October 3, 2011

Vitamins. Exercise. Friends.

Heather Kistilentz had long brown hair, a round face and freckles. I have no idea how to spell her last name, but nevermind. She was my best friend in 3rd grade. I’m not sure what that meant…we must have played together on the weekends? Hung out during recess? I remember listening to George Michael and Salt-n-Pepa together. It made me feel awesome to have a best friend. My very own!

Then Heather’s family moved away.

I wonder if today’s 3rd graders use email to stay in touch? Is there an elementary school Facebook? I hope not. It was sort of a lesson that needed to be learned early on, about the way people come and go in life and how to move on and meet new friends.

We are social beings, for sure. I was an introverted only child, but still craved the company of other kids. My mom would make me call and ask if Heather, or Susie or whoever, could come out and play. I was terrified of making those phone calls, having to build up the nerve to pick up the phone. Sometimes the phone rang and rang, no answer. I’d be crushed.

I’ve always longed to be one of those people surrounded with friends and family. Brothers and sisters running around, cousins popping over for dinner, aunts, uncles and friends of the family playing bocce in the backyard on weeknights. A BBQ perpetually grilling hotdogs in the summer. Holiday parties with everyone we knew.

That family life has never materialized! What the heck? Why not? Didn’t I wish hard enough? I’m still an only child, we live 4 hours from my closest family, married to a man who doesn’t have much family of his own. With 1 baby rocking my world right now, I’m not so sure we’ll go on to have 4 or 5 more. So, there’s that.

But friends, oh yes. There have been friends. There was nerd camp when I was 13 and discovering my sense of humor and independence alongside other eminent young scholars in the heart of Missouri (Random. But it happened, I swear. I went to nerd camp in Missouri. And many of us nerds are still in touch.)

There was sorority life in college, which assured I’d be surrounded by at least half a dozen pretty girls at all times, further surrounded by a dozen dudes with gelled hair. (Some of the best memories of my life happened with those girls, including walking in the streets of Boston wearing no shoes, pushing someone home in a shopping cart, dancing on a boat in the harbor – everything around 3am.)

Then there was my stint in advertising, which meant I was surrounded by hipsters drinking beer and eating chicken satay after work on Bolyston Street. (One of them turned into my husband. I’d call that a worthwhile happy hour habit.)

There’s this wonderful world of the internet that connects me to you. (Yes, you.)

Along the way, there have been the true blue friends that stick, even when circumstances change. The ones who remember my birthday, ask about my mom, make me laugh with cynical observations. I love you guys. Thank you.

We are social beings. The people in our lives are our mirrors, our teachers, our way of existing fully. We may be taking our vitamins and exercising our bodies, but are we cultivating relationships with the same daily effort?

A part of me hopes that Heather Kistilentz stumbles on this and remembers me. If you know her, send her my way. I’d like to say thanks to her too.

As an adult, how do you make new friends and stay close with old ones?

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