The Two of Us
Updated: Sep 25, 2022
A Reflection on Myself and My Middle School Best Friend
Posted on: April 5, 2022
Cover Image Artwork by: Tania
My best friend in middle school is the reason I am who I am today.
We had known each other even before she moved to my school, through an after-school mental math class. Tutoring seems like the wrong word for it, because none of us really needed it, but we begrudgingly dragged ourselves through the door every Friday evening anyways. Our parents had instructed us to do so, and we listened just as much as we complained.
The two of us were in the same mental math class, and almost immediately, we felt like a power duo of sorts. Stories about love at first sight pale in comparison to the exhilaration of finally meeting someone who just got you in a way nobody had previously been able to. Still, externally, we were startlingly different.
She was a sweet, likable girl. There was something about her that drew you in, and drew me in, though even now I still can’t quite place what it is. She was social in a way that many of my peers failed to be- she never had to be mean to be funny, which was a novel idea in the awkward period of middle school, where bullying was more humor than humor itself. Obviously, she was popular, and friendly with everyone, even the people she couldn’t stand; a level of maturity that I suppose I should have tried harder to emulate.
I, contrastingly, was unbearably awful at social interaction. I had grown up in a home with unconventional communication (or the lack thereof), and it reflected heavily in the fact that I didn’t really know how to speak to people. I was brash, often somewhat rude; I had frequently gotten into trouble for my words or actions, and even if there was minimal negative impact or intention, I was considered at fault. Anger was a central part of my personality, and ‘aggressive’ was something even my friends would use to describe me. Hardened by a world that didn’t seem to want me, even if it had no particular reason for it, I never felt safe enough to be soft.
On paper, our personalities seem contradicting. Even for our teachers, who had known us for some time, it seemed absurd that we were such close friends with such clashing mentalities.
Except we weren’t all that different; at least, not on the inside. We both were…
...Intelligent. Both of us were smart kids, with a depth of knowledge and understanding that surpassed our teacher’s expectations (but never our parents), and with minds and hands that learned so quickly it was startling. The difference between us here is that while she worked to apply this intelligence outwardly, I preferred to shove mine away, trying my best to ignore whispers of wasted potential. I was lazy. Sometimes, I still am. But when I was with her, somehow, my motivation skyrocketed- maybe it was seeing her get recognition for something I had thought was impossible to get noticed for, or maybe I was internally a little jealous. She became competitive and so did I, but we were still unbelievably proud of each other, and we both pushed to excel.
...Easily bored. Bored by people, bored by school, bored by games and movies and books and anything that stayed particularly stagnant, bored by relationships we have now, bored by friends we had then. I had never tried to hide my boredom, but she did, mostly out of desire to not be cruel-- but I would be her listening ear, rants about annoying boys and pretty girls, irritating teachers and repetitive assignments. Maybe it had been through this that she felt safer to be bored, because if your best friend was bored too, you probably weren’t insane; and I felt validated, which was something I never knew could feel so good.
...Somewhat odd. I had a crush on an anime boy. She wrote a fan-fiction story about the same anime boy. It fit perfectly.
She and I connected in a way that we hadn’t been able to connect with others previously. We simultaneously brought out the worst and the best in each other, but through that, we developed positively in ways that we otherwise couldn’t. Not to be cliché, but it was a very ‘ying to yang’ situation.
I was true to myself, to the fullest extent, even if it was at the expense of others feelings, and she had always been more concerned about outside perception than authenticity. She learned to allow herself the expression she was afraid of; that even if other people weren’t pleased, her own happiness was just as important, and should be treated as such.
She cared about others, and even if she was bored or didn’t quite like them, she was selfless. I, very simply, had never considered the feelings of my peers very much. I learned that being kind wasn’t give-or-take- I didn’t lose anything by caring, and it was absolutely free to be respectful of others, regardless of my own opinions.
In retrospect, she gave me a lot more than I offered to her, and I am forever grateful for what I received. Now, ‘aggressive’ isn’t the first word used to describe me- instead, I get ‘extroverted’ and ‘social’ and occasionally ‘silly’ and ‘chaotic’, which is arguably a lot better. I’m much more social than I was before, and I’m braver, too; I can walk up to random people and talk to them like I’ve known them my entire life, which I never thought was possible. Because of her, I grew to be kinder, more caring, and a better person overall. I shiver at the thought of who I would have become had she not been thrown into my path, like some sort of divine intervention, and I can never thank the world enough.
Now, I would like to be that friend for someone else. I would like to be someone else’s inspiration for growth, someone else’s lesson of kindness, someone else’s reason to try. My middle school best friend has helped me grow so much as a person, in a way I don’t think I can ever repay, so I want to push that energy forward and back to the world, and perhaps the person after me will push it forward as well- so on and so on. There is something so beautiful about mutually inspired growth through friendship, and I implore the rest of the world to give it a shot. Make a new friend! You might learn a thing or two, and of course, you might teach them something too.