Having had the same best friend for 15 years, one writer reflects on why finding your friendship soulmate at an early age can be one of the best things you’ll ever do.
I met her for the first time when I was 10, about to turn 11. It was both of our first taster days at a new school, and while I was bold and brash – much to everybody’s annoyance, no doubt – she was bashful, dressed in a horse fleece and a pair of flared jeans, which I mentally derided at the time.
A diary entry I wrote that evening tells me, “There was a girl called Isobel who sat with us and she was very quiet.” For the first year, she lapped the periphery of my friendship circle but never quite managed to pierce it, as the two of us scoped and sized each other up from the sidelines. She kept her friends close, and I did mine.
Typically, I’d clung to best friends that were more like me, yet here was this girl with a tiny blonde fringe and an array of comfy clothes that made me wrinkle my nose. She was well-behaved, bashful, stoic even. As the more frivolous and fanciful friends peeled away from the circle with age, it was Isobel I realised who’d stayed put, whose face was still there when everybody else’s had gone.
Fifteen years, four heartbreaks, eight house moves, fifteen holidays and a million laughs later and Isobel is the closest thing I have to a sister, having ridden out each and every one of the storms by my side. She is, without a shadow of a doubt, the one constant that I have always had in my life, and will always have.
I’ve fallen in and out of love like it’s a cheap dive bar, I’ve mindlessly stumbled into relationships that have been as glaringly dangerous as a tacky side-of-the-motorway hotel sign, and I’ve had my heart broken so badly I wasn’t ever sure it could be pieced back together. But in each instance, Isobel was the person that scooped me and the fragmented pieces of myself up, and gently sat by my side as I pieced the jigsaw of me back together.
The Oxford dictionary describes a ‘soul mate’ as “someone who you have a special relationship with and who you know and love very much.” While many may mine for a soulmate in a romantic partner, Isobel and I have always said that we were lucky to find ours so young. Not everybody gets a lifetime to live with theirs.
Recent research commissioned by Sky Comedy and Now TV has found that Isobel and I aren’t alone. 40% of women believe their best friend is their soulmate, and over a third admitted to having found theirs by the age of 16, figures that were released following the premiere of And Just Like That, which depicts a trio of friends who have loved each other unwaveringly for years.
As the inimitable bell hooks once so sagely wrote: “Love is a combination of care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect and trust”, and nobody is better poised to give that than a human who has known, loved and grown alongside you for the better part of a decade.
Just as with any relationship in life, our friendship hasn’t always been easy and there have been moments that have felt as though we’re both stuck in quicksand that’s sucking us and our friendship into its treacly midst. But our love for each other, and for the institution of a friendship that we’ve built brick by brick over the years, provided a rope that saved us and the downs have only made the ups more euphoric.
She held my hand when I had my first heartbreak, she held my hair when I had my first hangover and she was by my side at my graduation, alongside both of my parents. We have our own lives, our own careers and our own dreams now as we flower into the women we were always destined to become, but one thing is as certain as sunrise: our love for each other.
Here’s to finding soulmates in the most unconventional of places and periods, and holding onto them for a lifetime.
Images: courtesy of writer.