It’s weird how friendship changes over the years. Friendship in second grade looks nothing like high school friendship, and college friendship looks nothing like friendship now that I’m a mom. Sometimes friendships grow with us, and sometimes they don’t.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found my footing in who I am and who I can truly count on, and if I’ve learned anything since the days of second grade friendship, it’s that the friends who stick with you when things get rough are the ones to be valued. These are our always friends, the ones who are there no matter what.

It doesn’t matter the time of day or the distance between us, our always friends are there with a warm embrace, a spirited pep talk, or to sing Shoop by Salt n’ Peppa in its entirety. There are no walls between always friends, no judgement or dishonesty, just unwavering love and support. We own our messiness, our weaknesses and our strengths, and we empower each other to succeed—always. My always friends are the ones who pull me back down to reality when my anxiety gets the best of me. When I’m my own worst critic, they show me what is real. They see me for everything I am and everything I can be.

Some of my always friends are family by blood, and some of them are family I’ve hand-picked along the way. Because let’s be honest, our always people are our family, even when they’re not. I never worry what they will think of me. I’m not scared to admit my fears or my mistakes, because I know they will help me navigate the rough waters of life.

Our relationship brings me more love and joy than I ever imagined a friendship could. In fact, it’s not a friendship at all, it’s something far beyond that. It’s more like a piece of my soul residing in another body. Seems deep, I know, but it’s true. My always friends get me in way that’s hard to describe. I don’t really need words or explanations, because they already know my heart. They know the light parts and the dark parts. The parts I never show anyone else, because fear, shame, or vulnerability. On my best days, and especially on my worst, I turn to them. They know every success and every failure. We’ve shared tears of every variety—sad tears, angry tears, tears of laughter and tears because I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHY I’M CRYING! (Those are some of the best ones.)

I wanted to give you an example of this, but when I type it out, it all seems so trivial. Is it miraculous that I have a person I text every day, even when it’s just a random thought or a funny observation? Someone who understands why it’s so amazing when I find a candle that smells like 1997, or randomly quotes lines from Steel Magnolias with me? Is it unusual that after my husband (sometimes before!) these are the first people I share my life with? That we’ve texted in the middle of the night, because we were both up with babies, sick kids, or anxiety-induced insomnia?

Well actually, yeah, it is.

Individually, these things might not seem all that impressive. Even when you stack them all together they may not mean much to anyone else, but to me, my always friends are my rock. Without them, a piece of my heart would be missing, because without them I wouldn’t be the person I am today, and for them I will always be grateful.

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Jorrie Varney

Jorrie is a registered nurse and mother of two. She writes about the reality and insanity of motherhood on her blog Jorrie loves to laugh and snuggle her babies as often as she can. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.