My First Best Friend and Your Most Important Personal Story

My First Best Friend and Your Most Important Personal Story

I’d love to rewrite history and tell you a cute personal story about my first best friend. It would be a story about little girls playing hopscotch, plaiting each other’s

hair and giggling together over photos of Adam Ant, Simon Le Bon and the other heart throbs of our day.

But I’ve sugar coated the memory of my childhood so thickly that, until this year, after hours of therapy, reflection and immersion in a self-prescribed, self-invented mindfulness and meditation program, I didn’t realise that my childhood was characterized by loneliness and a distinct lack of human friends.

I say human because I did have two great friends. Penelope, a glossy brown hen, and Cleo, a soft black cat, were the best friends a girl could ever have. They were excellent listeners, entirely non-judgmental and always there for me no matter how tough things got. All qualities I still look for in friends although feathers or fur are not essential.

Cleo put up with me sobbing into her fur many times and provided the constantly reassuring, warm and loving presence everyone needs in their life.

It’s a sad story but we lived in the depths of the English countryside with no other playmates in the area. I had a much older sister and a slightly younger brother but I spent a lot of time alone or playing with our chickens, cats and the riding school horses who grazed in the field next to our house.

It wasn’t until we moved house when I was ten that I got a real best friend of the non-animal variety. She was called Tara and she lived in one of the other houses in Dingley Hall.

Tara was a year younger than me and we were the only children living in what was another remote spot. By that time my younger brother was at boarding school so Tara’s presence saved me from more years of isolation and best friendlessness.

Until then I blamed myself because I didn’t have a best friend when in fact I had nothing to do with it. Our remote geographical location precluded me finding a best friend earlier because there’s only so far you can go with friends who you only get to see in school time.

The self blame had got so bad that I bought a copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and pored over it. But when I met Tara I didn’t need to learn about how to make friends from a book. I learnt about friendship by hanging out with her every weekend and school holiday.

In the summer we swam together in the frigid pool. In the winter we bounced on her big double bed as Dexys Midnight Runners belted out Come on Eileen.

All year round we waited for opportunities to sneak into her dad’s office, open up his box of foreign currency and study the strange coins and notes he’d collected on business trips as we dreamed of our own future travel adventures. Well, I did anyway.

My First Best Friend and Your Most Important Personal Story

Dexys Midnight Runners: I wore dungarees like those too but they were the height of fashion in England in 1982 so that’s not why I had trouble making friends.

After a few years Tara and her family moved house and I went off to boarding school to practice my friend making skills some more.

But Tara and I kept in touch and hung out together in Atlanta many years later when we were both living there in our twenties.

Today I live in Australia and Tara’s in Texas but we support and cheer each other on via email from afar. 35 years have passed now and we both have children of our own but the child inside us and our innocent childhood dreams still live on.

I still imagine most other people didn’t wait 10 years for their first human best friend but I could be wrong. Sometimes retrospective expectations are as dangerous and damaging as our expectations for the future. So I’m trying to let go of all expectations and to accept life as it is, or as it was.

Sometimes your first best friend is one you’ll keep forever but our history is just that; a story coloured by the thoughts, feelings, sensations and images that surround it.

Your personal history can be fun to remember but sometimes what you thought was happy turns out to be sad and what you thought was sad turns out to be happy after all. Either way it’s essential to tell your personal stories and get them straight for your own peace of mind.

But the most important personal story of all is the story that we never notice, the one that’s unfolding right now.


Last week I joined Kerri Sackville for her My First personal writing series adding My First Kiss: Love Lessons Learnt in France. I’m joining in again because I love reading and writing personal stories. You can check out Kerri’s first best friend story here.

If you’d like tips on writing personal stories of your own check out my free ebook Personal Writing Magic. Or get some free practice by leaving us a comment below. We’d love that.

Where did you meet your first best friend and how did you bond?


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Photo credit: Dexys Midnight Runners

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  1. John James December 9, 2013 at 8:41 am - Reply

    What a beautifully written story! :)

    So glad you guys are still friends…

  2. Kerri Sackville December 9, 2013 at 8:46 am - Reply

    I really love your writing, Annabel. And that’s another beautiful story. I loved Dale Carnegie at that age…. but my choice was ‘How to stop worrying and start living’. I practically had it memorised.
    So divine you guys are still close. x

    • Annabel Candy December 9, 2013 at 8:53 am - Reply

      Hi Kerri,

      Ah, thank you. Oh I can’t believe you were reading personal development too at that age. So silly. I’m sure we were both absolute perfect!

      Yes, still friends with Tara but I’ve parted ways with Dale now :)

  3. Lee-Anne December 9, 2013 at 12:53 pm - Reply

    A nice post about childhood loneliness and the importance of friendship. I like the touches of existentialism that waft through your post. :)

  4. Johanna December 9, 2013 at 3:17 pm - Reply

    That’s a beautiful story Annabel, and funnily enough it’s probably one that many of us living in the depths of the British countryside as young children will relate to. We lived in deepest darkest (beautiful!) Devon, and my friends were our ponies. We didn’t get taken for sleep-overs or have friends around to stay either. It was school and ponies. I didn’t feel deprived, but it may account for the fact that I am able to spend long amounts of time alone and not worry too much about how many friends are (not!) knocking on the door!

    • Annabel Candy December 9, 2013 at 3:28 pm - Reply

      Hi Johanna,

      Lol, glad to hear I’m not the only person whose first best friend was furry!

      It’s true I still enjoy my own company and I think that’s an important skill too.

  5. Sam Stone @ A Life on Venus December 9, 2013 at 4:15 pm - Reply

    Annabel! That is awesome you guys have stayed in touch over the years. Email was such a great invention :)

    • Annabel Candy December 9, 2013 at 6:52 pm - Reply

      Hi Sam, yes technologies certainly made finding and keeping in ouch with friend WAY easier.

  6. Rashad Pharaon December 9, 2013 at 4:41 pm - Reply

    Love this story and the lesson that you don’t need to see a true best friend every day in order to stay close. I see my best friend once a year if I’m lucky, and every time we’re together it’s like no time has passed at all.

    • Annabel Candy December 9, 2013 at 6:54 pm - Reply

      Hi Rashad,

      That’s the way it is with true friends and they do become more valuable with time.

  7. Cate December 9, 2013 at 6:22 pm - Reply

    …or, yes, then, there’s moving around so much that best-friend-ness never quite got a look in. Lucky, I had a great family and three fabulous brothers to play with, not to mention books, books and more books! Finally settled in Australia and eventually managed to work out what friends were for when I was about 16… and, like you and Tara, we are still friends, too. Isn’t it great how you catch up every couple of years or so, and the conversation just continues..?
    So great that you and Tara are still in touch.

    • Annabel Candy December 9, 2013 at 6:55 pm - Reply

      Hi Cate,

      Yes moving around lots would maks it so hard. Maybe we appreciate best friends better if we have to wait to find them :)

  8. Teresa December 10, 2013 at 9:54 am - Reply

    Oh bless ya cotton socks! That was a lovely story. Insightful, honest and interesting. Loved it!

    • Annabel Candy December 10, 2013 at 10:01 am - Reply

      Hi T,

      Aw, thank you :) You’re a blessing to me leaving comments like that.

  9. Tara December 10, 2013 at 2:05 pm - Reply

    Annabel, I am honoured to still be your friend after all these years. You continue to inspire me everyday, as I am sure is the case for all of your avid readers. I am so proud of you for following your passion and all of your achievements. I truly enjoy reading about your life both good and bad, thank you for sharing so much of yourself.

    Will always have such fond memories of our time at Dingley Hall, still listen to Dexys Midnight Runners, although my daughter’s not impressed:(

    Your friend always…of the human kind:) Tara

    • Annabel Candy December 10, 2013 at 2:14 pm - Reply

      Hi Tara,

      Aha, there you are. You’re so kind :)

      You still listen to Dexys Midnight Runners?! That’s amazing. I researched the lyrics to Come on Eileen as I was writing this post and there’s one verse that goes like this:

      “These people round here
      Wear beaten down eyes sunk in smoke dried faces;
      So resigned to what their fate is
      But not us, no never, no not us, no never
      We are far too young and clever”

      Which struck me as rather ironic. The rest of the song seems to be about him trying to get someone out of her pretty red dress! Lol. I’m sure it’s much more innocent than anything our children might listen to though…

  10. Seana - Sydney, Kids, Food + Travel December 10, 2013 at 4:10 pm - Reply

    Hello Annabel, what a beautiful and well written story. You really made me laugh, your style and humour are unique. My best pal at primary turned up when we were about 8 or 9… I haven’t seen her since we were 17 but we’re meeting at New year cos we’ll both be in Edinburgh. Hooray. Really, really enjoyed this.

    • Annabel Candy December 11, 2013 at 8:57 am - Reply

      Hi Seana,

      Oh thank you! Your beautiful comment inspires me to keep writing.

      That is SO exciting re your old best friend. I hope we get to read about that reunion :)

  11. Hannah December 12, 2013 at 6:00 pm - Reply

    What an awesome and heartfelt story. Glad you guys are still friends. Couldn’t imagine my life without my best friend who is btw getting married soon.

    Keep strong!

  12. Annabel Candy December 12, 2013 at 6:56 pm - Reply

    Hi Hannah,

    Oh that’s great you can go to her wedding!

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