It was during my junior year my best friend dropped out of high school. We had talked about it before: me always telling him that it was a dumb idea and him, in the end, always agreeing. When he dropped out, he didn’t tell me. He could have called, e-mailed, or texted me. Instead, he left me waiting by my locker for a week.
It was during that week of waiting I realized this: people have to make their own decisions. As much as you love them and want to make the right choice for them, you cannot. That is selfish. Their choices are theirs and yours are yours. In the end, you can only advise, listen, and believe in them because often times they don’t believe in themselves. I felt betrayed and angry, but then I recognized that there would be no more good times if I gave up on him. We remained fast friends and within a few months, on his own accord, he enrolled in a community college and received his GED.
A year later, his father died and once again I was placed in a position I never would have predicted. With the death of his father, what was left of his family fell apart. The bills couldn’t be paid and foreclosure fell on their house. His mother, unemployed and unstable, committed financial suicide: charging everything to her credit card. Inevitably, they will be evicted. When that time comes, his mother has told him she is leaving and going to live with friends. At seventeen, he will have to take care of himself, but not alone. We, my family, will finance his education and take him in.
I never agreed directly to spending my weekends scouring for cheap apartments that I could help pay for, so someone else could have a roof over their head. I never agreed to driving across the corn-infested countryside of Illinois for someone else’s college search or agonizing over the mechanics of someone else’s application essay. Right now, my time is not my own. My calendar is filled not only with my deadlines, but his. There are things that I will need to walk him through and keep in mind for him over the next couple months. I never agreed to this and yet, I did. I did when I first called him my best friend, when I told him that no matter what, I would always be there for him. Words I never knew would become so serious.
What I believe is this: Friendship is the hard times. For me, it is a sacrifice of my time, my money, and myself. Friendship is a promise that you will stay by their side no matter what, a promise that you will trust their decisions, a risk that all might not go well, and a time commitment when things go horribly off track. It is work, but it is worth it, just for the short time we have together.