You Can’t Get Through Your 20s Without A Best Friend

My best friend Caitie has really amazing hair. Like, if she could insure any part of her body, I’m sure she would choose her hair because it’s just the most beautiful, natural shade of red I’ve ever seen. Strangers compliment her on it almost daily. Girls wish they had hair like hers and men want to have sex with it.

When I met Caitie almost ten years ago in our sleepy hometown of Ventura, California, her hair was the first thing I noticed about her. Back then, it looked more like the color of strawberry blonde and it hung low and plain on her back but it was still stunning. Even when she made the unfortunate decision to chop it all off and put bleached blonde chunks in it during our senior year of high school, it still managed to maintain a certain level of beauty.

If you’re fortunate enough, you will find a person who sees this world in the exact same way that you do. The second I met Caitie, back when we were both juniors in high school, I was like, “Oh okay, this is a done deal. This person sees things how I see them and will be in my life forever and ever.” And I’ve been right. Together, we’ve survived break ups, breakdowns, college, traveling Europe, and finally, living together in New York City. I’ve always had a decent amount of close friends but Caitie has been the one constant in my life. Recently, the term “friend” has become so bastardized that it seems to have lost almost all of its meaning for me. In the immortal words of Fern Mayo in Jawbreaker, “What is a friend anyway?”

To me, a best friend is someone you can take ecstasy or mushrooms with for the first time and guarantee that you won’t have a meltdown. A best friend is someone you can take anywhere and rest assured that they’ll get along just fine. A best friend is someone who sticks by you even when you do something stupid like date an asshole or become a vegan. A best friend is someone who will tell you honestly when an outfit you’re wearing makes you look twenty pounds heavier. A best friend is someone you can be silent with. There should be no pressure or anxiety. All of it should feel effortless.

Caitie is all of those things and more. In the past decade, we’ve done almost everything together, despite having lived in different states for most of our friendship. After being close friends for only two years in high school, she went to college in Long Beach, California, and I went to school in New York. Somehow though, we managed to still be in each other’s lives. I visited Long Beach a few times a year and spent most of my summers in Los Angeles. During the times we’d be apart, we’d talk on the phone constantly. I never felt like I missed out on anything in her life. Even though we were often 3,000 miles away, I still felt like I was right there with her experiencing everything.

A year after we both graduated college, it was decided that Caitie would move to New York and we’d get our own place together. I’m aware that it’s usually a bad idea to live with your best friend but I knew Caitie and I would be fine. We had just traveled Europe side by side for two months with little to no incident, so if anyone could survive living together in a cramped apartment in the East Village, it’d be us.

We’ve lived together for almost a year and a half now and it’s been amazing. Sometimes living with a best friend feels like you’re having a mirror being reflected back at you. I feel my age with Caitie. I feel every change, or in some cases, the lack of change. Shortly after moving to the city, Caitie found herself in a serious relationship while I put all of my energy into writing. At a superficial glance, it may have seemed like our paths were diverging for the first time but that simply wasn’t the case. Caitie could become a born-again Christian and we’d still be BFF’s. None of that surface stuff matters with us. However, her relationship did start to make me hyper-aware of my own lackluster love life. One dynamic I’ve always consciously avoided is the unhealthy Will & Grace-esque friendship. I don’t ever want to be the needy gay best friend who gets jealous when their best friend finds a boyfriend. We’re not 19 anymore. We’re in our mid to late twenties — a time when people are getting into solid relationships and planning their future together. The “roomie culture” of college is long gone.

After dancing around the subject for quite some time, we decided that when our lease ends, Caitie will move in with her boyfriend and I will find my own place again. The decision was basically mutual. I’ve been thinking more and more about moving back to Los Angeles and Caitie has been spending less and less time at the apartment. Logistically, it just makes sense for us to part ways. That being said, I’m still devastated. Our lease isn’t even up till June and I’m already mourning the loss of her. I mean, I know that I’m not “losing her.” I know she will always be my best friend no matter what but still, moving out undeniably signals the end of an era. She’ll move in with her boyfriend and possibly get engaged and then married while I… continue what I’m doing. I feel like I’m her father walking her down the aisle and passing her on to her boyfriend. “Take good care of her or else!”

I’m ashamed that I feel this way. I’m ashamed that I’m so sad about the prospect of us no longer living together. It makes me feel like a pathetic Mr. Lonelyheart. Plus, I happen to love her boyfriend and their relationship. After dating a string of “WHATEVER” dudes, Caitie has found the peanut butter to her jelly and for that, I’m so, so happy for her. Legitimately!

It’s still difficult though. Change usually occurs subtly over time but having your best friend move out to live with her boyfriend is a clear unavoidable sign of “WE ARE GETTING OLDER!” One of my greatest fears is being left behind and this transition clearly feeds into that. There’s nothing pretty about it. It’s just hard. The key here though is to just not dwell on things and just accept them. You can’t fight against change. If you do, you’ll just get a black eye.

Caitie and I have seen each other go through everything and this is just another phase of her life that I’m privileged to witness. It’s crazy to think of the two us when we were 18 years old and crying about the lame boyfriends we had in high school. It’s crazy to think of us being 21, wasted in Vegas, and doing things like going to a male strip club and being too drunk to be let into the nightclub LAX. It’s crazy to think of the first night we spent in our apartment, ordering take out, getting stoned and watching a movie. It’s crazy to think of how much we’ve changed as people and still maintained solid common ground.

At the end of the day, I just feel fortunate to be able to go through this life with someone who gets it and will always get it. Life is so messy and difficult. The best you can really hope for is that you have a friend who anchors you and makes you feel safe. It helps if this friend has really great hair too. TC Mark

Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.

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  • Thought Catalog

    Reblogged this on marisasadiesays and commented:
    word. i am lucky enough to have 11 of these best friends. you know who you are :)

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