“Best friend is not a person, Danny; it’s a tier.” – Mindy Kaling
Maybe it’s the spring weather, maybe it’s Derby season and all the thoughts of home it brings, but Zelda and I have both come to a startling realization lately: We like it here. Proud Southern ladies that we are, we find ourselves *gasp* happy, living in this smoggy, smelly, sleepless city. We never thought this would be. Is it home? I don’t know, but possibly. Zelda waxed poetic last week about her roof and her life here, which brought us to a conversation about home. For me, my acceptance of New York as home, or at least a home, came because I’ve realized how hard it would be to leave it. Six months to a year into my time here, I thought I would be able to just pack up and go…somewhere, anywhere, else. But now, leaving would be so difficult — not really because of the place specifically, but the people I’ve met here.
Making friends as an adult is weird. Unlike childhood or college days, for the most part, these are people you have to actively choose to spend your time with, and in New York when it takes an hour to get pretty much anywhere, time is a commodity. I only schlep my ass from Bushwick to Ditmas Park (or, god forbid, Queens), for certain people. I have trouble leaving my bedroom to go to the refrigerator: Cross-borough commuting means real commitment.
When you’re in school, you meet people and become friends because you are constantly in the same place and going through the same things. Your social network is built in, a buffet of potential pals from which you can pick and choose. But when you enter the real world and are left without much of a structure or built-in cohort, making your friends becomes strange. It’s hard and it requires effort, and on top of that, staying in touch with the friends you’ve already made after you left the hallowed halls of the educational institution of your choice requires even more effort. Even though we live in the same city, Zelda and I see each other a lot less than we did in high school, and we came up with this blog scheme in part to force ourselves into seeing each other on a regular basis (not that we wouldn’t otherwise, but it definitely helps to have a shared project). My best friend from college and I live together, and we still don’t see each other that much. But at least with those old friends, you have a foundation to work off of; you can go lengths of time without contact and still pick up right where you left off, because you’ve got deep roots. New friends, adult friends, New York friends are harder, because you’ve got to somehow build a relationship without forced proximity or a shared activity to hold the foundation of your friendship together.
I made my first friend in New York sitting at a beer bar a few blocks away from my first tiny apartment in Alphabet City. The bar itself had just opened, and I had already made it my local spot. On the night in question, there was one other girl at the bar (not uncommon at places that served craft beer three and half years ago; I’m happy to say ratios have since improved). We were both at least two or three beers in, and both there often enough to know the bartender; he introduced us and we hit it off, exchanged numbers, and intended to hangout. We didn’t.
I have so many numbers in my phone of people I’ve met once (usually at a bar) and never actually got up the nerve to text. However, I found myself in that same bar six or so months later (on the same stool I’d been on once a week for those six months), slightly inebriated and chatting to a super cool girl, with a strange sense of déjà vu. We went to exchange numbers only to find that we were already in each other’s phones. We had a good laugh about how we must have been pretty drunk last time if neither of us recalled meeting the other. But that second meeting was enough to force us to put some actual effort into the friendship.
That girl is now one of my best friends in New York. We hang out whenever we can, even if it only ends up being once a month or so. She got me the job that got me through six months of post-grad school life. I saw her transition out of a career she hated to one she loves. Plus, she’s my favorite drinking buddy. But it took our meeting twice, six months apart, to get there. In this stage of life, in this chosen city, sometimes you have to meet someone multiple times before you actually decide to make a go at the whole friendship thing.
I was sitting at a bar in Midtown sipping on old fashioned when I had the strange, sudden realization that the guy I was drinking with (and also his fiancée, also known as Jason and Sarah) had somehow become one of my best friends. Without my even realizing it, our friendship had reached a level where his leaving town for a couple of weeks motivated me to drag myself to Midtown to get a drink in a bar full of finance bros with him (a sacrifice both of us made for this friendship). This was the first time the concept really struck me as strange. I made a friend, as a mid-twenties adult, and now I’m in that friend’s wedding and comfortable enough to pass out on their floor. The more I examined it, the more I realized that these were the friends that made New York home. The people I’ve met here, the people I’ve chosen here, new and old, are the ones that will make it hard for me to inevitably leave (someday, not in the near future). And because of them, I can’t imagine going right now.
Last night I attended a goodbye party for a friend I made at my last job, a work friend that had I been there longer might have become closer. She was packing up and moving to Boston with the intent of starting a family. And while obviously she was excited and happy about it, it kind of terrified me. This place, these people, are what home is for me now. It’s marathoning something amazing or terrible while sprawled out on Jason and Sarah’s massive couch, it’s grabbing drinks or dinner with Krista, it’s dancing in the kitchen with Jennifer, it’s going to concerts and plays and watching DCOM’s with Katie, it’s shooting the shit and playing Werewolf at Andrew and Ellen’s, it’s watching British panel shows and playing board games with Stephanie, it’s making fun of our dog with Claire. It’s these people that I’m not going to be able to wrap up and take with me, even if I wish I could. These are my people: my best friends. I add them to the long list that I’ve collected over the years — in Louisville, Baltimore, Prague, and Brevard. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can only have one, because in the wise words of Mindy Kaling, best friend is not a person: It’s a tier, and it’s home.