If you want to know what direction your life has taken, spend some time with the friends you met before you had to grow up. Before the first bad break-up and the college acceptance letter. Before the restricted driver's license and the sequined dress for Jr/Sr. Formal. Before responsibility laid heavy and wholly on your shoulders.
If you want to know where you are, check your course against the ones who shared the same starting point.
I got to take stock of my course last week, when I went to Minnesota under the auspice of a conference. The conference was worthwhile in and of itself-equal parts inspiring and terrifying-and it introduced me to what may likely be my next academic endeavor (I see you MSFL program, I see you.)
But after that conference ended, I milked that turbulent flight West for all it was worth and got to spend nearly 5 days with some of my very best (and earliest) friends. On the way back to Boston after our long weekend, it hit me that I've been pals with my friend Rachel for almost 20 years. That's a pretty incredible feat of friendship. Especially when you're 25.
We hadn't been together like that since I got married a year and a half ago. We were there first and foremost to celebrate Rach's upcoming wedding, but we were also there to be present to what life looks for us now, without the curfews and the college classes looming over us. We were there to listen to stories and ask good questions and laugh until we cried.
Those ladies were the sisters my parents never gave me, constant fixtures in my life until we left for college. They were my duet partners, my soccer teammates, my worst enemies (At one point or another, doesn't every good friendship hit that point?), my homework buddies, my fashion gurus, my group date companions, my Bible study partners.
"I guess I've grown," I remarked to my friend Liz as we got ready for another night out in downtown Minneapolis. "I think we all have," she answered.
We all have.
The growing is not an option, I've come to realize.
I used to think growth was a moral statement about who we are, that "I'm growing" was a kind of catch-all excuse that would smooth the rough edges of yourself or the circumstances that make you feel out of control. But growth isn't exclusive. It's something all of us undergo. The unique results of that universal process depend upon the factors that any living thing requires to sustain life: habitable climate, formation of roots, access to sources of nourishment, safety from predators, et cetera.
We've all grown, my friends and I.
We have made very different choices with our lives, and time will continue to reveal how those choices exhibit or inhibit the people we were born to be. But we come back to each other, to this forged place of history and connection, and we find that we are still who we were early on, when our friendship was a fledgling thing dependent upon birthday invitations and our generous mothers who drove us all over town to be together.
We are girls-turned-women who still love to laugh, who still sit around and read magazines in perfect contentment, who still work hard doing what we love, who still doubt and worry and fear what's ahead.
I miss them more than ever, and I have a strong hunch I'll keep saying that and meaning it as long as I live. They are lighthouse friends. Their love beams out to me from our common shore, ensuring that even though I am no longer close to home, I am not lost to the sea.
All images for this post by the fantastic Kristen Scott of The 2654 Project