I must admit, it has taken me quite some time to figure out what is most important when it comes to female friendships. When my adolescent best friend and I, found our long term and immensely close bond broken back in high school, I felt lost for many years to come. Being childhood friends we were connected at the hip through much of our tween and early teen years, like sisters without the mucky sibling rivalry. In the years that followed, I spent a good chunk of time reflecting and yearning for the type of connection that she and I had. I could tell her anything and vice versa. As we matured, I can recall times when we tried to influence each other in a positive way. However, growing up in the 80’s and 90’s female empowerment was definitely not something being discussed in school, a time where we were all trying to find ourselves. On the contrary, being competitive with each other was definitely a message being reinforced daily. I think intrinsically, we all wanted to be good individuals, but would often loose our way, trying to fit in and appease others.
Great hurt and pain ensued from the loss of this person from my life, causing me to put up walls and boundaries for many years after. Looking back, I now realize, the path I followed proceeding that relationship, would have been so completely different had the friendship endured. Many of the decisions I made would have been impacted in an effort for us to to stick together as much as possible. Although it was challenging, on the flip side, the world became my oyster and I parted ways with my small town ideology and decided to expand my horizons. This led me to an out of state college experience, followed by graduate school and then a move to NYC. I met some great friends along the way, but never really found that same bond. Most of the females friendships I gravitated towards throughout my late teens and early 20’s were of the super fun kind, but lacked substance, an easy way of protecting myself.
A few years into city living I met my current best friend with benefits and a couple of year later I married him. I am blessed to have found someone I adore being around and whom I’m deeply in love with. Feeling supported and loved made me realize the need to have this transcend in friendships as well. Being these qualities are gender neutral, one would think it would be natural for these characteristics to be present in all relationships, but sadly they so often are not.
Being married to someone from another country, further broadened my ideas around the important characteristics I found myself seeking out when it came to the people I wanted to surround myself with. I became more fully aware of the benefits of differences more than the comforts of similarity. Our lives became colored with people from all over the globe. These interactions opened my eyes so much wider and I started to seek out friendships, particularly with females, who weren’t just fun, but inspirational too! Many of these women in my life have just picked up and left their familiar lives behind for the pursuit of something more meaningful. Taking awesome risks, separating from the security of their loved ones and arriving in a place where they didn’t know a soul. Many have reared children with the lack of a familial support system, relying on a new community in a place very different than where they have come from. And during these years, the ebbs and flows of everyday life whether it be the death of a parent or the loss of a job, they have continued to persevere.
There is one friend from Europe that specifically comes to mind, having recently endured a brutal separation and left to parent her 3 children mostly solo. I have watched her get crushed over and over and yet she picks herself up and continues to march on. Resiliency creates flexibility, another important quality of friendship. She has raised 3 lovely and polite girls. She has navigated the current pandemic throughout the past year, now in a new European city, starting over yet again, not knowing a soul as a one woman show. In all of this she has always been there for me, she is a pleasure to speak to and a person I feel I can share all of my downs and ups with too… she is always genuinely happy for me, regardless of what is going on with her. And there are others. The many things these dear friends of mine have in common… they uplift, they support, they are flexible and yet they are all very different.
What I have learned is genuinely good friends feed your soul and hopefully in return you feed theirs. There is give and take and there is talking, listening, open-mindedness, respect, a good amount of belly laughs and a feeling that these friends truly want the best for you as you do for them. Today on International Women’s Day, I am grateful for finally having found these gems and realizing what true friendship looks like.