• February 14, 2020 |

    to all the friends i’ve loved before

    a series of letters on capital-L Love

    article by , illustrated by

    To All the Friends I’ve Loved Before,

    I’m not exactly sure how to begin this letter—just like I’m not exactly sure how or why or even when we became “friends.” Was there ever an aha moment, some sort of benchmark we passed before settling into the safe shelter we now enjoy? Did you each make a conscious decision to love and keep loving? Because I can’t remember if I did.

    Maybe it started 14 years ago, when we cooked up “mud pancakes” and I made fun of you for not spelling “spaghetti” correctly (really sorry about that, by the way). Maybe it was the first sleepover, the first crush, the second crush, the more-than-just-a-crush. Maybe it was our silly conversations about burning cherries, or perhaps our more serious ones about God.

    Was it weathering the horrible high school teachers or sneakily playing unblocked computer games? The songs we belted on the bus or the stomach butterflies before our sprint competitions (oorah, Pacifica)? Cooking street tacos together or posing for pictures on rollercoasters?

    I could be wrong, but I think the sticky Beijing heat plastered us together. The shared Pepto-Bismol pills and the vomit by the side of the road made us laugh and let loose. Maybe it was when we prayed over our steaming bowls of mǎlātáng, or maybe it was the panicked video call at 10 p.m., me asking you for help boarding the bus because I didn’t understand Chinese well enough.

    Or was it the late night “sad boy hours” in our dorm’s dingy common room? The many sticky notes we left on each other’s desks? Hours of conversation over Andrews poké bowls? Falling asleep literally everywhere, crying on the bus on the way back from church, eating too much ramen, answering NYT’s “36 Questions That Lead to Love,” karaoking ’til night’s end, walking to the Nelson for our 7 a.m. “Astronaut Training”…

    ♥️ ♥️ ♥️

    To All the Friends I’ve Loved Before,

    Thank you for granting me such precious snippets of time, ones I know are fully mine because I can pause and play and repeat them whenever I want. Thank you for holding me in your arms when I felt like I didn’t belong, for reminding me that I’m never alone. You metamorphosed from “what-was-your-name-again” to “are-you-free-I-need-to-talk.” You are the best cheerleaders any human being could ever ask for. 

    Thank you for not obsessing over commitment, for a kindness that runs deeper than a stranger’s politeness, for your spontaneity and intentionality and forgiveness. You’ve taught me that friendship is both beauty and brokenness. Thank you for being people I can come back to, think about, and be grateful for—even if we don’t talk as much as we used to. You’ve taught me that life has its seasons, and sometimes the leaves that fall don’t grow back. That’s okay, though. The tree still stands.

    In short, thank you for being complicated and simple all at once, for not having a precise beginning and ending. You have managed to outstrip linear time in the same way you have outstripped age and physicality and distance. If only we approached romantic love like we approach each other, right? Cool and calm and casual.

    “Cupid is in the air” is just another way of saying “lonely college kids wishing for a four-letter feeling,” because when you’re 18-23, Valentine’s Day is a reminder that “you should just shoot your shot.” But let’s be honest here: You taught me that every day is a shot at capital-L Love. 

    Ours is a romance of comradery, constancy, trust—which I’d venture to say is the best kind there is. Maybe we shouldn’t approach this Valentine’s Day kind of “love” any differently at all. 

    ♥️ ♥️ ♥️

    To All the Friends I’ve Loved Before,

    It makes me kind of sad to think that you all don’t know each other, because you would really just hit it off and then we’d be a glittering plexus of friendships on friendships. But see, you’ve taught me this too: It’s okay to not have everything at once, it’s okay to be silent for a while—you’re not going anywhere. We might not work at some point, but that’s fine, too; we’ll just slip into something softer then. We can move on, even if it stings at first, and we can make friends with other people in other places without ever breaking the integrity and the depth of what we had. 

    For now, I’ll just be grateful for the things you do with me—for accompanying me to go rock climbing late at night, for planning the best “surprise” birthday party ever, for blocking off some of your Google Calendar to enjoy a Ratty brunch with me. Thank you for FaceTiming despite the three-hour (or 16-hour) time difference, for reading every word of my poetry, for sending over song recommendations and giving me laptop stickers and asking me how my week was. It’s crazy that we’ve come this far. 

    And I earnestly hope we go even further, but I won’t push or pressure you into it. It’s okay if we don’t work out at some point, even if that hurts for a while. Friendship is more than just expectation, and you are worth more to me than my pride—worth more than my need to feel needed.

    ♥️ ♥️ ♥️

    To All the Friends I’ve Loved Before, 

    I loved you before and I love you now and I probably won’t ever stop loving you, because that’s how real capital-L Love works. Whatever happens, just know that you are as eternal as the memories we’ve made together. I’m sorry if I don’t tell you that enough.

    ♥️ ♥️ ♥️

    To All the Friends I’ve Loved Before,

    My love for you is not like a rose, because the majority of roses end up at either Walgreens or Costco and are sniffed relentlessly by the general population. My love for you is not like the ocean, either—because, geez, pollution.

    No, my love for you is like this letter, which, even if forgotten, will always exist in some deep dark corner of the internet. 

    Just kidding. You know I love you more than Google loves big data. You’re tucked into a corner of my heart, which is to say, forever. I hope you know that.

    Much Love (and I mean the capital-L kind),