I sat next to my best friend on her queen-sized bed, surrounded by a mass of pillows, doing what best friends do best: heart-to-hearts.
“As painful as it was, losing that friendship wouldn’t have mattered if you hadn’t learned anything,” she said, and her words stuck. We were rehashing the loss of one of my closest friendships. My best guy friend (let’s call him David), who, in the course of our three-year friendship, I realized I was in love with. Naturally, we laid out the details like a deck of cards: What had gone wrong, the mistakes that were made on both sides, the scars it had left, what I learned from it, and mostly, how I was planning to let go and move on.
I had done the unthinkable. I had written an emotional note to David ending our friendship, and to top it off, I sent a text, too—a text saying I couldn’t be friends anymore. The emotional, disgruntled note came later when I felt the need to explain my text. (A note, might I add, that was written while I was slightly tipsy.) On the list of things I highly warn against are drunken notes along with texts, smoke signals, or communication of any kind, to be honest, in the state I was in emotionally.
Let’s rewind to 2016—when I realized that I had feelings for my best friend. After three years of a great friendship—of long phone calls, of making fun of each other, of seeing each other at our worst, of challenging each other to grow, of rooting for each other, of me calling him to come to save me—I realized I was in love, and it scared the crap out of me. What scared me was that I knew how I felt and what he meant to me, and I knew that if I had to choose, I’d always pick him. It was the feeling that I felt like only older, more mature couples talked about: the “when you know, you know” feeling.
You did read correctly that it took me three years to realize I was in love with someone, and yes, I know that’s a really long time. I sat on my newfound knowledge of my feelings for a month, hoping I could will them away. I didn’t want to be in love with my best guy friend because I was afraid of losing him, but even more so, I was afraid of being rejected.
So, what did I do? I stuffed those emotions deep, deep down in a dark tunnel so no one could find them. I worked out to avoid feeling. I worked more hours to avoid emotions. I slept to avoid emotions. I shopped to avoid emotions. And guess what? The feelings were still there.
Being honest about your emotions and being vulnerable won’t destroy you. In fact, it’ll only make you stronger.
Amid my attempt to avoid reality, a friend gave me some words of wisdom. She told me that perhaps the first step was to acknowledge what it was. I had been running, stuffing, and avoiding for so long that coming to terms with how I felt seemed impossible. But as we sat, talked, and sipped coffee, my heart began to ease, and my lips finally released the words that I had been holding captive: I was in love with him.
“Being honest about your emotions and being vulnerable won’t destroy you. In fact, it’ll only make you stronger.”
So, on one crisp, clear Los Angeles night with a glass of wine in hand, I took my phone to my apartment’s deck and made the call. With shaky hands and a trembling voice, I said the words that I had been trying so hard to bury: I have feelings for you.
Fast forward to the present day: The love that I expressed to my best guy friend turned out to be unrequited. He told me that while he had felt the same way before, he didn’t think we were a good fit. It was my biggest fear coming true in real-time, falling in love with someone only for it not to be reciprocated. I felt embarrassed; I felt confused; I felt exposed; I felt stupid; I was hurt.
We tried going back to being close friends like we had always been, but it didn’t happen that way. The phone calls stopped, and the witty texts stopped filling my inbox. We saw each other once more in 2016 when we both were visiting home, but my heart wasn’t ready. I thought I could be his friend again, but I was still hurting. So, when I got back after my trip, I sent him a text and said I couldn’t handle being his friend right now. He sent me a thumbs-up emoji, and we haven’t spoken since.
But guess, what? I’m still here. Being honest about my emotions and vulnerable about the fact that I fell in love with my best friend didn’t kill me. While it was awfully uncomfortable, I am still here, and it was relieving to just be honest with him. It was like releasing pressure from a balloon.
I fell in love with my best friend, and that love was not reciprocated. OK. That’s what it is, but knowing that fact doesn’t destroy me. It most certainly hurts like all hell, but the loss of love always hurts.
Years later, I surely don’t have all the answers. I still miss David at times. I wonder why he didn’t feel the same or why he didn’t choose me, but I miss our friendship the most. There are so many things over the years that I’d like to share with him: my job layoff, my freelance career, my crazy roommate stories, my trip to Italy, and my half marathon, to name a few. Yet, when I find myself on the train of thought headed to the past for too long, I kindly take my ticket and head to the exit door.
I know now that I am enough, with or without this person. Just because one guy didn’t pick me, it doesn’t mean I am unworthy of love or not good enough. I am enough, just as I am.
I know now that I am enough, with or without this person. Just because one guy didn’t pick me, it doesn’t mean I am unworthy of love or not good enough.
I am finding that part of being an adult and an overall emotionally healthy human being means allowing yourself to be real and vulnerable. While there are a lot of things I would go back and do differently when I fell in love with my best friend, I am proud of myself for having the courage to be vulnerable. I am proud of myself for voicing my feelings. I am even proud of myself for saying I wasn’t ready to be friends yet because I truly wasn’t. I know now that that’s OK. I only wish I would have had that conversation in person and not sent a text because it did deserve more care, and so did he.
Yet, I can show myself grace because I had some growing to do, as we are all in process, imperfect human beings. That year, I was a hot mess in more ways than one—I didn’t value myself or my voice. The following year saw a lot of growth, and boy, was it painful. I grew to be more confident in my talents and gifts, I came to get to know and actually like the woman I saw staring back at me in the mirror, and I learned to say no, to set boundaries with other people, and to make self-care a priority. The year after that allowed me to put those lessons into action, and I gained a thicker skin. Looking forward to the future, I know I can only go up from here.