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The art of loving and letting go

My best friend for the last 13 years got married last week, and I wasn’t there.

But, to be fair, it wasn’t anyone’s fault. She’s going to college in Hawaii, about 4,400 miles away from Oxford. And it’s not a typical wedding — after a short engagement, they’re eloping. So I’m not there, but neither is anyone else.

On a random Tuesday, as I’m sitting in a lecture taking notes, she’s getting ready to put on her wedding dress. Our worlds are about as different as you could possibly get.

And you know what? That’s okay.

But you know what else? When she told me she was getting married, I cried.

We have been stuck to each other since we met in second grade — literally. We were voted “most attached at the hip” during our senior year of high school. When I broke up with my first boyfriend, she drove 30 minutes just to bring me ice cream. I let her sleep on my shoulder throughout an entire 8-hour bus ride to New York City. We had a joint grad party. We always said that when we got married and had kids, we’d take vacations together every year.

For years, we had been key figures in each other’s lives. When we had to separate to go to college, it was hard. But she came home for Christmas. Then again three months later when COVID shut down the world and she was home for almost a year. When we were at school, we didn’t talk every single day, but the friendship was always there. I always hoped she’d move back home after graduation.

So when she told me she was engaged, I mourned what I once thought we might once have. Seeing her ring, helping her pick out a wedding dress and planning a bridal shower — everything that you dream of when you’re 13 years old and planning your future weddings with your best friend.

Back then it felt a million years away.

Then suddenly you’re adults, and that best friend is calling to tell you she’s engaged. She’s ready to start her life, but all you can think about is what you’ve lost.

Yes, you’ve lost the typical wedding experiences, but you can do without those. After all, it’s not your wedding, and she should do it how she wants. What you really think you’ve lost is her.

I felt like I was losing my best friend. She’s growing up.

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But I learned that what I was afraid of wasn’t losing my best friend - I was afraid of growing up.

I’ve realized that I am growing up too, even if it’s in a different way than her.

In reality, I’m not losing her. Maybe she’s not moving back home, but I don’t plan on staying in Ohio forever, either. Besides, if I have to travel anywhere to see my best friend, Hawaii isn’t too shabby. We can still talk as much as ever. She’s still my go-to when I need to know which picture to post on Instagram. One day, we’ll still take our husbands and kids on vacation together.

And of course, she’ll be at my wedding one day.

As I started to realize this, I suddenly wasn’t upset anymore. Growing up is scary, but it’s not the end of the world. 

I take issue with the phrase “If you love someone, let them go.” Yes, I’m letting my best friend go — but where is she really going? To the courthouse for a marriage certificate? Big deal. Even if we can't be physically attached at the hip, she’s always going to be my best friend. So yes, I love her, but I’m not letting her go.

So in a way, this column is a love letter to my best friend. But it’s also a goodbye to our childhood — and a hello to the future.

I hope her husband knows that when I visit, we’re still going to have sleepovers. And she fully plans to kick him out of the bed to make room for me.