My childhood best friend, Gwen, moved away at the end of the summer before seventh grade. Up until then, we both lived in a suburb of New York City and spent almost every day together. We experimented with makeup, gossiped about cute boys at school, and even spent one sleepover stuffing our A cups with socks. At twelve years old, we were on the brink of teenagedom and feverishly excited to explore all it had to offer. But towards the end of the school year, Gwen’s mom told her that she was getting remarried and that the family would be moving upstate to Ithaca.
Several years have passed, and Gwen and I are seventeen now. We’ve learned to make it work through Facetime sessions and visits once or twice a year. We often talk about how things would’ve turned out if she never left NYC. Recently, Gwen took a Greyhound to Manhattan to spend the weekend at my house. The days weren’t long enough, and when she left, I was sad to see her go. The whole ordeal felt reminiscent of the summer of 2012 and made me reflect on just how much things have changed between us.
Gwen and I are not the same people we were in middle school. With age, we’ve matured and aren’t carbon-copy clones of one another anymore. Right now, we’re both at a stage in which we’re making choices as to where to attend college and what kind of degree to go after. As expected, I’ve changed my mind a million times since sixth grade and don’t want to be a teacher anymore. Instead, I’m pursuing a career in writing. Gwen, who initially wanted to be an actress, now wants to work behind the camera.
It’s fun to compare our mutual glow-ups from our dorky twelve-year-old selves, but even writing this is bittersweet. It’s left me with a cold, hard truth: some space is good space. I have no doubt that the years Gwen and I spent together will always be some of the best of my life, but her moving revealed parts of me that I may not have discovered otherwise. Before she left, the two of us took acting lessons together, something that she enjoyed a lot more than me. Post-move, I didn’t hesitate to quit theater and learned that I liked reading plays rather than performing them.
My friendship with Gwen isn’t the only one that illustrates the lesson I’m touting. From sixth to eighth grade, I was in the same class as my best friend Marisa. When we began attending the same high school, we were both placed in the honors program, so we still had the bulk of our classes together. As freshman year came to a close, I realized that the school simply wasn’t working for me and transferred to one closer to my house. At the time, my biggest fear wasn’t entering a new school, but departing from my old one because it meant leaving Marisa behind. I had never been without a best friend constantly by my side. The lack of a familiar presence had made me afraid that just Sarah wouldn’t be enough.
Of course, this wasn’t true, and as I adapted to my new school, I found that being pushed outside of my comfort zone was a good thing. It allowed me to grow in ways that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. Not only that, but in an effort to make friends, I joined activities and clubs, which led me to discover new interests, like video production and volunteering.
So basically what I’m saying is that the truth still stands. Some space is good space.