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Susannah Keogh

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How To Survive a Teenage Friend Breakup

Posted: 11/21/2013 11:05 am

What is a "best friend"? Defined as being "the one person closest to you," they're the people you turn to when the hot boy you like rejects you, you're failing your best class and nothing is going your way.

Sound familiar? I bet it does, because everyone has a best friend, right? Our Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter feeds are constantly flooded with perfect selfies of two girls smiling, laughing, complete with the typical caption "Love my best friend," "don't know what I'd do without them" or just the classic #BFFL.

But hey, what happens when that best friend and you are suddenly... over?

In my case, our "breakup" happened in less than 24 hours; seven years of friendship gone just like that. "Emily" and I had been best friends pretty much since high school started, in the same tutor group all the way up to sweet 16, taking pretty much all the same subjects with all the same friends. Most people, teachers and peers alike, saw us as inseparable, with parents evenings year after year full of the phrase "You and Emily."

Except, in the summer she turned 18 and we neared our last year of high school, the summer we'd been planning and laughing about all term, everything turned sour. A (brief) argument over something inconsequential and Emily pretty much ditched me. At first I was confused, then upset, then, as the summer passed by with no contact, angry. Had I missed the signs? Was it inevitable?

Looking back, I think maybe it was. We'd been living in each others' pockets all through school; it was only natural that our friendship would end. Maybe it was because for the first time ever, we were taking different subjects; or because while I'd lost touch with our old friends from lower school, she'd continued to meet up with them. Either way, I'm resigned to the fact I'll never know or ask, and, to be perfectly honest, the whys and the whats have become kind of lost along the way.

At the time, I was devastated, but now? Well, now I think maybe it wasn't the biggest catastrophe known to man since Brad and Jennifer split. I realized that actually, I'd been neglecting my other friends. Sure, I met up with them -- but always with Emily. When was the last time I'd actually had a proper, in-depth chat with them on my own?

Truth be told, I couldn't remember. That's when I realised: best friends aren't always all they're cracked up to be. Why should there only be one person you're close to? Why not two, or three, or 10? Teen magazines and society in general might be obsessed with having the perfect BFF, but that doesn't mean you can't live without one. Look at the TV shows filling our channels -- Pretty Little Liars, Awkward, Glee -- do the protagonists only have one friend they turn to in times of need, or several? The answer is the latter.

Okay, so now I might not have 101 besties, but I have a damn sight more than I did before. They're people whom I wouldn't have even cast eyes on, yet alone spent all day gossiping with about the latest dramas and drinking Starbucks, if my friendship with Emily hadn't ended. I'm not saying all friendships end for a reason. Sometimes they don't, and maybe the best thing to do is to try and repair them. Sometimes, though, you need to think about whether that friendship is actually benefitting you in the long-term. Don't just forgive and forget because it's easy and tempting; look at the bigger picture. Can things really ever go back to the way they were... And do you even want them to?

Personally, I didn't. Although Emily approached me, months later, to "catch up," by that time I'd realized I don't need a best friend. I want friends that are there for me, whenever I need them, regardless of a stupid label.

And, while our seven years "together" were great, and I wish her every happiness, I couldn't forgive the way she'd treated me and cut me out of her life over something so small. But that's okay.

So, the moral of the tale? I guess it's to do what's best for you. Have friendships that are worthwhile and that you enjoy. By all means, have close friends, but make sure not to neglect others along the way. Join clubs, go outside of your comfort zone -- get a life outside of your normal social group -- so if a friendship does break down, you won't be left out in the cold.

And that's what I've learnt from a friendship breakup.

 

Follow Susannah Keogh on Twitter: www.twitter.com/shortysusannah

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