A FEW MONTHS ago while I was scrolling through Instagram, I found out that my best friend had gotten engaged.

The photo, enhanced by a shimmery filter, showed my friend, whom I’ll call Stephanie, and her now-fiancé next to a cabin in the woods. He was down on one knee, holding up a ring. She had both hands covering her face in surprise.

I wasn’t surprised.

I wasn’t surprised she was getting married, and I wasn’t surprised that I learned about it on social media rather than from her during an elated phone call.

Actually, I’d been watching her life in pictures for a while. In the time we haven’t spoken, more than a year, I’ve seen milestone moments in which I would have normally been included: Getting her first tattoo, celebrating college graduation and buying a home with her fiancé.

This is the case for so many others whom I used to view as vital. Once I left college, and moved so far from home, distance took its toll. It’s a strange reality to live in — people I used to see everyday now dance around the periphery. There are a few who I know will always be there for me. There are some who, everyday, feel just a little farther out of reach. And yet, others have already drifted off into obscurity.

But in the years from 18 to 22, I’ve learned that it’s OK to let go of friendships that fizzle; especially when what connected us in the first place no longer matches up with the person I’ve become. My priorities, values and interests have changed so much in the last few years, and these shifts in perspective have illuminated the friendships I value most, as well as the unhealthy relationships I’ve allowed to fester.

I expect more out of companions than I used to. Now, I seek someone who shares a similar worldview; someone who is honest and dependable; someone who has goals and ambition; someone who never makes me feel bad for being myself.

For children, it’s much simpler.

When you’re 5 years old, just about anything can spark a friendship: Having the same shoes, realizing you both love pepperoni pizza, or just that maybe, one day during recess — out on that vast, foreboding blacktop that can often be so secluding for children — someone asks you to play. It’s easy to remember in these general commonalities when friendships begin. It’s harder to pinpoint when best friendships begin, and harder still to know when they are ending.

As for my relationship with Stephanie, it was almost impossible to predict the events that led to our dissociation.

We spent the better part of 16 years side by side. She played midfielder to my striker on our rec-league soccer team. We had crushes on the same undeserving boys. We spent long, lazy summer days sitting by her pool, stealing sips from her dad’s bottle of Bud Light while he wasn’t looking. We were one another’s most-trusted confidants.

I think what made our relationship special, and what instinctively drew us together as children, was how our personalities balanced the other out. Stephanie always spoke her mind before thinking about it and I was pensive to a fault. She gave me makeup tutorials. I edited her school papers. She pushed me to be a little more dangerous and I taught her to be a little more grounded. And, most importantly, we made each other laugh harder than anyone else could.

Our ending happened slowly, and then all at once. At the start of our senior year of college, something shifted. She was dating a guy who was a lot older and I was focused on what my life after school would look like. We didn’t do as well at calling or keeping in touch. Still, when her 21st birthday arrived, I traveled back home to celebrate.

But the night felt wrong from the start. The dinner could only be summarized as belligerent. Conversations all seemed to be in bad taste. Odd jokes were made about our waiter — and the birthday girl was leading the charge. Stephanie had always been boisterous, but that night she was in rare (and obnoxious) form. I never relaxed. Even after I was well into my second drink, my body settled into a cringe that continued to tighten into the taut evening.

As the party moved to a downtown bar crawl, the beautiful vignette that I had always kept of Stephanie was dimming. Her outgoing, exuberant disregard for what others thought about her no longer seemed charming.

When you’re a kid, or even a teenager, there are things you look past, things that don’t bother you because they don’t seem that important. But once you establish who you are and what you believe in, it’s hard to compromise your values — even for a friend that has gotten you through family hardships, heartbreaks and adolescent insecurities.

When we ended the night at her boyfriend’s apartment, it seemed that everyone had had too much to drink — including me. Something I do when I’ve had one too many: Talk about politics with people who I know don’t agree with my policy positions. Our conversation began with the presidential primary elections and Stephanie kept quiet for most of it; she didn’t seem interested. But, somehow, talk turned to police shootings and Ferguson, and suddenly, the daughter of a police officer had something to say: “There’s a difference between them. There’s a difference between a black person and a n—”

Everything stopped.

I was sick that someone I thought I knew so well could use a word created to make someone feel like a lesser being — not human by the sole virtue of skin color. My ears started to ring and then I felt like I saw her clearly for the first time — who she was at her core. It wasn’t kind, hilarious or charming; it was an intolerance and ignorance that I hadn’t noticed before, or perhaps didn’t allow myself to see.

Suddenly, we were two different people on opposite paths, and the only thing keeping us connected was our ever-loosening grip on the past, on the girls we used to be and the dissolving memories in which we once sought refuge.

I got up, walked out and I haven’t looked back.

I’m not sorry that we were friends, but I’m not sorry that it’s over, either. I don’t fret over the fact that I won’t be in her wedding because some things are not worth salvaging. Some things are not worth holding onto. And, sometimes, times change us.

Emily Higginbotham, originally from Illinois, is a copy editor at the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. You can follow her on Twitter: @EmilyHigg.

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