Late at night, I tend to find myself thinking about a lot of things; the hours or so between getting into bed and falling asleep is a portion of time that I’ve begun to heavily dislike, given that my stream of conscience often becomes over-thinking. When that happens, I start counting my blessings, mainly those who either or currently or have been in my life.
I don’t think I’ve ever realized the importance (if not, vitality) of having girlfriends until this year. I had a lot of them growing up, but I was a little boy-crazy and my priorities were a bit skewed. Part of it also related to having trust issues, given some difficulties that took place from sixth grade onward. It definitely took a while to genuinely appreciate them.
As I got older that circle began to widen and even overlapped; there were those from junior high that I also kept in contact through high school. And then some of the girls that I went to high school with ended up at the same University as I did (albeit a year ahead). Then through that time, I’d discover that those from college either were from my hometown or nearby. It was definitely a small world on a number of occasions.
For a period of time I frequently gravitated toward those that were older than me; in a way, they understood me better and seemed more receptive to who I was as a person. I did also long for an older sister, and as we got to know each other some of them became those big-sister figures for me. But the thing with that was when they would graduate, I would spend a lot of time feeling lost and not sure of where to go from that point on.
My grandmother once told me, “don’t worry about the guys. Give thanks for the girls in your life and that other stuff will take care of itself.” Looking back on it, I realized that she was right.
Much of the joy in this year, as well as the ability to be strong throughout the painful times, have come from my girlfriends. There are those that I’ve met within my dorm and have shared plenty of cafeteria dinners, movie nights, and random moments with. There are those that I can go out on the town with, have a little too much fun, and they just reassure me that everyone goes through that at some point. There are those that I can go home to, have coffee dates with and be able to pick up right where we left off. There are those who have supported me in the midst of relationship struggles, a death in my family earlier, and exhaustion when I bite off more than I can chew.
A lot of my girlfriends I tend to regard as sisters, just as I tend to regard my closest friends (from a general standpoint) as family. And even though I may not see some of them all that often, it helps me to really appreciate the time that we have together.
I understand that some people out there prefer hanging out with boys over girls, given their personalities. I’ve seen Mean Girls and have personally experienced the cattiness and melodrama that often comes along being part of any group. But the truth is, ladies, you need at least a few of them. I’m sure Hedi Montag (the character who gave up the majority of her friends to be with her boyfriend on The Hills) makes it look pretty easy, but I can only imagine how lonely and isolating it gets after awhile.
Find your sisters, celebrate them, and cherish them. They’re out there.
Update: It’s hard to sum up all I’ve learned and how I’ve grown since I first wrote that. There was a lot of naivete, and idealizing because I held onto this idea of what college should be. I believed that new friends would automatically get rid of all my insecurities, and that I could leave my handicap (and my past) back at the state line. Friendship is important, but I needed to be the one to love myself first instead of waiting for a group or an organization to do it for me.
I was not confident back then…at all. And because of that, I’m sure I made connecting with certain people more difficult than it needed to be. But once I began experiencing the pain of rejection, it felt safer to wait for them to figure me out first. I felt like I had something to prove: that I could be strong and fearless and take care of myself. And while that was true to an extent, I still needed help at times. Unfortunately I realized that asking for help sometimes equals resentment later.
And while some friendships did fall apart at first, the ones that mattered did come back together. It’s amazing how the girls I wasn’t particularly close with freshman year became my best friends by later on. Some of them I’d known since the beginning, while the others I’d bonded with while staying at school over the summer before senior year and after graduation. Whatever the length of time we had together, I have never felt more supported or included. And while we didn’t see eye to eye on everything, that didn’t change the fact that we were a unit that genuinely looked out for each other.
It wasn’t something out of Friends or Sex and The City, and truthfully I’m kind of glad for that. You’re setting yourself up for disappointment if you believe that true friendships involve being joined at the hip, bedazzling life in shopping/money, or constantly avoiding conflict with one another. How you deal with conflict actually becomes the hallmark of going through life with people, regardless of the nature of the relationship or who’s involved. I never personally came to blows with anyone in particular, but when you get to know someone real well, you both run the risk of driving each other crazy because you’ve seen each other both at your best and at your worst. By choosing to allow anyone into my life, I was also choosing to hear them and admit my own faults when they were honest about how I’d hurt them. It’s also awkward and difficult when two or more are on the outs with one another, despite that nine times out of ten I’m hardly involved. But I’ve learned from them and I’ve grown with them, which has been the best part of all.
Yet it’s not always picturesque; Not everyone is safe to confide in, nor can they handle such emotional vulnerability without feeling the need to problem-solve. If it were humanly possible I would be open to the idea of every friend being a best friend, but it doesn’t work like that because you your personalities don’t always mesh. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be challenged in different ways of thinking, or that I can’t grow as a result.
In some respects, my girlfriends have saved me; quite a few of them have kept me from making horrible mistakes, especially when a guy was involved. My best friend sat me down and warned me that I was headed down a bad path with alcohol and partying, and that I need to check it before I wrecked it. They’ve all shown me grace and even busted down walls when I’ve tried to build them up.
Connecting in the real world is a tricky concept. Distance is one thing, but there is also the point where you’re no longer going through the same seasons in the same direction. For some, careers take off at warped speed while others are still trying to take that first step up the ladder. Some are on the cusp of engagement or have gotten married, while others are still figuring out what they want and what it will take to get it. There are seasons where you can relate, and those where you can’t. And that’s OK, because you celebrate them regardless.
Adulthood is when you have to respect that a lot of people don’t have as much time on their hands. You might go anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months without seeing each other, let alone talking and catching up. To some extent I understand it, because as you get older you have more responsibilities and you have to rearrange your priorities a bit. Age also means that social circles occasionally widen, and it’s hard to keep up with everyone from each stage of life. I personally have never spent time with just one main group of people, so I do experience a push and pull.
That being said, I can’t pretend that it isn’t a tough pill to swallow; I’m not one to lean into being constantly busy, or at least to the point of being unavailable. I don’t have the energy to be on the go all the time, and I do get cranky if I don’t make an effort to feed my soul or spirit. It baffles me how anyone can live as if they’re speeding through each day, but that’s for another post down the road.
Technology has become a blessing in terms of maintaining long-distance friendships, and friendships as a whole. I appreciate being able to offer and receive encouragement through texting, snapchats, and so on at the touch of a button. Phone calls and FaceTime are wonderful. And social media is nice to at least be able to know what’s going on when the work grind has you by the horns. But nothing, and I mean nothing, compares to seeing someone I love in person, looking them in the eye, and being able to physically put my arms around them. If you asked me what I truly wanted right now, it’s to pile on the couch with some amazing people and just drink wine the entire time (with no-holds-barred, unfiltered conversation included).
One of my biggest struggles is balancing the pursuit of what I need while completely savoring what I already have. I am beyond grateful for all the love, truth-telling, and support I’ve received in the midst of my parents’ divorce, job and internship interviews, and navigating the unpredictable dating pool. I don’t think I would been able to keep my sanity intact if I wasn’t reminded that I am strong and resilient, even when I don’t feel like that’s the case.
Love. Gratitude. Intention. Vulnerability. Listening. That is what it all comes down to, and that is how you live well with others.
There’s no answer on how to do it right. We’re all human here, and at some point we’ll mess up and take people for granted. I know I’ve probably come across as selfish and inconsiderate, and on more than one occasion. I’ve allowed my over-active imagination to get the best of me. I’ve cried, gotten depressed, and lived inside my own head because of the silence. It can be lonely, and it can be brutal.
Deep down, I’m aware that a lack of communication doesn’t necessarily indicate a lack of caring. We all show love differently, and sometimes things just happen.
The only thing I can think of is to savor the time that you have when you get it; to reach out, but know where to draw the line between that and chasing. To not judge and offer grace whenever possible. To give thanks and hold the memories close to your heart.
That’s what girlfriends are for; to serve as reminders that we all need community, but that we also need family. Life is precious and fragile, but it’s all the more sweeter when we have people to share it with.