The Things They Teach Us

Looking back at old pictures can be incredibly therapeutic for those of us who sometimes feel as if nothing has changed in our lives.

Going back over photos from years before can often show you just how far you’ve come or how much you have been through.

I find myself doing this a lot when I feel stagnant and alone in my life. This simple action reminds me of what I’ve accomplished and how I’ve grown. Physical changes that you can see in your life are evidence of every phase, every hair color, every accomplishment, every heartbreak, and often in old photos, every person.

Littered across my history is the evidence of the existence of one person. A best friend, a confidant, a sister who stuck by me through some of the worst moments in my life. I never expected there to come a day when our friendship no longer existed. But after years and years of friendship, our lives not only took us in separate directions but challenged us in ways that often pitted us against each other. We faded from each other’s lives fast. Once a brilliant friendship, we were now barely lit. Then, before I could get a handle on it, the fire was out.

Sometimes I think the ending of our friendship was a mistake. How is it possible that the amount of love I felt for her could just disappear? How is possible that someone who shared so many years with me, became someone who meant basically nothing to me? Or, how was it possible that I meant nothing to her? These thoughts can keep you awake at night if you let them.

For a long time, picking up the phone and dialing the cell phone number I knew by heart seemed like the thing I wanted most in the world, but somehow, I always stopped myself. I told myself some things were better left in the past. People talk a lot about heartbreak in relationships and how love affects you.

It’s rare, though, that anyone talks about the nitty-gritty side of ending a lifelong friendship, but let me tell you, it’s worse than any heartbreak I have ever experienced.

It’s only sometimes, on days like this one, where I realize how, despite the end of our friendship, I am so thankful to have had her presence in my life. I learned a lot of things from a 12-year friendship with that girl. I learned how to get back on a horse after I’ve fallen—literally and figuratively, at that. I learned how to live with someone who’s attitude and personality drastically differs from yours. She taught me to laugh at myself when I could but that it was okay to cry when I needed to. The thing she taught me the most, though, was how to be a sister. Never in my life have I loved that hard or been that loyal or that willing to go through so much. That brings me to the hardest thing she ever taught me: how to say goodbye. I learned the hard way how to let go of a friendship that isn’t good for you anymore, and I will never regret that. Some days I miss her so much that it hits me like a train. But she’s always with me. She’s with me every day in the crucial life lessons she taught me.

Despite our friendship being over, she will always have a very special hold on my heart, and every time I see one of those pictures, I undoubtedly will feel a pang of sadness. I don’t expect that to go away anytime soon, but, along with that sadness, I’ll be gracious and grateful.

I owe a lot of who I am today to my life with the best friend who didn’t last forever.

 

RachEl Estep bio

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