, still introverted beyond belief, and still very much the type who would rather read a book than attend a party. The only thing that’s changed is that I am happy with who I am.
And honestly? It’s such a relief. It’s like I’ve been holding my breath my entire life, just waiting for someone else to accept me, when all I really needed to do was accept myself.
I suppose there’s still a chance that in this lifetime I’ll connect with “the one” BFF, but you know what? I’m not seeking it anymore. I have plenty of people to love and be loved by in my life. These days, I consider it a privilege to have any women at all that I can call friends, best or not, and I’m grateful for all of the mom friends in my life.
And who knows? Maybe one of these days I’ll just buy myself my own darn necklace. Because it’s really been a gift to learn how to make friends with myself.