We are basically in a relationship. It’s been eight years. We’ve lived together for two and a half, traveled around the world, hung out with each other’s families and are currently listed as each other’s “emergency contact.” You can find us eating most meals together in Thorne, popping up most often in each other’s tagged photos and wearing full-set matching pajamas when we go to bed together each night. Well, it’s not the same bed. And we’re not actually in a relationship; we’re just best friends.
We first became friends in high school and unintentionally ended up at Bowdoin together. When we came here, we planned to give each other space, maybe even make entirely different friends and catch up on occasion. We did, at first. But the comfort of familiarity was easy and needed, particularly with the emotional rawness of our first year. By our first year spring and into now, our senior spring, we have shared the same friend groups.
This compatibility is special, but, at times, it can be limiting. Crafting an individual identity can be difficult with another person constantly by your side. Although we have different priorities in life, in the small world of Bowdoin, our identities feel merged because we rely so much on the company of one another. We have somehow managed to study abroad in Italy (different cities), inadvertently choose classes that ended up taking a joint spring break trip this year and spend Thursday nights together editing at the Orient.
Having spent so much time together, we’ve found how pursuing individual relationships—not only social, but also romantic—can become trickier. Case in point: our steadiest romantic relationships were during our first year, a time when we were not yet so linked to each other.
We’ve tried to break out of this reliance and have even occasionally been successful wingwomen for one another. Sometimes, though, we need a nudge from a third party. Take our double blind date this fall. Inspired by friends who had a similar idea, we found ourselves listening to “Breathe (2 AM)” by Anna Nalick on the way to meet two guys at Frontier. A mutual friend had set us up. Turns out, fittingly, the boys didn’t know who was supposed to be their date until the end of the dinner.
This is particularly ironic in light of our current situation. For the first time in our friendship, we find ourselves liking the same boy. (Hello, if you are reading this!) Again, it’s as if we can’t be separated from each other. Of course fate would have it this way.
Abroad last spring was the first time we were really apart. Though we were both in Italy, we saw each other only twice over the five months. We had to forge our own friendships and be more independent than ever before. We were still there for each other, but it was not the same when we weren’t seeing each other every day. It was both refreshing and scary. When we met up for the first time in Paris, it was harder for us to be in sync because we had become accustomed to our different lives.
With graduation, our relationship will again become long-distance. We will be separated by 450 miles—Rachael in D.C., Louisa in Boston. Our relationship will have to evolve and so will we. Without sharing the same places, people and routines, we will lose our joint identity. This is inevitable across every friendship to some degree. But for us, it feels a bit more necessary and a bit more noticeable.
When looking for some inspiration in writing about our friendship, we came across Rebecca Traister’s New York Times article, “What Women Find in Friends That They May Not Get From Love.” She writes, “The real consequence of having friendships that are so fulfilling is that when you actually meet someone you like enough to clear the high bar your friendships have set, the chances are good that you’re going to really like him or her.”
Our friendship has set a high bar, and of course we want it to last long after we leave this space. We’ve grown so much since ninth grade, when we barely knew each other or ourselves. But we also know that the next part of growing up is learning how to surround ourselves with new relationships, ones that add to our identity in part, but might not necessarily define us as fully. We won’t be together every day, but that will be okay—we’ll still wear our matching pajamas each night.