There are 153 days until the day I’ll have been waiting seven years for.
There are 4,000 miles separating us, the stars the only thing linking us together.
I met my best friend on the internet, Tumblr to be exact. Her name is Aisling, pronounced “Ash-ling.” Ash for short.
The main issue people have with internet friendships is the uncertainty behind them. A question I’ve gotten too many times to count is, “What if she’s not who she says she is?” Another one is “How do you know you’re friends with someone if you’ve never met them?”
My answer every time is that internet friendships can be just as valid as friendships you have with people you see every day.
We met in a fan group for One Direction — cringey, I know. We exchanged Snapchats, and our first conversation was her asking if I liked the red shorts she was going to wear on a field trip to an amusement park the next day. It was mindless, really.
I had no idea at 12 years old that this strange girl from Northeast London would become one of the few constants throughout the next seven years of my life.
Soon after meeting, we were FaceTiming weekly. I texted her every day about mindless things that happened throughout my day. We made countless vlogs for each other in an attempt to make it feel like we were really there with one another. We sent each other packages full of candy and old clothes we didn’t wear anymore, again just to make it feel like we really existed together in the same physical location.
The best part about it all is that none of this feels abnormal or weird to me. Ash has been part of all the major events in my life the past seven years, more than I can say about other people who I see daily.
When I began to question my sexuality, I called her. She reassured me that I was valid in my emotions and that I wasn’t weird or gross. I felt more comfortable going to her than my other friends in school.
When I got my heart broken for the first time, I called her. She yelled at me and convinced me to make ultimately the best decision I’d ever make: to not go back to the relationship even though it seemed easier.
My friends at home were often indifferent to what was actually best for me, and instead responded “Do whatever makes you happiest.”
When I got into Ball State on scholarship, I called her. We cried together on FaceTime as she told me how proud of me she was. She never went to university and could not articulate how happy she was that I was going to continue my education, on scholarship no less.
From Ash, I have learned what true love is. I have learned how to forgive and be forgiven. I have learned how to accept tough love as well as accept myself. I have learned strength, trust and resilience beyond comprehension.
Sure, the people we encounter physically everyday mean something. But many friendships are just friendships of proximity. You are around them everyday, so you may as well make it an enjoyable time. I love the people I see everyday, but there is definitely some truth to the phrase “Distance makes the heart grow fonder.”
We shouldn’t still be friends. We have defied everything in terms of relationships and friendships. Normal people like her and I don’t just meet by accident. I firmly believe we were brought into each other’s lives on purpose. The stars perfectly aligned to bring me my best friend.
My best friend, the girl whose accent I’d pick up after a four hour long FaceTime conversation. The girl I call in times of crisis, in times of laughter, in times of joy and in times of hardship. The strongest girl I have ever met.
The girl I used to look up plane tickets with for hours on end, fantasizing about what we’d do if we ever met. The girl I used to dream of visiting in London someday, convincing myself it was only a dream that would never come true.
But it’s coming true, it’s coming true in June. It doesn’t seem real, and I’m sure when she sits right next to me in the flesh it won’t seem real either. That doesn’t mean our friendship hasn’t been genuine or that she is any different from my other friends that I see everyday.
It’s always been real, just in a different way. It’s been real for seven years and will continue to be real for the rest of my life.
Just because we met in cyberspace does not invalidate our bond.
If she was a catfish, I think she’d have given up a while ago. We FaceTime all the time and I follow her on all social media. If there is someone out there crazy enough to fabricate an entire life and person for seven full years just for the fun of tricking someone, call me when you find them.
I have many good things in my life and I am incredibly blessed. But arguably the best thing I have is one I’ve never even touched, never talked to face-to-face, never seen with my own two eyes. I am okay with that because I know physicality does not always equate to the strength of a friendship, the love, bond and connection do.