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Senior column: A love letter to my best friend

Photo via Ellie Hawkins.

Platonic love is something that’s never really come easily to me.

In my grade school years, it always felt like I was competing with boys, puberty or the newfound love for gossip in my friendships. In college, it always felt like we were competing with one another. The constant pressure of whose life was harder, clashing lifestyles and differing beliefs always prevented me from forming a deeper connection with another person.

It seemed so easy for everyone else, and I began to wonder why I was the only one who couldn’t make any real friends. I latched on to anyone who would care about me, whether it was platonic or romantic, and as a result, I got my heart broken many, many times.

I thought maybe I was just meant to be someone who kept to herself, and that all of these relationships I had with people that clearly weren’t right for me were just happening because I wasn’t meant to have real connections.

College is about learning. Whether it be learning how to give a speech, learning basic math, learning how to write a five-page essay in an hour or learning how to live life on your own terms, the personal progression you make from freshman to senior year is undeniable.

Although I’m glad to know AP Style like the back of my hand, the way I learned to look at relationships is what I’m most thankful for.

Ellie (left) laughs with her friend Kristina (right). Photo via Ellie Hawkins.

I met Kristina the first day we moved into our dorms. I vividly remember looking around at our Harper third floor meeting and noticing the girl with the eye tattoo on the back of her neck amongst the rest of the girls on our floor and thinking to myself, “Wow, these are the people I have to choose from to spend my college years with, huh?”

As the year went on, we talked occasionally while living our separate lives. She joined a sorority, got a boyfriend in a fraternity and, in turn, spent most of her time with him. I got really close with my current roommate and occasionally heard people talking about what was happening between Kristina and the other girls on our floor.

Truthfully, I really didn’t like her all that much that year. Her lifestyle didn’t match mine, and I continually heard awful things about her from the people she was friends with.

As I began to lose touch with the girls that told me these things, I began to realize I likely wasn’t getting the whole story.

We both ended our freshman years with very few friends and even fewer meaningful relationships. As sophomore year began, it felt like we both were completely starting over.

Due to the light friendship she had with one of my distant friends, we began to slowly spend more time together before we, along with two other girls, signed a lease on a house for the following year.

The pandemic didn’t give us much time together before we moved in, and it was then that I realized she and I actually had a lot in common. We both loved cats, needed our alone time and looked at life in similar ways.

Despite this revelation, we still weren’t ready for each other. We continuously lied to each other, weren’t there for one another and even hated each other for a significant portion of our junior year. I remember thinking to myself, “Well, if I can’t make it work with her, I won’t make it work with anyone.”

In the fall semester of my junior year, I studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. The seven-hour time difference made pretty much every relationship in my life difficult, but I never could’ve possibly predicted it would produce such a deep love between the two of us.

During this time, we both were experiencing some of the lowest points of our lives, and her night-owl tendencies combined with my early-bird body clock gave us the perfect one-to-two-hour time frame every day to talk about it. Before we knew it, we were telling each other every single aspect of our days through video, voice memos and excessive texts. We even began discussing where we could move together after graduation.

A lot of life has happened since I’ve been back in the States, and almost every part of it has been shared with Kristina. From “Gilmore Girls” on the couch on Friday nights, to shared beverages on the porch on random afternoons, to making fools of ourselves at Crusens after putting Kilby Girl on the Touchtunes (many, many times), to unexplained feelings of dread and depression and fear, we somehow became an essential part of each other’s lives.

We’ve made jokes about being like a married couple, but it’s become more and more apparent to us both that our love really is quite the same as one. Kristina bought me flowers when I got my first job offer, I shop for her and buy things I think she’ll like each time I’m at the store, we both pick up the slack on cleaning when the other is busy, we respect each other’s space and are just as overjoyed for one another when one of us succeeds as if it were happening to ourselves.

Recently, Kristina and I took a walk together and somehow began discussing our pasts and how we each used to view one another. We uncovered that we both realized the same thing: neither of us were ready for one another or the love that we now share. We had to understand ourselves before we could understand one another properly.

With Kristina, there’s no pretending, competition or hostility — there’s just love. She’s who I had to go through everything I’ve been through to find and who makes all of the pain and confusion of my past worth it. While I’ve made many forever friends in college, she is my soulmate.

Kristina, I love you. Thank you for showing me I’m capable of this kind of love.

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