Thought Catalog
November 4, 2013

The Worst Part Of Growing Up

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It was the moment every 16 year-old boy dreams of. There she was, just laying in my bed. Her hair softly hanging in front of her eyes, as she struggled to keep them open. The door was closed, and we were alone. There was a movie on, the name I can’t recall, but neither of us were paying attention. She was struggling to stay awake, I was struggling to contain my excitement. All I needed was for her to fall asleep, and I could make my first move, because if she was asleep it would really catch her by surprise.

Would she be happy? Probably not, but I knew I was about to do something neither of us would ever forget. And then, it happened. She finally dozed off. I softly whispered her name, and she didn’t respond, so I knew this was my chance. I slowly maneuvered my hands down to my underwear, which was already off and in prime position, and as I grabbed at it, I took one last glance back to make sure she wasn’t awake. She didn’t make a single sound, she just continued on breathing. There was never a moment more perfect than this, and so I made my move.

I softly lofted my underwear from my postion on the floor, towards her laying in the bed just a few feet away. This underwear was no ordinary pair of drawers – having been worn just a few days ago while I played basketball, they were saturated with sweat, and contained a stench so foul, even the best Febreeze couldn’t contain it’s scent. I watched as they floated through the air, and I knew that I couldn’t have pictured a more perfect toss. As they unfolded in the air, they landed right where I wanted: on the upper portion of her shoulder, slightly covering the left part of her face. She awoke rather abruptly, and immediately the accusations rained upon me.

“What was that?!”

“My underwear”

“What? They weren’t dirty, were they?”

“They weren’t thattttt dirty.”

“JUSTIN!!!!!!!”

I met Katie when I was just three years old. We both moved into the same neighborhood, right next door to one another, and instantly we became best friends. I’ve known her for so long, and I was so little when we met, that I have no recollection of our first meeting. I’m sure it was as awkward and perfect as the rest of our friendship has been.

She was the pretty blonde girl, who was also the best athlete I’d ever met. I was the tall (and charming) boy and we shared a lot of the same interests. Always outside, we would swim, we would play tag, we would do whatever there was to do, but we always seemed to do it together. As we got older, our interests changed, but we still spent a lot of time together. Instead of playing tag, we’d talk about our latest crush. When we got our drivers licenses, we would go to the mall or to Applebee’s. It didn’t matter, we’d usually be there together. Friends came and went, Katie was there forever.

There wasn’t a single important moment of my life where I don’t remember her being involved in some way. Both good and bad.

I’ll never forget riding to high school every morning in her car, her sister in the back seat, all of us jamming out to the latest songs, Katie driving way too fast and scaring the shit out of me. I’ll never forget the first time I kissed a girl I really liked, and calling her, as I’m running down the street from where the lucky lady was baby sitting. I was in her backyard by the time we got off the phone. I’ll never forget picking her up in my arms before every high school dance, or going to every single one of her collegiate track meets that I could, and texting her after every accomplishment – and she accomplished so freaking much.

But, I’ll also never forget being 16 and helpless, when her father passed away suddenly. I’ll never forget walking over to her house every day that week, and just sitting with her most of the time while she choked back tears, while I couldn’t think of something to say – absolutely speechless for the first time in my life. We didn’t speak much on those days, but I knew I had to be there. Even if it was just her and a deafening silence, being there was what she needed and so I did it. I also knew I had to be there at her Grandpa’s wake, because I missed her father’s and I was never going to miss another moment when she needed me again. Good or bad, Katie and I were always going to be there for one another.

Katie’s family is mine. Her aunts and uncles all know me by name, her grandparents hug and kiss me every time they see me, and I always make sure to stop by every once and a while at her home just to say hello to her mom (who treats me like a son), and to her brother and sister. There’s countless cliche phrases to describe what me and Katie have, that friend that as close as any family member, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But now, things are different.

I’m 22 and so is she, we both recently just finished college and now we’re moving on to future endeavors. She’s pursuing a professional athletic career, I’m struggling to find my footing as a journalist. So far, I’d say we’re both doing a pretty decent job. But the thing that sucks is that the closer we get to furthering our careers, the farther away we get from each other – and I mean that in a literal sense. I’m currently residing in Cleveland, living at home, and working full-time for a television station, but she has moved all the way to Tennessee. She’s going to be an olympian (I can’t even make that up, she’s seriously going to be an olympic pole vaulter), and so she’s living down South to train year round. It’s not the first time we haven’t lived next door to each other, but it’s the first time it feels permanent.

We went to grade school together, all the way through high school, Pre-K through Senior year. When we went to separate colleges, it didn’t matter that we were going away from each other, though saying goodbye wasn’t that fun. We always knew that we’d end up back home, right next door to each other, even if it was only for a few days, weeks, or months at a time. One way or another we’d always be back to that street that we always knew, to the same old block that raised us both so well. But just a few weeks ago, she was home visiting and we got breakfast before she headed back to Tennessee. When I left, I got up from the table, and it hit me that I didn’t know when I’d see her next. I didn’t even have an approximate guess. That was the first time in my entire life that had happened, and it was the worst feeling in the entire world.

See, that’s the thing that’s so awful about getting older. It’s not the bills, it’s not the responsibilities, it’s not the jobs, or one of the many other petty things that people will complain about on a day to day basis. Getting older is incredible in many ways, but the one aspect where it’s a total train wreck is the way it tears us apart from the ones that we once used to love so dearly. Whether that be a family member, a classmate, or a girl that you once threw used underwear on her face; sometimes you have to walk away from that table, and not know when you’ll see them again. You have to walk away not knowing when you’ll see the person you told everything to, the person you held while they cried because the worst thing imaginable happened to them, the person you used to have water gun fights with, the person that used to sneak outside late at night just so you could sit around and talk for an hour, you have to walk away and not know when you’ll ever be able to do things like that again. And yes, technology makes this stuff a lot easier now. But when you’ve lived right next door to someone for 20 years, and they’ve watched you grow from a child to an adult; from a boy to a man; from a friend to family member; sometimes it’s just not the same.

And that’s the worst. TC Mark

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