Do you have that friend who, no matter what, will be there for you? That friend (or friends) you can call on for just about anything? And even if you haven’t seen or talked to each other in a while, they’re still there for you? That’s your always friend.
An always friend is exactly what it sounds like — a friend who’s always there for you. Time can pass, your lives can change, but through it all, that friend is there for you. An always friend is the kind of friend everyone needs a least one of.
Usually your always friend is someone you’ve known for a long time. Because they’ve been with you through the ebbs and flows of life. They’re the friend who is there to support you through the high and low points and everything in between. But because of the way life happens, they may not be there for all of them. You know how it is, you have that friend who drifts in and out of your life a bunch of times. More often than not, the drifting isn’t even intentional. But as we all know, maintaining friendships as you get older gets harder.
I’m lucky enough to have a couple “always friends.” My closest always friend has been one of my best friends since we were tweens. At that age, separating us was impossible — though our parents definitely wished they could sometimes. But as sometimes happens, during the teen years, we began to drift apart.
Transitions are hardest for an always friend. Because you may be expanding your social circle and meeting new people. You might not need your friend who’s been there. There’s a whole set of shiny new friends to hang out with. And it’s not that you don’t love your friend, but these new friends may have different things in common with you. While you still love your always friend, this new friend is piquing things in you.
For me and my friend, the first test of our relationship came in our late teens. Our lives were veering off into two very different directions. At first, it was hard to figure out how to get back on course. Our worlds were beginning to form new centers, and at first it was really hard to take. When you’re giving someone so much of your friendship, you feel hollow for a bit. Finding a way to make space for her in the new version of my life was hard. Even though we hadn’t changed fundamentally, I worried that she wouldn’t want to make a space for herself in my new life. And she felt the same about me.
Creating a lasting bond with your always friend takes a lot of hard work. You’re always actively working on your friendship, either in big or small ways. Every day you stay friends, you’re making a conscious decision to do so. In our early 20s, we were constantly testing the boundaries of our friendship. We were living entirely new lives — meeting new people and discovering new things about ourselves, and all of that was great, but when shit really hit the fan, I needed my always friend by my side.
Even if she wasn’t literally standing just to the right of me, I could feel fer. That’s why she remained my safe space to check in. No one knows you better than your always friend, which means you’re going to call them to talk you off the ledge. And I had to be talked off many a ledge.
As your lives continue to change — maybe with new relationships, marriage, job relocations or having kids — you’re growing and learning more about yourself. All of these new facets of life can test your commitment to each other. My friend and I had grown apart in our mid-20s. She had a kid at home, and I was falling in love for the first time. We’d talk, but our priorities were super different, and neither of us could relate to each other at that time. I was out partying while she was potty training. But even then, we knew that if the other needed something, we’d drop it all and be there.
The last few years have been a turning point in our friendship. For the second time in our friendship, both of our lives went through a major upheaval. But this time we just couldn’t see the way back to each other as clearly. Honestly, I thought I might have lost my always friend. But that’s the thing — you can’t lose an always friend. Your bonds are too strong, and you will sense the needs of the other. Those needs will be the driving force of your reconnection. Our friendship is back on track, and we celebrated 20 years of friendship by getting the word “always” as tattoos.
Having that always friend, the one you know you can count on when you really need them, is rare. It’s not easy to grow with someone. To allow them to be an active part of your life no matter what. And understanding that if they drift out of your life, it’s not always personal. Sometimes we need to grow apart to be better for each other. You can’t put a price on having a friendship that can withstand not only time, distance, but other people. Knowing that they’ll be there for you when the chips are down is priceless.
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