Who did you connect with this year?
The last half of 2013 and the entirety of 2014 was the first time in a while where I truly knew who my friends were. Not only was I aware of it, but I was fully comfortable and therefore able to embrace it. They were a fairly sized group where I could look at each one of them and say “these are my people” without questions or doubts. They don’t all know each other and some of them probably wouldn’t even get along real well (hence why getting them under one roof probably wouldn’t have worked, despite my attempt at it multiple times), but when I picture them they’re all clustered together. Not only did they have an impact on my year, but they’ve had an overall impact on my life.
And as I sit here writing this, it’s hard to describe what that looks like. During my final semester of college I became more open and vulnerable, realizing that face-to-face conversations would be rare (or at least every so often) once we graduated and moved onto the next chapter. I wouldn’t say that I poured out the contents of my heart, and much less to each person that I bonded with, but it was close enough. At some point we shared our dreams, our hopes, and even our fears for the future. I vividly remember admitting how terrified I was of moving back to my hometown, wondering if I would lose all the progress that I’d made and automatically shrink back in to who I was before going to Iowa. For the first time, somebody offered to sit with me during a session or two if it meant that I would start seeing a therapist again (I hadn’t stopped entirely, but it had been a while and I convinced myself that it wasn’t necessary). It was OK to cry and be broken up over my family falling apart. They never failed to remind me how well I was handling the situation and how I overcame so much in the time that they’d known me. Occasionally they would say things in such a way where I’d wind up crying tears of gratitude, but they also knew how to speak the truth when it was needed.
“You hold too many things in.”
“You beat yourself up too much.”
In my heart, I knew they were right. The pain of it was having been conditioned years beforehand to believe otherwise, and I wondered if one day I’d become too much to handle and they would walk away without notice, as some have. It wasn’t a question of whether or not to let them in, but how; it’s one thing to share your story with a person the first time around, to have certain conversations as you learn about each other. But talking about the same stuff, especially the hard things, eventually becomes exhausting for me. Talking is good, but so are hugs and doing something fun in order to take my mind off of something. It’s not running away if you accept that you’re not in control of what’s happening, and have to focus on doing what makes you smile in order to move forward.
I didn’t want to drag them down with my depression, let alone be remembered for it. Then again, they never failed to remind me how well I was handling the situation and how I overcame so much in the time that they’d known me.
Friends, I’ve discovered, are the mirrors that show us what we don’t see in ourselves. My biggest inspirations are the ones that have taught me how to relax, laugh, and look out for others.
And we did have fun: we danced, joked around, bonded over a semi-reality show that involved roses and dating multiple people at once, and so much more. These were the times that I learned how I put more emphasis on being with people that mean a lot, rather than just drinking or doing things for the sake of not being alone. It’s how I discovered that I prefer experiences rather than material gifts because of what you carry with you afterward. It taught me how to just enjoy being with these people and how silence isn’t always a bad thing. I can go a whole night without saying a lot and still have a good time, but that’s just me.
If I could pick a favorite moment, it would be this last October when I visited Iowa City for the first time as an alumnus. A friend and I ran into each other at (one of) my old stomping grounds and we hadn’t seen each other in months. It was hard to carry on a conversation with the place being so crowded, but I do remember us affirming what we meant to one another before going off in different directions. It didn’t mean anything beyond that, but it was nice to hear given that we did have our rough patches, and especially after such a long period of time.
Going off of that, there were tough times with everybody. It’s hard watching two people you equally care for argue over something, even to the point where the relationship changes or disintegrates. There has been discomfort and there has been hurt, but it has taught me that I have to work on meeting people halfway, even if I don’t agree with certain actions or choices. Doing life with other people is intentional and not always based on how well you click or can avoid conflict, but recognizing that they’re flawed and imperfect while choosing to love them anyway.
I will respectfully disagree with the fact that having a tribe means seeing these people every week or talking day in and day out. I am beyond thankful for advances in technology that allow me to send a simple “thinking about you” text or words of encouragement, but I don’t necessarily expect (or demand) a regular response. When you get out of college and get into the workforce, it’s not always possible to keep up with everyone, much less keep up with them all the time. You can proclaim that the only people you need in your life are the ones who prove that they need you in theirs, but what does that even mean? As much as I hate how the term “busy” is used these days, it does happen and people get carried away. The best thing to do is cherish the time that you have, despite the indication of change and possibly distance.
In my personal experience, being part of anything means that I’m never without friendship or support, regardless of how close or far away they are. I feel blessed to still keep in touch with those that live in different states or different parts of the country, and we make a point to let the other know that we’re there. I am in their corner and they are in mine, and that’s what matters. The beautiful thing is though there is pain in leaving and moving on, those circles keep growing: the latter half of this year I’ve found and connected with a great church community, and could write a whole other post on how that has helped me.
No matter where we are or how often we communicate, what I do know for sure is that these people have a special place in my heart, and there will always be some common thread because we shared four years of life experiences together. Whether you have good moments or tough ones, that sense of mutual understanding in good times and in bad is a reason to celebrate, to pray, and to give thanks.
For now, and for always.