I attended a wedding once, and I couldn’t stop staring at the best man. His hair, his tux, his smile — I fixated on him for obvious reasons. Then came his speech at the reception.

“I’ve been best friends with the groom since first grade,” he said. He went on to say how bittersweet it was for his best friend to get married and move so far away from their hometown to start life anew with his bride.

I listened to this total stranger’s vulnerability before a crowd of hundreds, and my eyes started tingling. I left the reception hall to collect myself in the bathroom; the hot guy in a tux struck a deep chord in me.

I recently hosted a guy on Couchsurfing (a nifty little thing you should try), and he’s been best friends with one of my previous Couchsurfing guests since sixth grade. He told me stories of their friend group from high school, featuring parties and road trips to Florida, and I listened with gulps in my throat and regret in my gut.

I’ve been realizing something lately that I suppose I’ve always known. But sometimes your reflection doesn’t fully materialize until you see something reflected in someone else.

It’s not just that I never had a childhood best friend; it’s that I’ll never have a childhood best friend.

That era of decades ago has come and gone, that chapter closed, never to be reopened or rewritten. Never will I have stories to tell about my best friend from first grade or sixth grade or any grade.

No sleepovers or birthday parties or neighborhood games or road trips as childhood turns to adolescence turns to adulthood. Those friendships and those moments don’t exist; they never will. Shadows in the mirror shattered on the floor.

Sure, friendships can still start now and continue for decades to come. But what of the last ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five years?

Times like these make me feel the paradoxical weight of loss. And I hear the accusatory voices blaring:

What was so wrong with you as a kid that no friendship with another boy at church or school or anywhere ever stuck?

Why do you make such a momentous deal out of something as simple as a stranger’s wedding toast?

Why are you so easily spiraled into alternate realities or lacks thereof?

Why are you so jealous of others?

Why can’t you just let it go?

Why would God write you such a story? Does He even care?

I rarely get triggered by brides and grooms at weddings anymore; I’m far too independent to get married to either sex at this point. But this concept of a best man and the lack of such a longstanding figure in my life — that hits me hard.

But whenever I experience such moments of despair, I strive to do a couple things.

First, I recognize my feelings as legitimate.

It’s okay to have feelings, and it’s okay to be sad.

When I see a happiness in others that I do not possess, I naturally get sad. Envious too, usually.

Admitting what I feel is the first step in a repetitious string of steps toward growth.

Second, I “zoom out” and recognize the blessings in my life.

I appreciate my family and the friends who have stuck with me these last few years. They show me that perhaps I am worth loving as chapters change and decades ensue.

I thank God for countless pivotal experiences like my youth involvement, my travels, and this blog and community. Everything — and everyone — He introduces to my story molds me into more of a man.

Piece by piece.

Third, I remind myself that even “the happy ones” have their struggles.

Everyone gets dealt different cards in life: the good ones, the great ones, and the ones that keep you up at night.

Even the happy ones who get married and proclaim friendship since elementary school have their own slew of problems and brokenness.

I am not alone in my brokenness; even the best man struggles.

And so I remain grateful for a safe place like YOB to process my brokenness. My continuing story of growth and hope.

And I’m happy to remind each of you that you are not alone in your brokenness, either.

Have you been blessed by any long-term same-sex friendships since childhood, or do you also lack such a reality? How do you move beyond moments of relational loss and longing?

    Thomas Mark Zuniga

    I'm a storyteller and story-liver in Asheville, North Carolina - the Jewel of the Blue Ridge. I'm YOB's cofounder and editor, and I also host our bimonthly podcast. I've written a couple books, including a memoir in 2013 where I first came out to the world. Once upon another universe I anonymously blogged about my faith and sexuality under the Xanga username, "twoBeckonings." I'm an INFJ, an Enneagram 4w5, and my spirit animal is the buffalo. My favorite place in the world is the one where coffee and vulnerability meet.

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