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National BFF Day! How Mine Changed My Life

Everything in life happens for a reason. As a child, teenager, even as a young adult I had heard this countless times but never honestly understood or appreciated how true it is. 

In 2011 I was doing great (well, my definition of great at the time). My career in Radiology had taken off, I had friends and family, and in my spare time I enjoyed reading or laying out by the pool. Sure, there was a part of me that wanted a little more...excitement? A challenge? An adventure? I wasn't sure what it was and I was not entirely motivated to figure it out. I was fine where I was in life. I had done everything I was "supposed" to do. 

This is where that whole "everything happens for a reason" bit comes in. When I first met Stefani at the hospital where we both worked, I had no clue that we would be friends. Let alone besties. Did this feel like a life changing moment at the time? Not really. Were the next two years a total roller-coaster for me (and her!) in almost all aspects of life? Yep. Was my best friend there for me every step of the way? Yep. We both went unexpectedly through the wringer in our early twenties (maybe that's everyone?) and having your best friend by your side makes things just a little easier. 

Especially when that best friend calls you every morning. 

"What are you doing? Let's go take class."

"What's your run today? Are you doing it outside or on the treadmill?"

"Oh, you have to run ten miles today? Leave from my house and I'll show you a good route."

OR even better... 

"Oh, you have to run ten miles today? Let's do it together."

 

Stefani and I before running a 5k.

Before I met Stefani I would never have called myself a runner. My gym membership was at Planet Fitness and I went "once in a while" (read: when I was feeling guilty about eating Taco Bell for lunch and dinner) to run on the elliptical for a mile. You can read more about my fitness journey here. But in a nutshell, I started joining Stefani at her spin class once or twice a week and it wasn't long before she had convinced me to sign up for a half marathon. That was the beginning of our friendship. 

 

 Melissa, Stefani and I after my first half marathon.

When someone helps you achieve something you never thought possible, it IS life changing. You have made a real, genuine friend. For me this means having someone who is there for me no matter what, even if there is no benefit to them. I certainly didn't see Stef getting much benefit out of helping me train for my first half marathon, then my first sprint tri. She lent me her family's Jamis, showed me how to put on a swim cap (informed me that it is NOT in fact, for keeping your hair dry), and talked me through my first brick. Well, I suppose I did provide a certain amount of entertainment! But the truth is, that's just the kind of person she is. She wants to see her friends and family happy and successful.

 

 Myself, Stefani and Jenn before Stef's IM.

I will never forget that first triathlon. It was so scary, but so fun! My favorite part of the race was looking out for Stef, her sister, and others I had met during my time training. I had been on the sidelines before, but this was totally different. I was in it! Having never been into sports, I had no idea what it felt like to be part of something so big. Although we weren't all on a "team" it still felt like we were! It was a new feeling, and I loved it.

 Science tells us I felt this way for a reason. "Many animals, including humans, exhibit smaller increase in cortisol, the stress hormone, during exposure to averse stimuli when a friend is present compared to when alone." (Michaeli, 2015). Humans release several "feel good" hormones such as oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine when we're around our friends. 

Today and every day I am so thankful for all the people I love, one of them being my BFF. Even though we live far away from each other right now, she is still one of the most influential people in my life. 

 

Stefani and I during one of my visits home.

 

Share what makes your BFF special in the comments below! 

Written by Ashley Pettigrew

Follow Ashley on Instagram! @ashley.trisirena

 

The following sources were utilized in this article:

* Michaeli, Dove. "The Biology of Friendship". The Doctor Weighs In. https://thedoctorweighsin.com/biology-of-friendship/. 2015 May.  

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