A Friend is a Gift— Not a Choice


photo | molly herron

I’m sitting down with a blank card and a pen, but my thoughts wander from the task at hand.  The task is a pleasant one; I’m to write a birthday wish to my friend for the fourteenth time.  We’ve been friends for that long and that’s what baffles me.  Why is she my friend, why my best friend?

I never set out to have a best friend.  The concept didn’t fit my life at all.  I grew up with brothers always there, our friends and cousins mutually intertwined.  We were connected to each other like grapes on a vine, forming a conglomerate friendship of many.  It never occurred to me that one friend should shine above the rest because the whole lot was the friend I needed.

Then I moved and the grapevine broke.  Sometimes we’d reunite and pick up where we left off, but the space between the times apart and the moment of reunion left many gaps in our friendship because we missed the growth in each other.  As life went on I moved, again and again, I traveled, got involved in different things, worked different jobs and made friends along the way.  But the same thing happened.  Once the job was over or distance slid between, we got acquaintance-zoned.

It’s not so, with my best friend.  Distance parted us when we lived on opposite sides of the country and in separate nations.  There were times when we got involved in unrelated things, had diverse interests, lived in different circles and were seemingly different beings.

Somehow the closeness never broke.  Miles did not shield our growth from each other.  I saw her changing perspectives, reformed ideas, and evolving beliefs.  I watched her relationships blossom and wither.  No matter how different our lives were or how far we lived from each other— it was as if she was right there.  She never went further than close, even while trotting on the opposite side of the world.

This is what baffles me.  I’ve connected with hundreds of people throughout my life, but when so many bonds decapitate, why is this one resilient?

Some say that we choose our friends.  But that doesn’t seem true— or rather not true in the way the statement implies.

I don’t think that a lifelong friend is a choice, at least not the sort of choice we make when we add something into our shopping cart.  The only choice we have is to accept or reject.  Like when a gift is presented to us, we choose to either take it, or decline it.  We don’t choose the gift— we don’t choose the friend.

So in the end, my birthday wish is this continued friendship— forever.

Happy Birthday, Molly.