There’s something pretty incredible about a friend who knew you before you were a wife or a mom. Who knew you when you were young and naive and full of big ideas and dreams. Who knows your heart better than you do because she remembers what you’ve forgotten about yourself over time.

I found my group of forever friends in college. It began with sorority meetings and grew over time with fraternity parties, formals, tailgating at football games, and hanging out on our front porch in between classes.

It grew as we supported each other when we made dumb mistakes and when our hearts got broken.

Our college days were filled with crazy, hilarious adventures that we still laugh about today.

Then came 21st birthdays. We spent a lot of time at bars making more dumb mistakes, getting our hearts broken, and making more crazy, hilarious memories that we still laugh about today.

Then came graduations. We found ourselves with real jobs. We began meeting the ones who would become our husbands. We settled down a bit but not too much.

Then came weddings. And new homes. Career changes. Babies.

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And suddenly we came to a place we’d never imagined.

Divorce. Sick babies. Death of parents. Loss of jobs. Loss of our old selves and our old dreams.

Through it all, we’ve always held on to each other.

We go out to dinner whenever we can. We hang out together with our families. We throw birthday parties for ourselves and our kids. 

We go on date nights, and we let our husbands tag along.

We plan playdates, and we let our kids tag along.

We have text message chains that go on for days.

The last few years, we’ve gone on a trip together. It’s a getaway where we forget our responsibilities and our troubles. Where we reconnect with each other and who we were when we first met.

This year we made a rule to call each other only by our maiden names. It was hilarious and fun and good for our souls.

These are the friends who make me laugh until I cry. Until my stomach hurts. 

These are the friends who don’t allow any pretense. No judgment either. These are the only people aside from my family who’ve ever so deeply seen the real me.

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They’ve seen me at my absolute worst20 years ago and just last week. And they’ve loved me through it.

They’ve picked my crumpled, broken-hearted body up off the bathroom floor of our sorority house. They’ve wiped my tears in the bathroom stall of a bar. They’ve done my hair and my makeup and made me look and feel beautiful. They circled around me and shoved me across the dance floor to my future husband on the night we met.

They’ve talked me down from countless ledges.

They’ve celebrated my babies.

They’ve visited me in the hospital and brought dinner so I wouldn’t have to cook.

They took up residence in the back of the funeral home the day of my dad’s visitation. They didn’t expect anything out of me. They were just thereever present when I needed them, giving me strength I would never have had on my own.

They’ve hurt my feelings. They’ve broken my heart. And I’ve hurt them in return.

We’ve had rough moments. We’ve had fights. We’ve had some bad blood and tough love. We’ve exchanged harsh words. We’ve gone days, weeks, months without speaking to each other.

But thank God for forgiveness.

Somehow, someway, we’ve always found our way back to one another.

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There have been a few times when my hurt and my pride nearly caused me to lose it all. But, I just couldn’t let them go. What we have, it’s so hard to find. And impossible to replicate.

You just can’t go out and make old friends.

I thank God every day for the gift of our friendship. Our sisterhood. I know what we have is incredible and rare.

As our friendship continues to evolve, I look forward to what’s to come. I look forward to our trip next summer. I look forward to our dinners. I look forward to our conversations. I look forward to our visits down memory lane. I look forward to our crazy and hilarious adventures ahead.

I know I can handle what life throws at me because these friends of mine will be there to pick me up. To dust me off. To make me feel beautiful and accepted. To remind me of who I was. To challenge me to become all I should be. To dare me to remember my old dreams. And to keep dreaming new ones. To laugh with me and at me (all in good fun).

To love me through whatever comes next.

There’s something special about a friend who knew you before you were a wife or a mother. Something special about a friendship that spans more than two decades. If you have one, hang on tight and never let go. Hold on forever.

Leanne Willen

Leanne Willen is a wife, mother of four, writer, and teacher. She writes about motherhood, faith, finding joy, and grief. Her blog Life Happens When encourages and challenges others (and herself) to embrace the ordinary amid the everyday chaos of life.