Published in the Santa Barbara Sentinel. Names have been changed.
“I just need a break from our friendship,” I said to Lily over the phone, having run out of excuses as to why I couldn’t be around her anymore.
But it wasn’t her; it was me.
Months of jealousy soaked in a huge drinking problem was my issue, and at that moment, my reasons had wrung dry, unlike my craving for booze.
I had become so envious of her success and disappointed with myself that I couldn’t be around her anymore.
My lower self started to believe the stories I created in my head and, instead of telling me to face my demons, it told me to run.
Life with Lily
Lily and I met four years prior through my ex-boyfriend, ironically, on the phone.
She had seen my designs in a boutique in Savannah (women’s tops made from vintage t-shirts) and was in awe that someone could make a living as a fashion designer and wanted to know more.
So when my boyfriend handed me his cell with a curious Lily on the other end, our friendship began in the same way it ended.
I was thrilled to have another girl-like-me in the small-production-fashion-design-game that I could relate to.
We’d work on our separate collections in the same space, setting up sewing machines on either end of a long wooden table in Lily’s pre-war Savannah, Georgia apartment.
We’d cut and sew a new line to present at another local Charleston fashion show, the town where I lived just three hours up the coast.
The sounds of oscillating electric fans and sewing machines hummed from early morning until night.
We’d stay up by drinking coffee and adding hot-cocoa powder mixed in, savoring each sip like it was a Starbucks Mochaccino we couldn’t really afford at the time.
But we loved it.
Deadlines gave us purpose and fashion shows allowed us to test boundaries and settle into our styles.
On nights out, we’d dress in funky vintage clothes and our handmade designs that made people stop us on the street to ask if we’re heading to a costume party.
“This is how we dress!” we would say, outwardly offended yet internally pleased for, once again, finding a way to stick out from the norm.
High Road vs. Low Road
Though Lily took her creative life down the same path, it didn’t take long for her forge her own – she was dedicated, competitive, had a knack for business, and a definitive style that shot her brand past my meager accomplishments by tenfold.
Our differences naturally reflected in how we worked – she was in it for the craft. I was in it for the party.
During long sewing days, we’d take breaks from sweating over our machines.
I’d use that time to smoke cigarettes or weed while Lily ran a mile or two to clear her head.
As she invested in her company and looked for ways to advance her career, I advanced deeper into a drinking problem that had me either drinking alone or waiting for the next excuse to drink.
Loneliness, shame, and embarrassment became so much a part of who I was that it felt normal to me.
My issues with alcohol had drowned my creative passion, and Lily was the reflection of everything I wasn’t.
So, on a sunny afternoon several years later, our last phone call happened, and our friendship ceased to be.
Time Heals All Wounds
I didn’t talk to Lily for the three years after that.
Shortly after that call, I moved to the West Coast to shed my past and fulfill a long-anticipated California dream.
I began a new life as a writer and eventually gave up alcohol altogether.
Lily went on to create a lifestyle brand, opened a beautiful store in downtown Savannah, and continues to bury her stake in the ground as a fashion designer/entrepreneur.
As my liver regenerated damaged tissue from years of abuse, my self-confidence regenerated, too.
It took me a while to gain the confidence to search for Lily again.
But one day, I was ready.
I picked up my phone and clicked on Instagram to search for my lost friend.
I quickly found her colorful profile, filled with nouveau-hippie girls dancing at festivals and lounging in decorative Bohemian settings.
And with my past behind me and a new life in front, I tapped the blue “Follow” button and dived into the world again.