An Incredible Friend: A Letter to My Teenage Self

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Dear Me (age 19):

You won’t believe me, but some things you should know – even just to be aware that they exist.

You will meet an incredible friend. At first, she will arrive by convenience. And you won’t understand what convenience means because you’ve never known its contrast. So, what I should say is, she will at first appear as all friends appear – placed in front of you by circumstance, a reality with which you are presented. I know you can’t imagine why that would be exciting or unusual. Hold that thought.

You’re hurt now, even though it will be many years before you realize that whatever you think you’ve lost is nothing measured against the magnitude of what can be lost. Not enough time has passed for you to build anything that can’t be rebuilt. So, by all means: Cry. Let it out. Guard yourself, and assume bad intentions. Hate, even. Some will ask you to move on before you’re ready; others will enable you to stay behind long after. Cynicism has landed, but for now it won’t stick. This won’t be permanent, because not-so-deep-down beats a mostly unscathed heart. You, are mostly unscathed. (Believe that. Try.)

You will meet an incredible friend. And at first, you will pretend to care very little. Shades of cynicism. You will be gregarious and treat her as one of many, one of many who have arrived by convenience, who will leave out of convenience. But somehow – maybe because you’re both geeks who fawn over X-Men and not exes, maybe because her quietude indicates some deeper kindness, maybe for no other reason except that every life needs a historian (and every Polaroid a story) – she becomes important. You won’t know why, exactly – but you will know exactly why.

You will argue, and drink, and dance. You will share poetry and a bunk bed. You will fight – with real swords for play, with mean words for real. You will exchange gifts bought on a college dollar with a teenage heart.

You will say goodbye many times – on a balcony, late at night, in anticipation of all the goodbyes to come. You will hug at the end of each year. When you graduate. When you leave the state. When you leave that state.

You will see each other. Every day. Every other month. Twice a year. Once in a while. You will talk. Just two feet apart. Just two cities away. Just two states in between. Just two thumbs on a keypad.

You, will lose her. She will lose you. It won’t be clear which is which, or which hurts worse. It won’t matter. (For a long while, it will be all that matters.)

You will hurt. It will be many years before you realize that whatever you kept – your ego, your new life, your adult principality – is nothing measured against the magnitude of what you have lost. Enough time has passed that you might not rebuild all that you have built. So, by all means: Cry. Let it out. Guard yourself, and assume bad intentions. Hate, even. Some will tell you to move on before you’re ready; others will understand why you simply can’t. Cynicism has landed.

You will have met an incredible friend. At first, she will have arrived by convenience. But that’s not what it was. By contrast: When she left – that, was convenience.

Sincerely,
Me (age 27)

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