I met my best friend while dating my ex-boyfriend. She was dating his best friend. To make a long and complicated story short, we ditched the guys and embraced ourselves as the soul sisters we were meant to be.
Growing up, my dad always told me the people you hang around with are a reflection of yourself. When applied to my relationship with my best friend, I thought this was painstakingly accurate.
We're both loud and eccentric. You'll know when we've entered a room. Our laughs dance around the walls and echo in every nook and cranny. We like to talk to people, hear their stories and feel their emotions.
We have trouble saying no. FOMO is our guidance in most situations, leading us to burn the candle at both ends. We're on a quest to love ourselves more than anyone, and the mere thought of marriage and kids is our own personal hell.
Well, that was the case until she met her current boyfriend. He's a mellow dude with a seemingly solid head on his shoulders. Now she wants to get married, and maybe even have kids with this guy.
This is cool with me. I'm not some territorial, controlling best friend. Do you, girl. Find your happiness.
Except, my best friend is a serial cheater. She cheated on her first boyfriend. She cheated on her second. Now, she's cheating on her third. (Who knows? Maybe third time's a charm.)
When she revealed her recent fling to me, I said, “But don't you wanna marry this guy?”
Now, I don't love her any less or think she's a bad person. The first lesson I learned from her is to provide unconditional love when it's needed most. We're all fighting our own inner battles, and I believe in coexisting to make life a little easier.
I don't mind what she does; it is her life, after all. I don't think it's a reflection of who she is. Or maybe I do, but not within the traditional stereotype of a cheater.
You see, my best friend is full of love and affection. She always wants to help those in need. She's the first person I call when I f*ck up. She's neither shady nor unreliable. She's brutally honest.
She puts everyone else first, like the time I was attacked by a pit bull. The dog tore my right foot up. I couldn't work, and I couldn't drive. She adjusted her work schedule to my needs.
When I was completely immobile and lacking independence, my best friend was there, pushing me in a wheelchair or cheering me on in a leather jacket and heinous knee-high padded boots.
For all these reasons, I tried to wrap my head around why she is a serial cheater. I'd like to think someone who cheats isn't a good human being, right?
The thing is, her heart is good. I know she never intends to cause pain. So, why does she do this to herself and her partners?
I've watched her cry. I can't tell you how many times I've heard, “What is wrong with me?”
One night, I couldn't sleep. My logic stopped making sense. I tossed for hours trying to understand, trying to learn. In the wee hours of the morning, I realized something.
Single, she is why the caged bird sings. This is because she is unapologetically and unknowingly her truest self. Taken, she becomes the singing caged bird. She sings because she must and because she has to.
Her serial cheating episodes have disrupted my stereotype of a cheater. Knowing her character, personality and most of all, her heart, I feel what is “wrong” with my best friend is not wrong at all.
It's the burden of a lost soul. The thing about lost souls is there's always something missing. They always find something close to what they want or need, but never quite "it." I know this because I'm a lost soul, trying to figure out what it is I truly need and want.
I learned our most significant difference is I give myself a space to grow and explore who I want to be and what I want to do. Instead, my best friend loses herself in relationships.
Her world becomes her partner. Instead of sharing a life, they become each other's life. In this sacrifice, her very essence is tamed.
The hardest lesson I learned from this was my best friend doesn't see herself as the bright light she is. I learned no matter how much you love someone, you can't make her love herself. All you can do is continue to encourage self-love.
A relationship like that isn't always the most constructive for self-growth or self-love. She needs less, or maybe more. She needs something open and free, so she can be in her natural, wild state.
My best friend simply does not know she is this free spirit. Or maybe, she does and she's afraid. It's a totally legitimate, relatable fear. Being alone and getting to know yourself is tough.
It was in these early morning moments I learned to talk to myself. I learned to mindfully listen to how I feel, to understand my instincts. I learned to relish in my time and cherish my own company. I learned our actions become consequences, and the two add up to a lifetime.
At the end of the day, I learned you can only live a true, good life if you listen to what your mind whispers between your heartbeats. Be the reason why the caged bird sings.