I saw on Facebook that my childhood best friend got married. She wore a long white dress that trailed down the aisle after her. The kind of dress she always said she wanted, back when we discussed things like that.
It’s been over ten years since we stayed awake past midnight to dream aloud about our futures. It’s nice to know some things don’t change. She and her husband and their two-year-old son are all very happy, if the endless parade of wedding photos and memes about the gift of motherhood are any indication. We haven’t seen each other or spoken in person for five or six years, so I wouldn’t really know.
As middle schoolers we would spend long nights flat ironing our hair, painting our nails, and talking about how one day we would be in each other’s weddings, raise our children together, and live in close proximity so we could be best friends forever. We didn’t know that life has a way of taking people down their own paths.
A Path That’s Full of Dating Apps
The night of her wedding rehearsal I sat in a pub with a guy I met on a dating app. He bought me a drink. Then he bought me another. At the end of the night we shared a kiss that was probably quite sloppy, but my face was too numb from the wine to tell you whether I felt anything or not. I eventually wished him a nice night and shut my apartment door in his face.
He would never know that he was my first date in over two years. Or that he was the first guy I ever met from a dating app. Or that I sometimes got so much anxiety from trying to respond to his messages that I had to sit down and concentrate on breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth.
Do I Wish I Had Her Life?
The next day, as I tried to decide whether I should text him back, my former best friend walked down the aisle in a gown of tulle and lace. At that exact moment, I think I was probably at the grocery store. No doubt comparing the price per unit on a gigantic tub of Nutella versus the little snack packs, and cursing myself for forgetting the coupons yet again.
As I sat down that night and saw the photos, while digging into the Nutella straight from the jar (the gigantic tub is always the best investment, just FYI), it would seem that this is the part of the story where I play sad music and find myself wishing I had her life.
Except sad music really bums me out, so most of my Pandora stations are Disney-themed. Plus, I am far too busy googling “how to get Nutella out of your sheets without washing them” to worry about anyone else’s life.
Goals Change Because Life Changes Us
Do I wish I was her? No. I really don’t. I used to think by my mid-twenties I would be married, probably pregnant, possibly with a small toddler already underfoot. Then again, I also used to think that twenty-five was old and that adults have all the answers. Spoiler alert: it’s not, and they don’t. Furthermore, I have enough sticky surfaces in my apartment without a small child running around, and the thought of doing any more laundry than I currently do makes me physically nauseous.
Even if I could somehow rewind time and change the cards I’ve been dealt, I wouldn’t want to switch places with her. I would still choose to leave the town I grew up in, live in a tiny studio apartment, spend two years obsessing over my career, and only then finally push past my social anxiety to go on a string of dates, mostly with random guys I’m not even sure I like.
No part of this story leads to me walking down the aisle in a lacy dress. But if I had to do it all over again, I would still choose my life, and she would still choose hers. Goals change because life changes us. I no longer want the same things that I did on those long nights of hair straightening and nail painting.
I Am Exactly Where I Want to Be
Maybe one day I will look back at the 25-year-old me, eating Nutella in bed on a Saturday night, and shake my head, the way I do when I look back on the fifteen-year-old who thought she wanted twin toddlers and a house with a big backyard.
The amazing thing about adulthood is you’re allowed to change your mind. While that sometimes makes life more complicated, it also means that you will arrive at the stage of life you belong in exactly when you are ready for it. No one else has the right to say what you are doing is right or wrong except you.
But I Wish I Could’ve Brought Her with Me
If I could make one change, it would be to bring my childhood best friend with me down the road I have taken. I wish the person who played with my hair and shared her stash of glittery nail polish could be the same person I eat Nutella with and commiserate about all the shirtless weirdos on OkCupid. I like to think she sometimes wishes I was raising my kids in a house across the street. When your life changes, it’s natural to want the people you love to change alongside with you. But you can’t force something that’s not meant to be.
So I comment with a “Congrats!!!” on one of her photos. There are no emojis to convey that I sincerely wish her well. I settle for triple exclamation points. Sometime later she will like my comment. But I’ll miss the interaction because I’ve switched to texting a friend from college about whether I should try Tinder. My friend counsels me to call it a night. I listen because there’s only so much progress a girl can make in one weekend.
Maybe my recently married friend isn’t the same person she was ten years ago. I know I’m not. Perhaps if we had taken the same path in life we would’ve figured out we were never really that much alike after all. Who’s to say? But I do know that she is exactly where she wants to be, and I am exactly where I want to be too. It’s nice to know that some things do change, and you can still be happy when they do.