“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.”
– Joseph Campbell
I think the hardest lesson I’ve had to learn growing up is that life has way too many goodbyes.
I blogged about this considerably back in my senior year of high school as I transitioned to a new chapter in my life. I was expecting that one. It still hurt when it happened, but I recognized it had to happen. The difference now is, I’m realizing that kind of transition isn’t unique to just the end of high school. Life is a steady flow of new faces and saying goodbye to old ones. And this past December, I said goodbye to one of the best friends I’ve ever had.
To clarify, you can relax; he isn’t dead or anything. But we did have to say goodbye, and I don’t expect we’ll see each other again. So, with this school year coming to a close, I’m concluding that chapter of my life the only way I know how: to write a tributary post.
Let’s get cracking.
I met my best friend in January 2015; my sophomore year of college. We were in the same math class together, and I saw this quiet freshman-looking type who wasn’t really interacting with anyone. So I switched on my social mode and made small talk. We got along well and became friendly towards each other. He was pretty reserved, so my attempts to socialize outside of class weren’t very productive at first. He was perfectly fine chatting during math, but not having Chick-Fil-A at the University Center after class.
Things might’ve stayed put, but I got this feeling in my gut that I can’t quite explain—have you ever met a person and you just get this instinct that you two were meant to be a part of each others’ lives? Well, something told me this guy and I were meant to be a part of each others’. And so, I kept asking to hang out. And eventually, we got Chick-Fil-A at the University Center after class.
Within a month, we were hanging out on the regular; ordering pizza and marathoning Breaking Bad, or bitching about our math homework, or forming inside jokes. And by April, we were spending evenings staying up until 3AM swapping stories. We talked about the best and worst of our past relationships with girls. We told each other about what we wanted for our own futures.
I think my favorite part of all of this is we both entered each others’ lives at the right time. Each of us was going through our own personal shit when we met, and we sort of helped each other get back on track with everything. We got along. We were best friends. Simple as that.
I know there are a fair number of guys who think the concept of ‘best friends’ is a bit gay. They don’t think two dudes should be important parts of each others’ lives. And yet, my best friend and I were. When I was in real trouble and needed a place to stay, he was the person I called. When he was upset, despite the fact that I was angrier with him than ever before, I still dropped that long enough to say, “Alright look, I’m really pissed at you. But you need someone to talk to, so for tonight, I’m going to stop being pissed long enough to be there for you.”
We had an especially bad argument in September that left us not speaking to each other for several days. And then, we went to a baseball game and spent the whole time talking, getting back to joking around, and it ended up being one of the best hangouts we had. We got really good at working things out.
Because that’s what it’s all about: being there for each other in spite of disagreements or arguments. That’s what best friends do. That’s what family does. And make no mistake, even if it was only for a year, he and I were family.
Did we argue? Sure. It was mostly little stuff, but it was still enough to be mildly irritating now and then. And at the end of the day, we were always able to clear the air with one simple conversation and get back to playing basketball or video games or whatever.
We didn’t always agree on how to hang out, either. I’m a movie fanatic and would’ve been happy watching a different movie every time we chilled; my best friend was more into watching WWE or training for American Ninja Warrior (no joke!) So we compromised. We spent summer 2015 watching a lot of movies and watching a lot of WWE. We also went to a Ninja Gym once, which was one of my favorite days. We showed each other our home towns and even made a midnight run to IHOP (it was a long day).
I don’t want to just make a laundry list of activities or bore you with tedious details, because no amount of description will be sufficient to encapsulate how important my best friend and I were to each other. No matter how many ups and downs we had with girls in our lives, we were always able to meet up, grab Subway and swap stories. “So, you’ll never guess what shit I had to deal with today.” And we’d lightly make fun of each other for it. And it was the best thing.
We didn’t know it at the time, but this one hangout we had in December 2015 would end up being our last.
(I don’t want to get into why he and I had to end our friendship—the short version is, his living circumstances changed a month later and he decided it would be too taxing on us both to keep up the friendship).
That last hangout was Thursday December 17th, and we saw Star Wars Episode VII on its opening day. He didn’t especially want to, but he knew how much it meant to me, and I think it was a fitting end to the friendship. We made a day of it and ended up ordering pizza like normal, watching our favorite TV show like normal, and going to the movies like normal.
I only have one regret: at the end of that long day, he and I said goodbye. We thought it was just for winter break, but it ended up being for good. And during the drive home, I realized, “Damn it—I forgot to tell him thank-you for everything. And that I love him like a brother.” I meant to say it. Because 2015 was our year, start to finish, and it was one of the best of my life.
I accept that this whole thing won’t ever quite be settled in my mind, but I also recognize that this is part of life and people have to deal with this all the time. It’s far too often that the world shoves two people in each others’ lives only to pull them back apart, and you’re left wondering why. I don’t have an answer, but the thing I do know is that my life is forever better for having had my best friend in it. And I wish I could have been half as good of a friend to him as he was to me. At the end of the day, none of this is anything I can change. But I can appreciate it, and I can take the best of it with me as I move forward.
For one last time dude: Godspeed, and thank you for being part of my life when I needed it the most. You will be missed.