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From Best Friends to Familiar Strangers

With the retrospective and melancholic lens of a girl growing up, Holly Mitchell ruminates on lost friendships and platonic heartbreaks.

Platonic heartbreak is a quiet pain that we all endure at one point, and it is greatly overshadowed by the agony of its infamous relative: romantic heartbreak. Little convincing is needed that romantic heartbreak stings, especially since it is something that gets reiterated in literally every single song to ever exist. Picking your melodic poison is a challenge alleviated when artists ranging from Fleetwood Mac to the cast of Glee have a catalogue of tunes to accompany you through any nasty breakup. Can the same really be said for when a friendship suddenly turns sour, and you are haunted by the familiarity of a now-stranger?

Hurling the Best half of the necklace into the sodden grass while hoping that the girl donning the Friends half suffers endless misery was the 7-year-old girl's first run-in with that feeling. Down the drain goes good pocket money spent on a wasted necklace and an even more wasted friendship. That is, at least, until all was forgiven by recess time during an exchange of a muesli bar for a packet of Monster Noodles. A glitter-gel-penned-letter offering a sleepover on the weekend sealed the deal: we’d be best friends forever! We would have loved to remain in that place where all it took to repair a friendship was a bit of time and a handwritten pinkie promise. It was a place where weekends were filled with fairy potions, Barbie’s latest cinematic masterpiece, and creating our own fashion magazines. Naivete was providing us with an absolute sense of euphoria.

That place eventually vanished when we celebrated turning 13, and in our hands was a mobile phone. Our parents were reluctantly swayed into purchasing one after an earful of constant whining about how all the other girls at school had a phone, and that we just had to have one too! The slender device not only bought all the bad days at school home, but it kept them in the pocket of our tattered jeans. We would opt to go to the movies with our mums instead of our best friend some weekends, even if it was the most uncool thing imaginable at the time. We were willing to endure such humiliation after being left on read by our best friend online, which caused an ugly bitterness to rot in our juvenile minds.

High school graduation happens at 18; with arms-linked and suffocating hugs exchanged, we fail to remember why we cared so much about our best friend not replying to us five years prior. Each of us had our own overwhelming determination to get away from home and make our most ludicrous daydreams come true. We knew this meant sacrificing seeing each other every day, but it came as a shock that this eventually meant no more random drive-through Maccas, no more impromptu movie nights, and no more communication outside of the awkward text message sent on each other’s birthdays. “Hope you’re going well, let’s catch up soon! xxx” is the empty promise that sustains a friendship hanging by a thread. Social media created an easy way out; a hollow like, comment, or a tag in a “thinking of you” post replaces any need for a proper conversation. We’re pretty much all guilty of it, yet it seems to be our inevitable, depressing fate.

These fluctuating friendships make for some excruciatingly lonely moments in life. We drive ourselves wild, wondering into the late night what went wrong and how things could have been different. We remember hearing about those who grew up and grew apart, and how we used to roll our eyes. We would even crack jokes, believing that we’re certainly an exception to that ridiculous concept. Now in separate towns leading separate lives, we both come to realise how wrong we were, and we laugh humourlessly thinking back to our younger selves. We call our mums and ask what movies are playing at the moment she wants to see. We hover our finger over the Send button on a silly video that we know would produce an eruption of laughter for the other, but instead opt for the wiser choice: Delete. We learn to like going out for solo adventures, and we learn to cope with being on our own sometimes.

We can say sometimes, because we then enter our twenties where opportunities for forming new relationships are abundant. We’ll meet a person or two, encouraged to tag along to an event with them that we’d never normally attend, and then shockingly find ourselves having a good time. Repeating that process is about as fun as pulling teeth; we may find ourselves heaving around our brick of a laptop to some awkward study sessions in the name of sparking friendships. It does, however, end up with us meeting some truly fantastic people. With our constantly clashing uni, work, and random-extra-life-crap schedules, we come to learn that we won’t see these friends as much as we did our friends in high school. It is a big change that no one really warns us about, but it is all part of learning how to do things on our own sometimes.

Friendship is fragile, and that is because our time with particular people and moments are painfully limited. We know that realistically, our current closest friends are unlikely to be close friends in five years time. We know this, and yet the heartbreak of losing a good platonic relationship is a shocking, hurtful ache every time. Perhaps our parents were right when they would tell us we don’t know what we have until it's gone. It sucks when they’re right.


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