The next sentence is not a mistype: There is a line from a Train song that I’ve always felt has left a permanent dent in one of my friendships. Which I guess just goes to show–you never know which conversations will stick with us throughout our lives; which comments you’ll wish people would let you rephrase; what assumptions will be made by others that you wish you could reshape.
I have been blessed with wonderful friends who all came into my life at different times, meeting different versions of today’s Megan. A Megan who will remain in some form in the years to come, while still becoming a person who seems so disconnected from that person from long before. I have strong connections to people from high school, and a deep endless (blog sharing) love with two of the best parts of my college experience. I have people who I would take up arms for who I have only known a few short years, and lingering fondness for friends who I’ve long lost contact with. Friendship is at once fragile, and solid as a rock. You can bend it, and sometimes shatter it, and still it can be recovered. Or you can barely nudge the limits of it, and it tilts permanently. I’m not saying Train put a permanent tilt in one of my friendships; they just left an impression.
I was in highschool when “Drops of Jupiter” was released. The line causing so much grief: “Your best friend always sticking up for you, even when I know you’re wrong.” Firstly, if it seems insane that a song lyric can cause ten years of annoyance, you’re right. I recognize that, but this battle started between two sixteen year olds, and no one is going to pretend they are the most rational. Why it still bothers me at 26 — well that is a decent query. Apparently I’m just like that.
Your best friend sticking up for you, even when I know you’re wrong. I held that this statement was exactly true of friendship. That even when you were wrong, your best friend should still stick up for you. My best friend heard, “Your best friend should never tell you you’re wrong.” And she was off, arguing that a real friend tells you when you’re wrong, while I was standing there with my explanation in my lap, waiting for my chance to throw it in. I’d never meant to say your friends couldn’t tell you you were wrong. In fact, I accepted it then–though I would come to be more at peace with it through the years–that your friends are your best guide for when your brilliant ideas and morals had gone way off track. All I wanted was what any 16 year old wants — a friend who will tell you you’re wrong to your face, not behind your back, and who also has to guts to shut down your peers when talk about how wrong you are starts to veer into vicious words about how awful you are. You can think someone is wrong, and still refuse to disparage their character. As a young teen the words, “Yeah, I agree that she made a bad choice, but I am not going to say terrible things about her for it” are so much harder than saying, “Yeah, she’s a real bitch.”
This summer I was given the gift of hosting my 16 year-old cousin for the week. Aside from marveling in what a self-aware, intelligent, and independent young woman she is, I was also front seat for a blast from the past: What it felt like to navigate friendship, and school, and your own personal growth during your teen years.
“Sixteen just sucks,” she told me. “Yes it does,” I responded.
I can’t sugar coat it for her, or pretend those were the best days on my life. College was an array of much better days for me. Working in the field I chose, living in a city I adore (if sometimes long to leave), being married to the man I love, and trusting in the deep bond I have formed with my best friends–All those things are better than sixteen.
We grow and change from year to year — building on our better selves, giving in to our worst desires; letting go of toxic friendships, or sometimes finding ourselves so deeply entrenched we forget our voice is supposed to be our own. But unlike sixteen, as each year passes you start to realize you have greater choice. It no longer feels like letting go of a bad friendship means you’ll be left alone. It no longer feels like what other people think of you is the be-all, end-all of your self worth. You begin to realize that you’d rather hear out the special few who bring their guidance with a layer of love, than to give in to the crowd mentality of strangers and peers.
Despite the years of misunderstanding, my highschool friend is today everything I had hoped when we walked those locker lined halls together: The type of person who would stick up for me, even if I was wrong. And believe me, she’d tell me if I was wrong.
Funny thing is, Megan is never wrong.