As women we have a million roles and the expectations of each is overwhelming. As kids one of those roles is that of friend. We came home from school and talked about what we did a recess with our friend. We made BFF bracelets and necklaces. We called our friend after school to talk about what we did all day. Our friendships were central to our existence.
What happened? I look around me as an adult and realize I have very few close friends. I have a ton of acquaintances but I’m no longer making jewelry to celebrate our closeness and I’m lucky if I get to talk to one of my friends on her commute. This critical part of our happiness as kids we completely let go of as adults.
This past weekend I reclaimed part of it. My girlfriend from graduate school, Eliza, and I met in Colorado. We had two full days together with travel days on both sides. And it was magic. We always managed to talk a bit here and there but there have been times in the last few years when I wasn’t sure if we’d ever be close again. Her life went in a different direction from mine with kids and a husband, she is still in academia (a field I left and would happily throw a match on), she still performs (and I miss it) and I’m a workaholic (hopefully in recovery) entrepreneur who is lonely as heck. Two years ago my life was in shambles and I wasn’t a good friend to anyone because I was trying to survive; last year Eliza had a rough year. One day she sent me a text saying “I can be free this summer one of these weekends. Let’s do something”. We picked on and planned. I bought my plane ticket that day saying “now we have to go” because I loved the idea so much and was so worried that whirlwind of life would intervene.
The time came and at first it was a bit awkward, the conversations started like our phone conversations, talking about our days and the whirlwind of life. It was the end of our first day together that the true connection came back in a flood and we talked about all the things we don’t talk about on the phone. All the hopes, fears and realities of life. All the things you don’t say because as an adult you don’t think you are supposed to think or feel that way. And I can’t tell you how much I needed this. How much what we shared I needed to hear and I needed to say. That connection, that closeness is what mattered in the friendships as kids and as an adult I didn’t know I didn’t have it and more importantly didn’t know how badly I longed for it. We need our true friendships to be authentic and vulnerable.
So now what? Now I’ve made a goal to keep nurturing real friendships as a priority. For me, one part of that will mean taking long weekend trips with girlfriends more frequently since most of my BFFs live no where near me. But maybe it will also mean a coffee date one morning a month. Maybe it means picking up the phone more frequently when I’m not in the car and actually focusing on the conversation. I just know that as an adult I want a life with truly healthy robust friendships. Friendships that help me grow and allow me to be that scared and vulnerable kid asking “I’m feeling this way, is that normal.” That my role of friend is as important as my other roles.