My best friend, Geri, is moving across the country in less than a week. Specifically, she will be 2,692 miles away in her new apartment in San Diego with her boyfriend. I will be here in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where we both grew up and lived for 24 years. Except for the four years I lived in New York City, my best friend has always been less than a half-hour away from me. Even then, she was only an hour and half train ride away. But now, after 13 years of friendship filled with growing pains, heartaches, sleepovers and dinners whenever we wanted, things are going to be switched up a bit.
We were sitting in our favorite Chinese restaurant in Chinatown, a place where she had Chinese food with my family for the first time almost a decade a ago, when she told me the news. I knew that our conversation would be lively that night, initiated by a Facebook message sent earlier that day by her saying that she had something to tell me over dinner that had to be done in person. That afternoon, the possibilities had swirled in my head. Was she engaged to her boyfriend? Is she up for a promotion at work? Do I need to raise bail money?
The phrase "Jim and I are moving to San Diego in July" took me off guard. It was 20 degrees out, she still had a lease to her apartment, and July was months away. Hell, it was more than a half a year away. After hearing her excitedly talk about their plans, I told her it would be an awesome adventure, although in my head, I was already consoling myself that she would change her mind by July. She pointed out that she would be moving almost a week from the Taylor Swift concert we had just bought tickets for earlier that month. At that moment, sitting in the freezing restaurant across from her, the concert, summer and the reality of her news seemed far away. We went back to eating our hot and sour soup and moved on to the next topic of conversation: my latest failure in online dating.
Months went by, and the planning continued, but so did our friendship. She helped me move out of my parents' house and into my first apartment in Fishtown, accompanying me as I navigated the sketchy Craigslist classifieds. I went to her apartment to help her begin job hunting on the West Coast and edited her cover letters. Somehow, it suddenly became the end of May and the truth was very apparent: My best friend was in fact going through with her dream, which involved moving to the West Coast. I refused to let her know the feelings of sadness that were creeping in, and how the reality of the situation was finally hitting me. We are not the type of friends who hug or say 'I love you.' Although we both experienced a pretty heavy crisis while we were young, we did not cry together and hug it out. Instead, we would take the one who was going through the crisis at the time to Chick-fil-A and drink milkshakes.
It wasn't until late May, when we were out celebrating my new job at a Mexican restaurant, drinking margaritas by the pitcher, that the floodgates opened. We were riding in the cab back to my apartment and I looked over at her yelling at the cab driver. The emotions of the past five months came over me, and as I stumbled out of the cab, my tears over her impending departure began to fall. Geri looked at me as if I had suddenly turned into a Mutant Ninja Turtle. "What the hell, dude?" she asked, which is our version of being concerned.
Through the slurring of the tequila, I poured my heart out on the steps of my apartment at 11 p.m. on a Wednesday night. I shared how scared I was that one of the only people I could rely on would be thousands of miles away, and that somehow, our friendship would get lost in translation between the states that were about to separate us. She sat down next to me and asked why I didn't tell her this months ago.
"This is your dream, dude," I choked. "You always supported my dreams, especially when I went to school in New York. I didn't want to seem unsupportive."
Shaking her head, she began to remind me that we live in the 21st century. There is Skype, Facetime, cell phones, Facebook messaging and text messaging, the latter two being the main ways we communicate, anyway. I had already planned to visit her during Thanksgiving, and she would be in Philadelphia visiting her family for Christmas.
After getting it off my chest, the taboo of feeling sad about my best friend moving away disappeared. Instead of pushing the feelings down, I let myself feel a bit sad about the situation, but focused on the benefits. My best friend was going after her dreams, and was the happiest I had seen her in quite a while. She was moving forward in a relationship with her boyfriend that was very positive. Jim is a great guy and I am excited to see what this new chapter brings for them. And now I now have an excuse to visit the West Coast several times a year and a place to crash that has a pool!
Last weekend we went to that Taylor Swift concert, the one that once felt like it would never come. It was a bittersweet day. The concert was amazing, despite a two-hour rain delay. We made matching best friend shirts (it was my idea, she just went along with it as a good sport) that read "2 Best Friends+ 2,692 Miles Apart = Brought Together by Taylor Swift." But really, our friendship and history will always bring us back together. It may not always be in physical form like at a Taylor Swift concert, but we will always be there to pick each other up, wherever life may take us.