Over the years I’ve learned some hard lessons about friendship; who can be trusted, that there can be levels of friendship, and that what was won’t always be there. I’ve had friendships that have peacefully drifted apart, others that have exploded catastrophically never to be reconciled (yet), and some that ended but found new life down the line. The thing is, we all go through stuff at various points in our lives but I think our 20s are one of those periods of extreme growth where who were were at 19 is so far from who we are at 29 that the only friendships that can truly last are the ones that value strength and development.
One such friendship is one that I have held dear since preschool. My dearest friend and I have been through so many transitions in life, and throughout it all we have concluded that we love each other warts and all. We are strikingly different, but together we are a force to be reckoned with. I’d go so far to say we are actually soulmates, and long after our husbands pass we will continue to cause mayhem in whichever retirement village we reside in for the end of our days. I’d do anything for her, and I know she’d do the same for me, but this doesn’t mean we have to speak every single day. In fact, it is possibly the distance and freedom we give each other that is vital in keeping us close. We have time to miss each other, we have stories to tell, and memories to laugh over.
Almost three years ago now I was in a very bad place mentally. My psychologist tasked me to grow my support network, and build upon the circles of trust I already had. At the time it was so difficult to do. I felt like a burden on everyone around me, and only trusted such a small handful of people with my story. It was vital to my recovery that I did this though, as it was in the lead up to Trauma Exposure Therapy for my PTSD, so I pushed through and began talking. Since then I’ve pushed through the fear and begun to strengthen old ties, and learned that some of my greatest advocates were always there with me, just waiting patiently for me to open my eyes. I have family, I have my oldest friend, I have some amazing school friends, and some equally amazing new friends.
I think one of the greatest surprises, though, has been three girls who were with me during one of the hardest periods of my life. At the time, they knew nothing of what I was experiencing (nor did anyone else), but they were always there for me, and we always had fun together. While other girls in the group would exclude me, these three readily welcomed me into their lives. Over the years I distanced myself from that crowd, and sadly these three wonderful women drifted to my peripherals. We still connected from time to time on social media, though rarely catching up as time went on. I had a past I wanted nothing to do with, and I felt unlovable for a long time. I thought I was boring, and I thought they’d want nothing to do with the person I’d become. How wrong I was.
Last year, emboldened by the success of my therapy, I began to reach out to people more and began engaging with people in a new way. I built a small group on Facebook to connect the women I knew who struggled with size, diet culture, and motivation, and we all began to talk about what was bothering us, sharing our wins and our losses, making each other laugh, and building each other up. We’ve also begun to turn 30, starting with one of the three I mentioned earlier. Invited to her celebrations I was quite terrified of showing up and being rejected, and yet what we learned was something quite extraordinary. Though scary, we all turned up in honour of each other (one of us was fresh out of surgery, but came simply because the rest of us were there!). From that night, though halfway through 2017, we’ve reached out a bit more often and opened up a bit more. I’ve shared my struggles and learned that we each had very similar experiences, yet never knew what the other was going through. Each encounter brings us closer together, and relights the fire of our friendship, and reminds us of what we loved about each other back when we were ridiculous teenagers.
So now it’s 2018, and another 30th is looming, and last minute plans were arranged for us to catch up last Friday night. I wasn’t so scared this time, though a little nervous still, but I felt stronger in my desire to be with these people. We sat in the spa and shared stories, laughed, and commiserated. We made plans for the future, and made sure we each got home safely, and the next day we poured out our love for each other and our gratitude for the friendship that we have. We planned ridiculous costumes for the next birthday, and made more last minute plans – this time for a bushwalk that afternoon. Though the other two couldn’t make it, I decided it was just what I needed with this friend, and I am so glad I did.
I learned something so important on that walk, aside from the fact that it is actually still possible for me to go on huge walks despite battling with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. What really hit me was how important it is to surround yourself with the right people who build you up and strengthen you, and who accept you as you are. By the end of the 3 hours together, along with another friend of hers, we had well and truly caught up and shared some of our deepest dreams. I told her my intentions for the future, and she wholeheartedly encouraged me in what I want to do. I’ve had a lot of people in my past tell me all the things wrong with what I want, and I’ve had so many scenarios cause me to choose the sensible and secure path in life, but there have also been those advocates of mine who have told me I can be whatever I put my mind to. The thing is, I’ve never truly heard them or trusted what they said. There is a change in me now, however, and you’ll be hard pressed to find that girl who believes she has no story to tell, no tales to sell, and her art isn’t worth anything at all.
This year I am dedicated to myself, and to those who believe in me, for love to myself and for the love of my friends and family, and because I am beginning to believe and understand my purpose a little clearer each and every day. So, as the big Three Oh rolls past, I’m going to relish in the company of those around me and hold them close to my heart. They’re here for the ride, and the older I get the more impossible it feels that I could ever lose them.