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The 'Forever People' In Your Life

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Rear view of two young forever friends by sea pointing at sunset
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I had an interesting conversation with someone recently regarding “forever people.”

You know the ones. The friends who are there for you through thick and thin. The friends you know you could call in the middle of the night with a flat tire and they would always show up. The friends who knew you, before you were … YOU. Your forever people.

During this conversation, my friend said something interesting. He said “It’s funny how our forever people never turn out to be the people we thought.” That really got me thinking, because it’s so true. Some people you meet and you bond instantly and you’re convinced you’ll be friends until the end of time … only to discover a few months or a few years later that it was only a seasonal friendship, after all. I had that experience a couple of years ago when I went through an intensive group therapy program. It was a two-month program and I was with the same people almost all day, every day … which lent itself to intense bonding. It felt a little bit like senior year of high school. Our group connected on a deep, spiritual level, and it seemed like the camaraderie we formed would last a lifetime. Anyone who has read my latest book, "You Are Enough," has been introduced to these friends … and might be surprised to learn that two years later, our little band of merry misfits has all but disbanded. I couldn’t see it at the time, but the people I met and grew with and struggled with and healed with during that chapter of my life were never meant to walk with me through the rest of the book. They were there for a specific purpose and season, and that’s okay. It can be sad and bittersweet and even a little scary to acknowledge that not everyone from the pilot of our lives will make it to the season finale, but it’s also kind of beautiful. Seasonal relationships and friendships are no less significant than lifetime ones. Sometimes, they’re even more so, because they are brought into our lives to teach us a significant lesson or help us overcome a significant challenge, and then they leave. But their mark on our lives never, ever fades. It’s important to loosen our grip and let what comes, come … and what goes, go. The ebb and flow of lives know best. Everyone who is supposed to be a part of our forever story, will be. I know that to be true beyond a shadow of a doubt. How do I know this? Because of the beautiful, wonderful synchronicity that has led me back to my forever people, time and time and time again.

Take my best friend Alli, for example. I knew her quite literally before she was Alli. Her mom was nine months pregnant with her, to be exact, when she waddled across the street one day in the idyllic neighborhood we grew up in and asked my older sister and I if we would ever be interested in babysitting. My sister started watching Alli and then two years later, her sister Abby, and then I took over a year or so later once my sister decided she was a “cool” teenager and needed an equally “cool” teenage job. I babysat for Alli and Abby all the way through my college years, and as I was bathing them and changing their diapers and helping potty train them – never in a million years would I have imagined Alli would one day become one of my forever people. Especially when the girls got older and outgrew their need for a babysitter and we lost touch for several years. Then, in the summer of 2010, I helped Alli (by then a senior in college) secure an internship at the company I was working for and we became the best of friends. Today, almost 10 years later, I’ve stood next to her as she married the love of her life and supported her as she moved across the country to pursue her dream of acting. She has held my hand through heartbreaks and struggles and cheered me on at book release parties. She is my person. One I never could have seen coming as I played at the end of my driveway with my older sister all those years ago.

Cindy is another one of my forever people. We’ve known each other for 20 years, since we attended church together in the late 90’s. The ironic thing is – we weren’t even that close back in those days! As a matter of fact, we were both closer to a mutual friend, Debra, whose wedding we were both bridesmaids in. The natural assumption would be that Debra would be my forever person, not Cindy. But life and fate had other plans. Years after both of us left that church, we crossed paths in downtown Nashville one night and stayed in touch, meeting up occasionally, but not super regularly. Then something shifted over this past year and Cindy has become one of my best friends. It’s a best friendship 20 years in the making! And not one that I think either of us would have predicted 20 years ago when we stood side by side at our mutual friend’s wedding. Today neither one of us really keep in touch with the bride … which just goes to show that your forever people are rarely the ones you see coming.

And finally – my elementary school friends are my forever people. This is a group of six or seven of us who go all the way back to first grade! We all lost touch over the years but thanks to the magic of social media, reconnected about eight years ago, and now every Christmas, some combination of us gathers together to catch up, laugh at old memories, and make new ones. This group of friends doesn’t see each other every day, or even every month. Some of them I only see once a year. But we have a hilarious group text going and they know and love me for me and I know that anytime I needed any of them, they would be there in a flash. From giggling in the lunchroom at our elementary school to going our separate ways after high school … I don’t think any of us dreamed we would be in each other’s lives forever. And yet, here we are; 35 years later and still going strong. There’s a beautiful quote from the TV showThe Wonder Yearsthat says this: “The friends who grew up with you deserve a special respect. The ones who stuck by you shoulder to shoulder, in a time when nothing was certain, all life lay ahead, and every road led home.”

All of this to say: Adult friendships are HARD. Especially when you’re still single like me and you’re constantly having to compete with husbands and playdates and car pools and sick little ones to get even an hour of your friends’ time. And as we get older, our circle tends to get smaller and smaller as people get married, have kids, move away, or we simply just grow and change and drift apart. That’s why it’s so important to have those “forever people,” the ones you may not see or even talk to every day but who will always be in your corner, no matter how much time or distance may pass between you. Chances are, your forever people have already been in your life for awhile and are most likely not who you would expect them to be. So look around. Open your mind and your heart a little. Don’t be afraid to make the first move toward rekindling lost connections. Send a Facebook message or a text to that friend you lost touch with years ago. Whether it’s a fellow bridesmaid, a former babysitting charge, or your first grade friends … your forever people are waiting to hear from you.