I just spent a long weekend away with three of my best college girlfriends. We convened at my friend Kate’s house — a gorgeous Spanish-style villa overlooking the Pacific in a coastal suburb of L.A. Her home is lovely and a beach vacation was fabulous, but it honestly wouldn’t have mattered if we were in a tent. After all, we’ve lived in cramped dorm rooms together, slept on one another’s living room floors, and shared communal showers. (That was only in one dorm, thank God.)
Our friendship of 25 years doesn’t require fancy — it only requires each other. It dawned on us at some point over the weekend that we’ve been friends for more than half of our lives, and only in our wildest college-age dreams did we picture ourselves remaining close through all of the ups and downs of adulthood. We’ve supported one another through boyfriends and breakups, marriages and divorces, births of babies and deaths of loved ones, cross-country moves and crises of faith. We’ve laughed til we cried, revisiting the silliness of our youth, and cried til we laughed over the ridiculous reality of adulthood.
I don’t know what it is about friendships forged during those formative young adult years, but the bonds I share with my college friends run deep. We became ourselves together, and as we’ve continued to grow and change over the years, we still understand the core of one another. Being with my old friends reminds me of who I am — how far I’ve come, the hurdles I’ve cleared, and the lessons I’ve learned. They’ve been by my side through all of it, lending support and solidarity, inspiration and encouragement. And I’ve seen them through the same.
My daughter starts her college career this fall. I know she will have different experiences than I did (and there are plenty of experiences I hope she’s smart enough not to have). But I pray that she finds the kinds of soul sisters I found in that phase of life where the future is unwritten and anything is possible. I hope she finds friends she can lean on, confide in, laugh with, and lend her own support to as they navigate new waters. I hope she recognizes the value in the relationships she’s building now and understands how priceless they will become to her later on.
I hope she stays up late sharing heart to heart talks.
I hope she holds her friend who just told her she’d been violated and takes her to get help.
I hope she tells the friend who shares their secret shame that she loves them unconditionally.
I hope she and her friends create adventurous stories and goofy dance moves and jokes no one else understands.
I hope they take some risks but protect one another from life-altering stupidity and recklessness. I hope they remind one another who they are when they get lost.
And I hope they are wise enough to savor their time together — time that is truly their own, before the blessings of family and professional life that will make getting together hard in their older adult years.
I hope they understand that these relationships can be forever if they choose it. Thanks to social media and instant communication, keeping friendships going is so much easier than it used to be. Not all friendships are built to last, but those that are are worth the effort it takes to maintain them no matter the distance or time that passes between them.
As I gaze back and forth between the faces of my beautiful, aging friends and my gorgeous, fresh-faced daughter, I’m struck by how true friendships deepen over time. My college friends have genuinely grown more beautiful to me over the years as the experiences we’ve shared, both in person and long-distance, have expanded.
They say the best mirror is an old friend, and it’s true. I see a unique reflection of myself — my youth, my growth, the sum of my whole adult life — in their faces, and I imagine they see the same in mine. We have a shared history like no other. We are a part of one another’s stories, and will be for life.
I hope my daughter finds friends like I did — friends who will play a joyful and faithful role in her story during her youthful years, and far into her future as well.
Annie Reneau is a writer, wife, and mother of three with a penchant for coffee, wanderlust, and practical idealism. On good days, she enjoys the beautiful struggle of maintaining a well-balanced life. On bad days, she binges on chocolate and dreams of traveling the world alone. Her writing can be found on Upworthy and Scary Mommy, in O Magazine, and in a big ol’ slush pile inside her head. You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram.