When I was 10-years-old, my best friend in the whole wide world moved to California. Seeing as we lived in New Jersey, she might as well have moved to Mars.
She and I were like those coming-of-age movie best friends. We lived just a few blocks away from each other, so we’d meet up on our bikes every day after the school bus dropped us home and ride around the neighborhood like we were on the set of Now and Then. We practically lived at each other’s houses. I remember my angsty teenage brother distinctly asking her one day “Why are you always here?” I ate dinner at her house sometimes twice a week, seated around the table like family. I spent Hanukkahs at her home, watching her open the presents we’d play with later as I ate gelt on the couch.
We shared our deepest darkest secrets about our playground crushes with each other. Ten-year-old me even once tried playing matchmaker between her and my neighbor. When we showed up at his pool party and he embarrassingly rejected us, we went back to my house and played in the sprinklers just the two of us. Our trove of inside jokes made others uncomfortable. We created a Weight Watchers commercial together in front of my bathroom mirror, pinching at each other’s baby fat. We spent our days making up dances to songs and doing gymnastics in the backyward. She was my comfort and my rock and although I was so young, I understood our friendship was the real deal because she felt like an extension of me.
At the start of fifth grade, she left. Her dad got a new job out in California.
I entered middle school – a new school – all alone. My other friends couldn’t fill the void her departure created, so I walked around missing a limb.
That January, I flew out to California to visit her for her birthday since my parents were attending a conference. She was still the same yet so very different. She was skinnier, tanner, and looked happier. She talked endlessly about school and her new SoCal life gave her a glow. My dreams of her misery were crushed. I met all her new friends at her birthday sleepover and felt so awkward and self-conscious around these bright and beautiful Orange County 11-year-olds who felt and looked more mature beyond my years. I wanted to LOL about our inside jokes, but they had inside jokes of their own and this time I was the uncomfortable one.
Throughout middle school we saw each other at least once a year. She came back to Jersey for one or two bat mitzvahs and my family flew to California for a summer vacation. Each time we saw each other, there was a twinkle in each of our eyes and a natural falling back into place. Yet, as time went on, we moved onto high school and grew apart into teenhood. The priority to see each other vanished and our communication waned to the occasional Facebook birthday message. In the age before Skype, Facetime, Snapchat, and Instagram, our friendship simply became a causality of the times.
In recent years, we’ve developed into adult strangers watching each other’s lives play out from afar. Once active participants in each other’s lives, we are now sideline spectators. She’s settled into life abroad, has a good job, and has grown into a beautiful woman. I’ve always had a special fondness in my heart for her and every couple months I go on a Facebook stalking mission to catch up on her life and smile to myself about our memories.
The other night, in the depths of my usual insomnia with Hey Arnold! playing in the background, I was scrolling down my Instagram feed when I came across a picture of her in a wedding dress walking down the aisle hand and hand with her parents. I stared at the picture blankly, baffled at what exactly I was looking at. Her face, the dress, her parents faces, the joy in their faces, the flowers in the background, the stringed lights above their heads…my eyes rapidly scanned the picture from top to bottom.
And as some sort of reality settled into my being, I suddenly began to cry…like a lot. Like I was under the covers in my bedroom wiping away an unhealthy amount of tears and snot on my bedsheets. As a textbook INFJ, I often experience emotions with a higher intensity than most and I admittedly cry just about every day for some small reason or another. Yet even this outburst caught me way off guard.
Childhood is over. That was the reality.
Here is someone who I’ve associated all things childhood with…bike rides and birthday parties… and now looking at her, I could no longer see my childhood. My brain literally could not access those memories. Instead, I saw her masquerading in a wedding dress, except it wasn’t a masquerade and we weren’t playing dress up. She was actually getting married. A relic of my childhood morphed into an adult overnight, forcing me to face my own adulthood at 1:43am on a Tuesday, in a way that paying bills and taxes for the last five years hasn’t.
I’ve been living in my own apartment for three years, working at my second major job after college, and just graduated with my Masters…basically adulting like the rest of them. Engagement posts have been flooding my Facebook timeline for the past two years, I have a 401K, I’m paying off a student loan. I am by every sense of the word, a grown ass adult. However, I think my damnation has come with living so close to my parents. While I’ve been living off on my own for years, I find solace in knowing there’s a hefty safety net just over the Hudson. A safety net that still pays my cell phone bill, shamefully. “Sure sure, I’m an adult, ” I laugh to myself while finding pride in still being my parents’ baby and not fully immersed in the adulthood activities of home ownership and marriage.
Yet more and more, I’m overhearing conversations between my parents about retirement. My dad has finally paid off his 30-year mortgage and it seems like every time I come home, they’re making repairs to the house in preparation for selling it in the near future. There’s talk of moves to Florida and the selling of his medical practice. My mom is grooming me to take over her non-profit. Soon they’re going to be leaving me in the dust and embarking on their own lives, just like my childhood bestie did.
So where am I at 27? I guess I never really thought about it, until the Instagram photo. You don’t live 22 in expectation of setting up your life for 27. 27 just happens…you’re here, you look around, and think “Hmm, life could be better or it could be worse.” Carrie Bradshaw said you spend everyday in NYC in hot pursuit of three things: the perfect apartment, the perfect job, and the perfect man. I’ve got two out of the three so I guess one would say I’m handling this adult thing alright so far.
But now I have to face it head on: 27 is a real ass age. I can laugh about my mom doing my laundry when I go home, but the reality is: people my age are getting married and getting promotions and parents are retiring and moving away. I may still be my parents’ child, but I am no longer a child.
That night, I wrote her a Facebook message congratulating her on her marriage and fawning over her beauty. But what I really should have done was thank her for the unexpectedly massive reality check. As I wiped away a string of tears, I hit SEND, turned off Hey Arnold!, and rolled over to sleep.