My daughter’s current favorite song is Ed Sheeran ‘Castle On The Hill’. She plays it over and over again, “Alexa! Play Ed Sheeran Castle On The Hill!” singing EVERY SINGLE WORD…even “smoking a hand rolled cigarette”, which is very disturbing to hear your 8 year old sing. It was inevitable ‘Castle On The Hill’ would either be one of my favorites or banned from the household as I desperately figured out how to delete/block it from Alexa’s memory.
Well, Ed’s catchy song is safe from censorship because eventually his tunes possessed me and I couldn’t keep myself from tapping my foot, shimmying my shoulders and memorizing EVERY SINGLE FUCKING WORD. It’s not uncommon to find me rocking out to the British red head’s catchy tune as I drive my Subaru, windows down, singing at the top of my lungs.
One day while listening on repeat, I realized why I have come to love his song so much. It lovingly reminds me of my first precious friends from my late teen years, friends I am no longer in touch with, but who will forever hold a very special and heavily protected place in my heart. These friends were the first ‘true friends’ I ever experienced. They had no ulterior motives in befriending me; they genuinely liked me. They made me feel accepted, beautiful, unique, talented, smart, worthy, priceless and fun.
I owe a lifetime of thanks to my high school friend Jennifer for introducing me and sharing her friends with me. Jennifer went to my high school but these new friends didn’t; I never would have met them if it weren’t for her.
They immediately accepted me and quickly became my best friends. It felt like I’d known them my entire life. Before I knew it, my social schedule was full and I was going out every weekend, ‘driving country lanes’, talking shit, ‘watching the sunset’, exploring life and its secrets, dreaming about a future that suddenly seemed entirely possible.
It took me a minute to feel comfortable enough to trust these new friends weren’t going to ‘ditch’ me at the first weird thing I did or said; which was typically my experience with peers. But these special friends never left, never judged…they patiently hung in through every weird, stupid or annoying thing I did while I stumbled awkwardly through developing the social skills others already had by this age. I wish I would have realized at the time how much their nonjudgmental acceptance meant to me so I could’ve told them.
They were my friends. My wild, crazy, hilarious, stupid funny friends. We had so much fun doing the carefree stuff teens do, and I belonged with them.
I had so many FIRSTS with these friends. First concert, first time staying up all night talking about life, first time trying beer, first time being recognized by peers for my athletic talents, first boyfriend, first time holding hands, first time modeling for a young aspiring photographer, first time feeling beautiful, first time hanging out in the basement of a friends house watching movies and eating junk food, first kiss, first time having friends over to my house, first time going to homecoming and prom…so many priceless firsts.
I loved these friends, I loved them so much I nearly sabotaged my FULL Division I basketball scholarship to a school in S. Carolina because I didn’t want to leave them. I was afraid of losing them, that they’d forget about me if I went so far away. But, as true friends do, they lovingly encouraged me to take that FULL athletic scholarship even though they’d miss me too. Actually they said something like “You’d be crazy not to go!”
They reassured me they wouldn’t forget about me, that they would visit me in S. Carolina and they would always be there when I came home to Wisconsin. My precious friends kept their word too, they crammed into a small sports car and drove 20 hours to visit me my freshman year during their spring break. And when I returned home for summer break we picked up right where we left off.
These friends don’t know it, and I didn’t know it at the time, but they saved me. They taught me so much about myself, friends, relationships, life and so many other things. They nurtured my soul in ways that to this day still help me navigate relationships. They taught me how to love and accept myself.
These friends launched me.
They showed me what it felt like to be a part of something meaningful and priceless. Their friendship made me feel like I finally mattered to someone. They showed me what it felt like to be missed and how to reconnect. They have NO IDEA what a gift their friendship meant to me, and I don’t think I’ve ever told them. They have no idea how much their love and acceptance nurtured and grew my self confidence, and I miss them.
So, when my buddy Ed Sheeran reminisces and sings “these people raised me and I can’t wait to go home…” it reminds me of my precious friends, and I like it. I’ve been long out of touch with those friends, my life took me in many directions…but it’s nice to reminisce and think of simpler times with good friends.
My precious friends, if you’re reading this now, thank you. I miss you. Let’s get together and catch up.