The thing they don’t tell you about boarding school friendships is that they come to an end, eventually.
They’re right when they say your friends will be more like siblings than classmates; they’re right when they say you get to know people in a special way by living with them; and they’re right when they say these friendships will change your life.
They just leave out the part about it all crashing to an end.
For me, the end came around 6 a.m. the day after graduation. My boarding school was in a small mountain-town in Germany, and we spent graduation night wandering both around town and through the nearby hills of the Black Forest. At 6 a.m. we gathered for breakfast, final hugs, and good-byes.
I didn’t think that would be the end. Yet it was, all the same.
The girls I shared a dorm with were closer than best friends during high school. They were pseudo-sisters, the ones I never had growing up. We shared everything, from meals to a bathroom to classes to curfew to crushes to mega fights. We had moments of closeness and hilarity followed by arguments and tiffs over the slightest things. We lived and we loved and we laughed together in our house with the blue shutters on the hill.
If I close my eyes I go back to that place with those girls who had such a hold on my heart that I wouldn’t leave them even if it meant freeing myself from a toxic relationship with our dorm mom. If I close my eyes I can hear the laughter, feel the cold seeping through the old walls; I can hear the creak of the stairs up the two stories to our rooms; I can feel the squishiness of the bean bag in the telephone booth where we crafted nicknames for cute boys; I can taste the Nutella we ate on toast when the dorm food wasn’t palatable; I can re-experience every moment of unadulterated joy and pure life I experienced with those friends.
I thought we were forever. I didn’t care that graduation would fling us to the four corners of America and that, unlike traditionally schooled people, we didn’t have a home base in common to return to.
We were from Italy, Venezuela, Spain, South Korea, the Middle East, Kyrgyzstan, Niger, Germany. We were heading to Kentucky, Tennessee, Colorado, Washington State. We were from everywhere and we were going everywhere.
We trickled out into the world from the comfort of our school and put down roots in various places and that was the end.
We remain friends on Facebook; we sometimes write letters or private messages; I’ve even met up in person with a few of my girls. But for the most part, it ended.
These were friendships that defined my high school years. And what no one told me was that they would end.
And that it would be OK. On one hand, I mourn their loss; on the other, I celebrate the years we had together and I know that I can’t carry everyone with me into my future. There simply isn’t space.
I carry them in my heart, though, and in the memories of the house on the hill and the laughter that filled it.