When you’re a kid, having a best friend is incredibly important. It was something I dreamed about endlessly when I was growing up. I moved around a lot as a child and changed schools every year or two. I remember sitting in the classroom as the new kid wondering if this was the year I would finally be lucky enough to have a best friend. Truthfully, I was painfully shy so I had a difficult time making new friends, much less cultivating a relationship to reach best friend status. Plus, my Chinese parents didn’t allow me to do things like go to birthday parties or sleepovers so I was often left out of fun bonding experiences.
I spent a lot of time alone as a kid because, as new immigrants in this country, my parents worked a lot. My constant companions were my Barbies and my books. I read a lot of books. And if you’ve read tween or teen literature from the 90s, you know that having a best friend, or best friends, was essential to a young girl’s existence. Kristy and Mary-Anne were best friends in “The Babysitters Club” books. Elizabeth had Enid and Jessica had Lila in the “Sweet Valley High” series. Plus, the Wakefield twins always had each other, too. (And we won’t even go into my dreams of having a sibling, which finally happened when I was 14 so no hope for the close sibling love/rivalry that I read about in all my books.)
The “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” hung out together every day at the Angel Grove Youth Center and fought space aliens as a team. The gang on “Beverly Hills 90210” was super close even with all their drama. My expectations for what a best friend or a close knit group of friends was supposed to be was so high that, looking back now, it never would have been attainable. But it didn’t stop me from wishing on every first star I saw and every penny I dropped in a fountain.
Even when I grew up, media continued to show me what adult friendship was supposed to be like. Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha, four extremely different women who likely would never be friends in real life, told me that I needed to have a place with my girlfriends where we had breakfast every weekend and shared every intimate detail about our sex lives. My group of friends was also supposed to be co-ed like Monica, Phoebe, Rachel, Chandler, Joey and Ross and, again, we needed to have a place where we hung out, drank coffee all day and seemingly never worked while earning oodles of money that afforded us big apartments and the the latest fashions in NYC.
I was so desperate for friends that I was clingy. I got my feelings hurt when people did not return phone calls or declined invitations to do things together. I mourned when friendships drifted apart, friends moved away or started romantic relationships and stopped having time for me. It didn’t help that I had a career that moved me around to a new city every few years, so I never stayed in one place long enough to build a strong foundation. I always wondered if there was something wrong with me. Was I a terrible friend and that’s why I didn’t have that one person who can’t go a day without talking to me and whom I can’t live without?
It’s taken me years to come to the conclusion, and then be comfortable with the fact that I don’t have a best friend and probably never will.
And, more importantly, that it is OK.
I am grateful for my life. I have a wonderful support system that has lifted me up and helped me through the darkest of times. I am so fortunate to have so many wonderful and loving relationships in my circle. Family aside, I have networks of friends who are happy to listen and offer empathy and compassion when I need it most. I have friends at work who understand the stresses and drama that only those in a shared workplace can understand. I have mom friends who share in the victories and frustrations of parenting young children. I have friends who have been in my life for years, even decades, that I don’t feel the pressure to talk to every day or even every month. But when we do connect, it’s like no time has passed. I also have friends who drift in and out of my life depending on my current situation: the school my kids are in, or the workout class I’m attending at the time.
If you have a best friend or a really close group of friends, you are lucky and there will be days when I envy you. But if you are like me and sometimes you feel isolated or alone because you don’t have someone to call or text or no one is reaching out to you, it’s OK. It is not a reflection of your worth or value.
I love making new friends, so if you ever need one, I’m here.