How I got back to being me through friendship

Within a month of meeting Jonathan, we were saying ‘I love you,’ talking and fighting like siblings, and pondering life’s intricacies until the wee hours of the morning. I still can’t really explain how it happened, or how we decided to be best friends instead of lovers. The greatest thing about our friendship was how very much “ourselves” we were with each other. We didn’t hold back. We said and did whatever we wanted as it related to each other, and we were closer than I ever imagined being to someone outside my immediate family (my brother is also my best friend).

I graduated and moved to Austin; JB had another year of school in Houston. We talked on the phone frequently, the day of his 22nd birthday, I walked my dog down Possum Trot Trail while we made plans for him to come see me the next day. He was murdered the night of his 22nd birthday.

I felt like my heart was ripped from my body. The first few days are a blur, but the latter months stretch out into hours and days of crying and pain. Who and how would I ever be able to connect with like that ever again?

The child of psychotherapists, I carefully considered my options … I could close off my heart forever so I never had to feel that much pain again, or I could make huge efforts with tons of new friends and find someone who I connected with as much as him.

I chose the latter and immediately started assembling a group of amazing friends who played sports together, took day trips together, partied together, and celebrated together. It was partially an attempt to fill the hole JB’s death left, but mostly a recognition of how important our friendship was to me, in shaping me. I was greedy in that way: I wanted more and more love and friendship and closeness. I was lucky to find so many wonderful friends in Austin, but I also put in the work to make it happen: organized sports teams, planned float trips, coordinated nights out, and threw parties.

I fell in love and moved to Aspen, Colorado—my new love’s dream. I telecommuted to a job based in Austin, coming home once a month. My friendships in Austin suffered and I wasn’t in Aspen enough to establish close friends. I lost sight of my desire for friendship. I let the focus fall on my career and my romantic relationship, and both began to crumble around me. Had I just forgotten how much I need friendships? I was lonely and not myself.

After we broke up, I planned to leave Aspen but couldn’t decide where to go—I wanted to be somewhere with close friends but didn’t want to go back to Austin. Remarkably, I decided to stay in Aspen because I had so many good friends there. As soon as I re-focused on friends, girlfriends appeared seemingly out of the woodwork. I reached out to and leaned on friends on the periphery and they turned into close friends. I made plans and dinner dates and happy hours and organized a sports team.

I got back to being me, with people I could fully be myself with. I value friendship. I hope I never forget that again.

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