This Is Why We Broke Up

No one said it was easy — especially when you break up with your best friend.

When I was in first grade, a reporter from the Times called to interview me for advice to incoming kindergartners. “How do you make friends?” I heard through the telephone. With the boldness of any six-year-old, I told the reporter making friends is easy — you simply approach someone you like and ask, “Would you like to be my friend?” Twenty years later I like to believe I follow my own advice; sometimes making new friends requires a little boldness. But what I didn’t learn until just recently isn’t how to make friends, but how to break up with them. And most important, that it is ok to lose those with which you were close.

I joined a sorority my freshman year of college. We were told to wear sneakers on the last day of recruitment as we enthusiastically run to our new home, although most girls wore strappy sandals to combat the 95-degree weather. So I’m running, in flip flops, when I see a girl in pink Nikes whizz past me. I thought, this girl came prepared. That’s how I met my best friend.

Sarah* and I were placed as roommates three months later and we bonded over our love for running, our strong family ties, and our slightly crazy third roommate. Over the years our friendship grew strong. We had so much in common but we thrived on our differences. She came from a small town whereas I came from a city. Sarah was science, I was liberal arts. We loved that our sorority brought us together, because without it, circumstance would probably forbid us from meeting. Her family invited to me to Easter every year, and we always exchanged notes and gifts for birthdays and Christmas. When I graduated early, it was without question that Sarah would accompany me on my trip to Hawaii.

I moved to the city after graduating and strengthened my friendships with fellow sisters in the area. Sarah, still in our college town, and I stayed close, and after two failed long distance relationships, I would always joke that ours was the only LDR worth keeping around. I’d visit her sporadically and we’d shop and gossip like we saw each other every day.

So when we made a plan to run a half marathon in Canada, I didn’t expect things to go sideways so fast. Through a couple misunderstanding and no one willing to compromise, I decided not to go. I had a new job and had accrued enough to take one day off, not the original two, so I asked that Sarah and our other friend wait for me so we could drive the four hours together. “No”, they said, “take the bus.”

I was hurt. I knew I’d stew the whole trip and didn’t want to be a wet blanket. It was a last-minute decision — I told them I wasn’t going the day before they were heading out.

Sarah called shortly after seeing my message. When I picked up, she was screaming. I am a bad friend and she’d been thinking that for a long time. I’m victimizing myself. I’m selfish. I don’t sacrifice enough for our friendship. It was hard to swallow. In 10 minutes, Sarah decimated me. Tears erupted, I told her to drive safe, and I hung up.

Three weeks of radio silence went by when she called again. “I’m sorry you got your feelings hurt,” she said. She said I couldn’t be mad because I know she is opinionated and she was the only one who had the guts to say what everyone was thinking. Her apology sounded a lot like a mom forcing a sibling to apologize to the other for making her cry. Disingenuous. Apologizing because you have to.

It’s been a few months since we last spoke. What might seem like a silly girl fight to some really put me in a dark place. If my best friend thinks I’m a bad friend, it has to be true.

Now that I’ve had time to process the break-up, I see this wasn’t out of the blue. Our friendship was strained. For example, one evening Sarah confessed and subsequently laughed that her boyfriend was “only a little racist.” I was appalled and embarrassed. Another night I got too drunk at my office going-away party and couldn’t visit her a night she was in town. She was annoyed by my sloppiness. Neither of us is near perfect. But nothing could have prepared me for her hurricane of hate that spewed out of her mouth that night. That’s how I lost my best friend.

There are so many people that love me in this world. I am a good person. I know this at my core. So I have no need for the person who thinks it is ok to burn me to the ground. I need you to know this, too. You are loved. You are good. Most friendships are worth saving, but what you aren’t taught is some friendships are worth letting go. You are told the friendships you make in college will be for life. These are your bridesmaids, they say. And for many relationships, this is true. But, everyone changes after graduation. You grow up. You learn more about yourself. And when that happens, sometimes the friendships you treasure don’t work anymore. And that is ok.

*name changed out of respect