In My Best Friends I Found the Love I Always Longed For

By Kimberly Foster @KimberlyNFoster I was a lonely child. I had a friend or two, but I often felt unlikable—that I was strange and damaged...

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By Kimberly Foster @KimberlyNFoster

I was a lonely child. I had a friend or two, but I often felt unlikable—that I was strange and damaged because what came so easily for others evaded me. I avoided engaging with kids my age because I could never quite get the hang of it. My interactions with peers were awkward. They left me filled with self-doubt. So I learned to perform extroversion early. I mimicked the kinds of personalities I saw others flock to.

These shows won me attention and acquaintances but never deep connections. Always being “on” put a barrier between the sensitive girl I was, and still am, and the world that would reject her. Hiding in the open has been safe and comfortable. And when I am not performing, I retreat.
Introversion is misunderstood. Many interpret a preference for stillness as arrogance or misanthropy. When, for me, it has been a byproduct of a lifelong battle with anxiety and insecurity. As an adult, I work through it by spending time with my thoughts. It is not selfish, nor is it weird. And this does not make me unlovable.

Prolonged stretches with limited interactions are important to me, a true introvert, but I’ve always desired the community that accompanies deep, meaningful friendships. In my childhood bedroom, I dreamed of the day when I would be able to get away and find my people—the people who didn’t question the quirks, who laughed at the jokes, who identified with the values. I was looking for my tribe.

I found them in college. By the end of Freshman spring, I had grown close to the women I now call my soul mates. They got me. I didn’t have to explain the jokes or apologize for the emotional outbursts. Our bonds have been more fulfilling than I could have imagined. We can spend months a part and gather for celebrations as if no time has passed. I am lucky. We all are.

I knew that the love we shared was about more than proximity after my dad died during my Sophomore year in. I dropped out of school. I hid, once again, out of embarrassment and sadness. But they continued to show care even from thousands of miles away, during at a time when I could not care for myself.

And when I told them that I was not going to get a real job, no one tried to discourage me. Instead of seeding doubt, they checked in, asked questions and gave to fundraisers. It was an essential vote of confidence.

Together we have weathered tumult and triumph, and after nearly a decade, they’ve become a sort of home for me— a place I can always return to.

This surety has made dating much less painful. As I’ve wandered in and out of unhealthy romantic relationships, I knew they were there. During a rocky period in the healthiest relationship with the most well-adjusted person I’ve ever dated, I realized he might leave. As I considered how I would navigate out of the hole of heartbreak, I remembered that I would always be ok because my home, comprised of the most constant presences in my life, was unmoved.

Thusly, I have abandoned the common conception of soul mate as a romantic love. There is a particular burden of social expectation put upon straight women, that our male partner will be our everything. That through him we will be fully seen and whole. That could never be true for me. Whomever I partner will get me as fully-formed and functional because of the eternal loves I’ve already found.
When I watch Oprah describe to Barbara Walters her best friend, Gayle, as “the mother that I never had, the sister that everybody would want, the friend that everybody deserves” I understand completely. When she explains that she’s crying because she does not tell her that enough, I understand that too.

Because I have not tributed my best friends, my sisters, my soul mates, the women who have loved and cared for me consistently, who have invested without expectation of return, nearly enough. But everyday I am grateful for their boundless kindness and generosity.

Photo: iStockPhoto

Kimberly Foster is the founder and editor-in-chief of For Harriet. Email or

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