“There are good ships and wood ships, ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are friendships, and may they always be” –an old Irish proverb
My first everlasting female friendship began on the first day of kindergarten. It was the day when parents, guardians, and nannies alike would bring their enrolled children to the classroom for them to gain an understanding of what it would be like to attend real school for the first time.
I sat in alphabetical order, parked next to a girl I had never seen before, too shy to speak up until our moms urged us to exchange names. Little did I know that fifteen years later, I would still be talking to her on the regular, about topics ranging from weird rashes as if we have dermatology licenses to breakups that feel like they might be the end of the world.
Through this friendship with Zoya*, a “friend group” was born. By third grade, I was seeing the same six girls every week outside of school in organized activities by our moms, whether it was hip hop classes, holiday cookie decorating, or when it was warm enough, pool days spent playing mermaids.
A day hasn’t gone by since 2016 that I haven’t turned to the group chat for advice, solace, or a hearty laugh.
I was lucky enough to have this group to fall back on while entering the belly of the beast that was middle school — a lunch table to sit at, friends to traverse the seventh and eighth-grade hallways with, co-conspirators for my texts to the boys in my class.
But as an evanescent tidal wave, pre-teen friendships ebb and flow. They’re stronger than ever one day, only to be seemingly washed away the next. This is nobody’s fault, per se. A cocktail of hormones, new environments, anxiety, and insecurity drives us to part ways. We enter a new school with new people, new friends, and new interests, the fine hairs of closeness splitting before you can even realize it. Zoya and I, alongside the rest of our group, found ourselves parting at the seams, some growing and blossoming into young women, and the others (including myself) still more interested in playing mermaids than making an Instagram account.
When high school came along, it opened the floodgates to even more new people. In my hometown of approximately 60,000 people, we have two high schools, each class accumulating to about 400 people. To many, that seems like a tiny pool, but to me, this was an ocean. The idea of meeting people from different middle schools sent my mind into a panic. Would previous status reign supreme? Do they already have groups cut out? Are cliques real? Do I need to become friends with boys?
Looking back on this now, I wish that I wasn’t so anxious about meshing with new people. Two of my closest friends now (and others I couldn’t imagine my life without) came from the elusive "other" middle school. (I also wish that I didn’t pretend to be a fan of All Time Low and 1975 to seem cooler, especially when I dabbled in Tumblr, but that’s beside the point.)
By my junior year, I was in a giant group of girls and guys, constantly making plans every weekend for which house we could drink Mike’s Hard Lemonade (by the way, ew?) and listen to far too many SoundCloud remixes. We were seemingly unstoppable from the inside looking out. My worries consisted of what Brandy Melville top I was going to wear to whatever party so that I could post an overly saturated picture, topped off with a VSCO filter.
Many friend groups suffer from drama, betrayal, and teenage angst. I would be lying if I said we didn’t have our fair share of controversy, which is often a trope associated with young women. But, then again doesn't every group of friends (regardless of gender) experience that at some point? Even the term “clique” — one that has negative connotations, is attributed to being a gaggle of catty girls. Those associations do not come with groups of young men. The drama mill of my elusive Connecticut hometown can be akin to the likes of Gossip Girl or any other early 2000s weekly teen hit. (Years later, when my college best friend came to visit, she said that it looked like the Pretty Little Liars set. I joked that sometimes, it truly felt like it too.)
Eventually, we parted ways for college. We were still together, this time just miles apart, only having the group chat to connect us. I still text them multiple times a day, sometimes with major life events or simply to tell them what my dining hall is serving up that day.
Today alone, I have most likely updated this group chat on my life at least thrice — discussing where I’m going for my senior year of college spring break trip, a new hat that I bought, and a funny tweet that I saw, triggering me to think of them. A day hasn’t gone by since 2016 that I haven’t turned to the group chat for advice, solace, or a hearty laugh.
I’ve been incredibly lucky to have beautiful female friendships, both new and old. Although I transferred colleges, allowing me to be unapologetically myself as I metamorphosize into a young woman, I still speak to my freshman-year roommate reguarly.
My favorite author (of many), Dolly Alderton, once wrote “nearly everything I know about love, I’ve learned in my long-term relationships with women.” Nothing has ever been more true in my life. Long-term friendships are a feat. They’re not to be taken for granted as though they don’t require the work that a romantic relationship does as well. They take compromise, determination, heart, and two people simultaneously working to make the relationship last. The distance between an acquaintance and a friend is just a few steps. The distance between a friend and a best friend is a valley.
I’ve never felt more fulfilled in any relationship quite like the ones I have with my best girlfriends. The group chat praising me on a recent accomplishment or stating the words “I’m so proud of you” has meant more to me than any half-assed attempt from my ex-boyfriend ever did. They give advice more wisely than the eldest of grandmothers and always have your back, even when you may be making a terrible decision.
I’ll forever be grateful for this portal in my pocket that takes me to my childhood best friends. The women I can text on a random Tuesday and ask if they remember when someone in our elementary school cracked their head open in the middle of gym class or that seemingly “insane” night in high school. These are women who uplifted me into the person I am today — someone who isn't afraid to take on the world, as long as I have the group chat to spill the tea to after.