A coworker asked me last week if my closest friends—the ones in New York, Boston, San Fran and beyond—are upset about my search. Her closest friends all live near each other, mostly in rural Illinois, and she said if she embarked on this quest, they’d get jealous.
My friends are certainly not bothered. Just the opposite, really. They’re thrilled. They’re my best friends—isn’t that what it means to be a BFF? To encourage the other’s passion? To be supportive, not envious, when she takes a big scary leap into the unknown? And to be confident enough in your relationship that you don’t discourage new ones? My closest friends want me to be happy, not lonely, and they’re all perfectly aware that they don’t live in Chicago. Sure, they’d love to be the ones to join me for a bite or drive me to the airport when Matt can’t, but that would entail them moving here, which isn’t exactly in the cards (no matter how hard I try to woo them away from their shoebox Manhattan apartments with Chicago’s space-to-dollar ratio).
When I started this project, Sara and Callie (the lifelong BFFs) sent flowers to my office. The card read: “You are a rock star! We are so proud of you. We’ll always be your oldest and most admiring BFFAEs.” (Best friends forever and ever, that is. It’s fifth grade lingo.) I know. They are some friends. You can see why I’m struggling to find people who compare.
Over the past week I’ve wondered why my coworker’s friends might react badly if she, too, were to start a BFF search. I haven’t asked her about this since that conversation seven days ago, but it seems fairly obvious that if they would be annoyed or jealous, then they must be really nervous about her moving out to the big city and forgetting about them. Maybe they think she’s outgrowing them; maybe they’re scared she might replace, rather than supplement, them.
Jealousy in friendships is a very real thing. Maybe it shouldn’t be, but who are we kidding? My own moments of BFF insecurity are strongest, strangely enough, when I’m actually with said best friends. Out here in Chicago, it’s hard to truly know what I’m missing. But when I go to a high school friend’s wedding and see how close everyone still is and hear them talk about friends of friends—new additions to the group I’ve never even met—I get more than a tinge of envy. I should be a part of this. That new kid should want to know me. And suddenly I’m so busy wishing I was more a part of things that I’ve forgotten to enjoy the time when I’m actually able to be a part of things. I know that old friends grow geographically distant as we grow up. It’s something I have to get used to. But when you’re one of the only people who has left, it’s hard not to feel like you’re missing out.
My coworker’s friends aren’t crazy at all. I still think that if anyone in that scenario (which I really know nothing about and probably have no business blogging about) should be jealous, it’s my coworker. But I’m sure there’s something very real to the fear that a friend is moving up and moving on. Plus, she’s getting married soon, which seems to spark a whole different set of will-she-love-him-and-forget-about-me fears, to be discussed another day.
Does there come a time when friendship envy (frenvy?!?) ceases to exist? Or is jealousy a universal emotion that we just handle better as we age? Am I a complete lunatic for admitting that there are times I feel left out, as if I was still on the school playground rather than the frontlines of the real world? I’m ok with the admission, because the truth is that my BFFs won’t be surprised to hear it. They know I’m a little bit crazy, and, somehow, they love me anyway.