August 14, 2019

What is a friend?

Today I've been thinking about friendship.  I've been thinking about close friends and good friends and distant friends and best friends.  And I'm so grateful for all of mine.

When I was in high school, all of my middle school friends drifted away.  For one, I was the daughter of a prosecutor, so when they started drinking and partying, I was a bit too much of a square (and a risk) to have along.  For another, well... I don't honestly know.  I really don't know what happened (though I know my blossoming mental illness played a part), all I know is that I was mostly alone in high school.  In the early days of the internet, I made online friends, and I had people to sit with at lunch, but other than rehearsals and acting classes, I was alone most of the time.  As hard as it was, I don't fault my friends or wish things had been different.  It was rough, but I'm more than ok now.

A couple of years after high school, I met my first best friend.  When I walked into our dorm room for the first time, with my dad and grandpa who were in head-to-toe camo, she was worried I'd be a hick from the sticks and we wouldn't have anything in common.  And frankly, she was kind of right.  But somehow we just meshed, and we had a lot of other good friends on our floor, too.  She knew about my self-injury, and she loved me anyways.  She never made me feel like a freak.  And we danced around in our underwear to Mika and Pop! and laughed and cried and played together.  I'm so grateful for her.  She taught me what friendship was and how to have friends.  We live hundreds of miles apart now, and we both have very different lives, but I'll always love her.

My next really close friend started off as my rival.  Almost an enemy.  We were assigned to work (and study and eat and breathe and live) together when we were missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  When we first met, it was distrust at first sight.  We weren't sure we'd make it through the six-week assigned time together without one of us being sent home in a body bag.  But when we made it and were assigned to stay together for six more weeks, we decided it'd be fine.  Ish.  After that second six weeks, we decided six more together might be ok.  And at the end of week 18, we were crushed to be separated.  She's someone I can share my hopes and fears and dreams and frustrations and disappointments with.  She knows every detail of my life, and I know most of the details of hers.  I don't know what I'd do without her.  It's incredible to be understood and supported, even when things are crumbling and incomprehensible.

My husband is also a pretty good friend.  Six months after we got married, I broke and descended lower than I ever have before.  I ended up in the hospital undergoing Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), and he rode the train up to visit me all the time.  And he called me and wrote me letters.  And he ran things at home while finishing his bachelor's degree and getting into medical school.  He is my rock.  He is my support.  He is there for me no matter what happens.  I know he loves me, even though he knows all of the dark, scary things about me.  I love that.  Now that he is in medical school and I am healthier, things have changed.  They are not at all a bad different, it's just a new chapter and a new dynamic.  And so I'm learning how to help take care of him instead of being taken care of.  It's something I always planned to do, it's just that my life almost never goes according to plan, so I'm starting the learning a lot later than I expected.  I'm so grateful that he loves me the way I am, and I'm equally grateful that he makes me want to change for the better.

Over the years, I've had many friends that have come and gone, some of them painfully.  But I am so grateful for the months of friendship we shared, and I understand that sometimes things end and change.  And I know that every connection shapes who I am today.

I have many other friends now, too.  I have friends who reach out when they see me sinking.  I have friends I can share my obscure geeky interests with.  I have friends who I stalk on Facebook and never interact with but whose triumphs I celebrate and whose sorrows I lament.  I have friends from all over (especially from my mission) who feel like family.  I have friends who are so incredibly kind and giving that I feel like I could never deserve them, including one who flew me out to Disneyland when she saw Galaxy's Edge, the Star Wars land, because she wanted to see my face when I saw it.  And I was like a little kid.  I soaked in every moment of it.  And I was so humbled and in awe of her kindness, that it has taken me days to even start to put into words how grateful I am. 

I want to tell 15-year-old me that it's going to be ok.  I want to tell her that the right people will come into her life at the right time.  I want her to know that God is looking out for her, and His plans are way harder than anything she thinks she could ever handle, but they are WAY better, too.  And I want to tell all of you who are reading this how grateful I am that you are in my life, no matter what type of connection we have.  Social media lurkers, friends I haven't seen or talked to in decades, friends I see all the time, new friends, old friends, everyone.  I am so grateful to finally have you all.

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Thank you for coming. I hope you get something out of this. I hope you learn about yourself. I hope you get help if you need it or give it if you can.