The Letter That Changed My Life

The Letter That Changed My Life

I spent the first 12 years of my life as a valley girl. I lived only a few blocks from the beach in central California. I had naturally bronze skin, naturally bleach-blonde hair, and – like – totally talked – like – I was – like – a valley girl. Watching home videos is painful for me.

The summer before I turned 13, we moved from our home on in Grover Beach (though it was Grover City when I lived there. Random fact.) to a tiny apartment in Powell, Wyoming.

It was the worst summer of my life.

It hailed. I had never seen hail before. And it would hail while the sun was still shining. It was the craziest weather I ever witnessed. I made two friends. My sister and I shared a room with bunk beds, and I grew pretty sick of hanging out with her. Both parents were gone to work every day. And when they were home, they argued. That summer was tough on everybody.

I missed my own room, I missed the beach, and I missed my friends. Especially my best friend.

Thankfully, we kept in touch through letters and phone calls. “Rose” as I’ll call her, was my saving grace. When I knew it was her on the other end of the line, nothing else mattered. She got me. She’d always get me.

Until the day she wouldn’t.

I’ll never forget getting her letter. I tore it open to read the latest goings on. What I read instead was a break up letter.

I never got a definitive answer as to why, but I distinctly remember the phrase, “I will always look back on our friendship with nostalgia.” Just like that, for the cost of a 29 cent postage stamp, my best friend became “someone I used to know.” The longest relationship I ever had was nothing more than memory. A vapor. Poof.

I was devastated. Crushed. Rose, my best friend, had now become a painful thorn in my memory bank. Not only was I struggling to make new friends, but my old ones didn’t want anything to do with me. For 13 year old Val, that was brutal. I’ve never liked the word “nostalgia”.

Thrust into the pits of loneliness, I had to make my new friendships really count, and I had to find more friends. Eighth grade was tough. I hated being the new kid in town. With gigantic glasses and an even bigger fro, it wasn’t easy.

I built a wall few people found their way over. Born a social butterfly, I suddenly tried to make a bigger, stronger, impenetrable cocoon.

In one of my most vulnerable, confidence-lacking moments, I gained a new best friend: Tiff (or Tigger, as I affectionately called her). She even had (has) huge hair like me.

Not only did I have a new best friend, but I began to develop several meaningful and long-lasting relationships. My 20 year reunion (in three years….is that right? It can’t have been that long…) will be full of hugs and high fives from some of the dearest people on the planet.

Tiff & Val

I tend to be a hoarder of relationships – I don’t want to let any of them go. Even if I have to keep them at the furthest arm’s-length distance possible, I can’t ever quite cut ties. I never understood how people could be so comfortable parting ways with other people. “Rose” was the first of many painful breakups for me. After Rose left my life, and after others bypassed the door that continued to my future, it stung.

As intense a sting any of them may have been, the pain hasn’t lasted forever.

I came into better relationships. I found my husband after my heart had been trampled on by a few former suitors. Tiff and I have a friendship that spans over 20 years, and 700 miles. I’m a lousy friend, but she loves me anyway.

Here in North Dakota, it took a long (l-o-n-g) time to connect with anyone on a real meaningful level. Now, especially after everything we’ve been through, I know we are genuinely loved and supported no matter what. At any given time, I could call a long list of people and know these midwesterners would give me everything they had to make sure I was taken care of.

I have the best people.

I’m glad Rose was brave enough to let me go. Maybe she looks back on our elementary friendship with nostalgia, or maybe she never thinks about me another day in her life. More importantly, I’m glad for the deep, nurturing relationships I have today.

Whatever you’re up against in relationships – know it’s a struggle for everyone. Life changes. People change. Some of us are revolving doors, and some of us use revolving doors. It’s not necessarily right or wrong. It’s life. Be encouraged.

But just know if any of you break up with me, I’ll have to blog about you.