The True Meaning of a Best Friend

May 5, 2008
By Jessie Ren, Papillion, NE

When I walked into my room, having just returning from a Korean picnic, I could already feel the effects of too much BBQ smoke, sunlight, and pollen. I was exhausted and ready to collapse onto my bed. However, one thing diverted my attention; my eyes shifted to the collage of photos on my bulletin board. I suddenly awoke from this trance and took the photo of my “best friend” and me off the board. As I focused on the picture, I wondered about her expression. Her smile seemed quite content at the time when it taken, but now it seemed forced, as if she smiled because she had to, not because she wanted to. When I looked at my own smile, it seemed phony as well.

When my friend and I took that picture, we were looking up Harry Potter fan clubs on her computer. This was back in eight grade and studying Harry Potter was the one and only thing I disliked to do with her. She was my “best” friend and I assumed that best friends have to agree with each other on everything. So I learned to swallow and partially digest the Harry Potter ramblings that she fed me daily. In my mind and stomach, I felt uneasy and awkward. I didn’t want to say the wrong things or make her feel negative. In fact, I just wanted to avoid conflict even if it meant sacrificing my own comfort. Her acceptance of me was imperative to our friendship and I was willing to submit to whatever she demanded. These demands included going to the mall and her house with her whenever she wanted me too.

Her last request was asking me to accompany her to our freshman registration. I was planning on going by myself, but out of reluctance (I didn’t want to go with her, but I knew that she’d get mad and I could never let that happen) I chose to go with her. As I joined her in line, I noticed my classmate Rachel, who is new to my school and is Korean. That day, my mom informed me that our family was invited to a Korean picnic and that we could invite anyone who also wanted to attend. The picnic was organized by a Korean group in Omaha. Since Rachel was new to my community, I thought that by introducing her to a group her family could relate to, it’d be a friendly way to welcome her in. I immediately ran up to her and asked my other friend to save my spot in line (I could tell that my best friend was uncomfortable with my sudden separation, but I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity of meeting someone new).

When I ran up to her, she seemed slightly surprised. Despite my sudden invitation, she accepted it without hesitation. The next day, my family and I picked her up and drove to the picnic. One of the first things I noticed about Rachel was that she and I had strange similarities. We both liked to talk and eat. We had the same opinions about movies, school, and life in general. I found myself completely at ease around her. My stomach didn’t churn and my mind didn’t worry. I was comfortable talking about everything from annoying teachers to amusement parks. Even as we ate the grilled beef and marinated pork, I felt comfortable enough to discuss that I didn’t particularly like the taste of it. Rachel didn’t make me feel inept or self-conscious. When I thought about my best friend, I realized how reserved I used to be.

After eating, we walked around the park where the picnic was located and just conversed. In those short hours, I told more of my opinions to Rachel than I had ever told to my “best friend”. Coincidentally, we discussed the meaning of friendship and both of us had felt trapped within previous friendships. Before we knew it, the picnic was over and we were ready to leave. As my parents drove us home, I kept reflecting on my actions because they were so unlike me. It was as if I had unleashed a completely unknown personality from some remote part of my brain. That’s when it hit me: I was being myself and not someone else.

Sitting in my room, the picture I held in my hands of my “best friend” and me felt like a tangible lie. There was nothing genuine about it. In retrospect, we kind of just drifted apart. As we talked less, we grew further apart. Today, I don’t think we will ever be close friends; we’ll probably just be acquaintances at the most. At the picnic with Rachel, I had actually laughed and smiled naturally more in that one hour than in my entire, previous friendship. At the picnic, I wasn’t preoccupied with worry or fear of embarrassment; instead, I was only concerned about interrupting Rachel. With that in mind, I casually tossed the photograph into a box and shoved it under my bed.

After the Korean picnic was the first day of school. Fortunately, Rachel was in my first class, geometry, but so was my old best friend. At first, I thought my old friend would ignore me since I had left her at registration. I assumed she was angry at me for leaving her during registration at the time and so I decided to just hang around Rachel. Contrary to my surmise, she didn’t seem angry and actually came to me for answers to the assignment (She used to do this only a daily basis). My initial response was an astonished stare, but it quickly turned into a bemused smile. Before any words were exchanged, I quickly glanced at Rachel, who knew of my ordeal. As I turned back to my so called friend, I told her to ask the teacher for the answers. I had finally moved on.

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