This past weekend, I had two high school friends, Kenneth and Ethan, come visit me. They’re probably the closest people I had to best friends in my senior year after my other friend group split.
Ethan, who has been my friend for the past thirteen years, came and spent the weekend at my apartment. It was bizarre in a way because there was a part of it that felt so blatantly grown, adultish. Hosting an old friend at my one bed one bath apartment in San Francisco. Taking him around the city and covering his meals and Lyft costs with my money from my fancy tech job. Being able to constantly stride around the city like I knew it so well. Hopping on and off public transit with ease. This felt like the kind of stuff that real adults do. And here I was doing it.
Ethan spent the day lounging in my work office as I finished work. When it came to a close, I felt a bundle of knots in my stomach and I braced myself because it’s almost time. Almost time to see Kenneth.
I hadn’t seen Kenneth in a while. It’d been maybe a year since we’d spent time together, but we barely texted. We didn’t call. And it felt strange to see someone who I had valued so deeply in my life fade into an acquaintance. All throughout high school, I felt like Kenneth took care of me and really looked after me. We bickered like siblings (or how I imagine siblings fight, I’m an only child. I wouldn’t know) and stood up for each other when we needed to. He was the closest thing I had to an older brother.
As I exited the elevator of my office, Ethan and I looked around for him. I felt this anxiety building in my body, rising like flood waters. What if it’s not the same? What if he hates me? What if I’m so different now that he can’t stand me? And I thought and I worried and I searched until I finally heard my name called. And I turned and there he was and I felt my chest pinch and a gasp leave my mouth.
And I ran to him and hugged him and I felt all that anxiety melt away because he was here and I fucking missed him.
As we made the walk to my apartment, we talked about everything and anything we could, what we all missed in this past year: college, dating, travel, work, friends, parents, pets, the like. About 50% of our graduating program cohort ended up going to the same college, including Kenneth. So inevitably we talked about high school people and what they were all up to, a topic we always seemed to end up on.
It always felt complicated talking to Kenneth after everything happened because he continued being friends with the people that left me in high school. There was some part of me that felt…not necessarily betrayed, but hurt, that he continued to keep these people around him despite knowing what happened.
It took all the way until now, nearly four years later, for me to forgive him for it. It was the first time I was able to talk about it with him where I didn’t feel angry or upset. I simply just talked about it. He told me about their friend group and what they’re up to. And I listened and nodded and was honestly just happy to be talking to him again.
Then, we made our way to Fort Mason to meet up with some of my intern friends. It was definitely a strange group of people. I met up with four other interns, who each brought their own friend from college. It was like one big mishmash of people each from a different plotlines in a story.
As we headed home and the night grew more somber, Kenneth mentioned to me that I seemed to be doing well. That I had really grown up.
“I feel like in high school you really used to be the baby of everything,” he had said, “and now you’re like the mom of the friend group. I’m really happy for you.”
I sat back and kind of reflected on everything Kenneth was seeing. Sure, we had met up a year and some odd months ago and chatted, but we didn’t really talk. It was kind of just a brief meet up. His real last memory of me was still senior year, an image of me horribly depressed and crying about my lost friends. Now, he was here, sitting in my apartment, watching me bake banana bread and excitedly talk about my MIT friend group and my boyfriend, and my preparation for the incoming job cycle for full time positions, and all this other stuff. And it truly hit me how much I’ve grown and done in these three years in college.
Kenneth then said goodbye and left, and I had to prepare for a different kind of reunion.
I used to mention Aiden a lot in the blogs. He was, in fact, my best friend at MIT. But due to some complications and side things, Aiden was doing his own thing for a good chunk of the school year and we barely talked.
As Saturday came, I braced myself again. I was going to be seeing him for the first time in maybe 8 months.
I didn’t quite know what to feel. At first, I was definitely angry at Aiden for disappearing. I had opened up to him about what happened in high school, how being abandoned my friends was the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life, and he had gone and done the same thing. But this anger quickly dissipated and I felt…at peace with it. Sad, sure, but quietly accepting. There was some part of me that knew that Aiden had his reasons. And sometimes friends aren’t friends forever. Or friends take different paths and end up back on the same one eventually. Or sometimes they’re just going through something.
I ended up writing a blogpost on this feeling, drawing parallels between my lost friendships in high school versus with Aiden and how I was going to treat this differently. How this was not the same. I had grown.
And when I saw Aiden on that hike trail at the land’s end of San Francisco, I hugged him as tight as I could and just said “I missed you” and he said “I missed you too” and apologies began to spill from his mouth to which I said “it’s okay, it’s okay” because it was okay. Of course it’s okay. I’m just happy to have my best friend back.
The next two and a half hours were spent hiking and filling him on everything he had missed: who’s dating who, plans for the future, funny anecdotes from junior year, the drama he missed.
We picked up right where we left off. It felt symbolic in a way, the drastic difference between my previous ended friendship and this one, how this one was able to be rekindled so strongly with some quick “I’m sorry”s and explanations. I’ve finally been able to heal and roll with these changes in my relationships.
Last summer, I remember talking to Eva, filling her in on my experience. “I hate them so much,” I had said. “I constantly wish bad things to happen to them. And I know that’s bad, but there’s something inside of me that just hates them so much and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forgive them.” As I said that, my friends looked at me with such sadness, seeing how all these years later this still affected me so deeply.
That night, as I sat there thinking about my conversations with Kenneth and Aiden, I realized I had finally done it. I’ve reached a point where I can forgive them. When I think of them, I don’t get nauseous, or angry, or anxious, or upset. I feel the same peace I felt when Aiden was gone. Sad, but accepting, wishing them nothing but the best.
Later on in the night, Ethan and I started reminiscing again, filling Aiden in on Ethan and I’s high school cohort and friends.
“That’s the thing,” Ethan says, “people always end up asking me about you, since I guess I’m one of the few people that actually is in contact with you after school. But they always ask, ‘Oh how’s Cami doing?’ and I always say ‘she’s doing really really great. Great school, great job, great friends, great relationship. Everything’s great.'”
And I felt my heart swell with so much pride and a big stupid grin broke out across my face. “Ethan, you are absolutely right. I am doing great.”