Growing up, I was inordinately susceptible to the fantasy of the strong friends group. Whether it was Saved by the Bell in my youngin’ years, Friends afterwards, or that holiest of female friendship grails Sex and the City – I fell in love with the idea of having a strong group of friends to go through my life with.
And why not? A group of people to go through prom and boyfriends, marriages and divorce, bad perms and great sex? Well, sign me right up for a lifetime membership.
And many times I thought I was getting just that, a lifelong friend to hang with in good times and bad, sickness and health, relationships and breakups, tattoos and piercings.
And boy was I wrong.
So many of my “friends” would fail even the tiniest test of friendship. Like, you know, NOT bullying me. It wouldn’t be until I was well past the “young” of young adulthood that I would begin to form real lasting friendships – ones that could stand up to the trials of life.
The three women described here are the top of the list. My OG Gal Gang, my hoes, bitches, besties and whatever other title you give people for who you’d move a body.
These are the women who, more than anyone, have helped make me who I am today. They formed me in my later years and for the best reason: they were the first people to ever accept me for who I was and continue to be. These women allowed me to really be myself, whole, imperfect and raw. And they asked for no change in me in return for their friendship.
The One Who Came Last
If you’re lucky, you’re going to end up with a friend soulmate. They are the rarest of friendships, but you know it when you have it. The thing is it might not be apparent until down the road. These things often are that way.
Christina is that friend for me. I might have known on our first outing together. It was a sticky Georgia afternoon and we were walking around downtown Savannah discussing…honestly, I don’t know what. We were there for a work conference and had time to adventure before the real event started. All our coworkers were in meetings, being people of important titles. Us, being newbies, had no responsibility, so we hit some thrift shops and worked up an appetite.
It was then that Christina suggested getting ice cream for lunch.
This was the right choice, as I spent most of my high school and college years eating ice cream for three meals a day. To find a kindred ice cream spirit was rare.
Fast-forward years, a decade even, and we’ve shared more than ice cream.
We have been coworkers and roommates. Travel buddies and book swappers. She was there when I was dying after my tonsil surgery, I was there when her apartment building in Brooklyn was on fire. We’ve swapped stories and clothes and had our share of crazy misadventures. Our inside jokes are the stuff of generations. (My boobs are her Tokyo, after all.) We’ve been drunk and sober and shared a whole lot of pancakes and waffles. Even her move to NYC did not dampen our friendmance, but in all true and corny ways has made it stronger.
I accept she will never watch the end of Titanic, and she accepts I will watch every Fast and the Furious movie in theaters.
Christina has been the one who has listened to my hopes and dreams like any other person. But what has set her apart is that she has listened to my deepest-set fears, insecurities, doubts and negative self-talk. The judgment that I give to myself is never in her voice, even when I can hear the roll in her eyes as we chat on the phone.
In becoming myself, Christina has shown me how to start accepting the faults that I have. She has taught me to be kind to myself and to believe in myself. Her kindness to me has shown me how to not only be a friend to others but also to myself. And that is a huge gift to give.
The One Who Came from a Journey
The moment I met Melinda, she was deemed too cool to hang out with me (by me). She was everything I was not: world traveled, confident in her skin, knowledgeable about everything, beautiful. She was my coworker and only a few years older than me, but she might as well have been a goddess.
She was a mythical person I had only heard existed but never believed I would meet in real life.
I mean she did things. Things that were BIG. Like study in Australia, move to Hawaii, get tattoos. She clearly didn’t care what other people, including (and especially) her family thought. This was a foreign concept to me, as I wanted nothing more than to please pretty much everyone. But Melinda just did what she wanted and enjoyed. For as long as I’ve known her, she has always been uncompromising in her belief that she will live her life according to her rules. She refuses to settle for anything less than the life that she wants to live. If she wants to pick up and move, change her entire career, not shave her legs or dye her hair, then fuck the world, she will do it. She went bungee jumping in Australia simply because she had to wait for her sky diving time and it was there. So she thought, “Hell, why not?” I was in awe of her in my early 20s, and often I still am.
So when during a lunch break, after knowing each other for about two months, she offered to front me the money to go visit Hawaii with her simply because she wanted to go back, I jumped at it with the eagerness of someone finding a lotto ticket. I honestly forget why I was even included. All I know is the conversation went:
Melinda: I wanna go back to Hawaii.
Me: I wanna go to Hawaii.
Melinda is the reason I can get on a plane and fly to lands where no one speaks English. She taught me how to take risks and go after the big-ticket goals instead of just dreaming them. After that Hawaii trip, we would spend six weeks in Europe seeing 10 countries together over a summer. We would get separated on the tube in France, eat at Gordon Ramsay’s place in London, and go club hopping in Amsterdam. The trip marked the end of my 20s and the beginning of my 30s – and we plan on doing Europe 2.0 next summer as I welcome in my 40s.
Without Melinda fronting my that first plane ticket (yes, I did pay her back), I doubt I would be the traveler I am today. She gave me the entrance into a world of travel and showed me how to wander the world. But her gift didn’t end there.
By hanging around Melinda and watching her take on so many different jobs, trips, and trials, she transferred a little of her goddessness to me. She taught me how to have confidence in my ideas and abilities. When I became a teacher, she was the first to tell me I was fantastic at it, and when I started this blog in 2015, she was the first reader and supporter. She would become my biggest fan and even my editor for a time. Melinda has believed in me since that first plane ticket, and she will believe in me until the last. I couldn’t ask for anyone better.
The One Who Came from High School
I don’t even remember my first encounter with Joselle. I couldn’t tell you to save our friendship. I literally sat here for 20 minutes trying to remember our first meeting. But the memory is gone, just like Towson Catholic High School.
While TC is dead and gone, our friendship of 24 years is not. Which wouldn’t surprise anyone who knew us in Towson Catholic. I mean, we were your stereotypical high school best friends: talking on the phone for hours each night (it was the ’90s – no cell phones), making sure our class schedules were the same, passing notes during class, gossiping over guys. People who didn’t know us thought we were sisters. I would cut art class to sit in her math class, she would buy me yogurt parfaits at TCBY. She was my sister from another mister. She was my Best best friend.
We got into mischief together like you’re supposed to do when figuring out who you are in those teen and early twenties years. She is the one who helped me accidentally vandalize the girls bathroom at TC, who jumped on the cute dude’s motorcycle first at 2 am in Denny’s parking lot, who pulled herself over when she was car dancing to classical music when we were driving around the Burg at 11 pm. We started to figure out boys and dating together, and later college and the crumbled job market.
To say that a LOT has changed since our teenage antics would be so understated as to be stupid. OF COURSE things changed, we were 14 when we met and now we’re…not 14. But at 14, Joselle did something for me that no one else had done before: She got me.
Until that point, no one ever truly understood my crazy ideas, sarcastic jokes, and doomsday outlook. At the time that Joselle met me, I had come from the worst of schooling situations when it came to my peers. Mean girls wouldn’t even begin to describe it, and I was walled up, jaded and defensive to EVERYONE. Yet for some reason, even to this day I have no idea why, Joselle either didn’t care or saw beyond it. She was the first person to give me a chance. She was the first person to not judge me.
It’s still that way all these years later. Out of all of my friends, both old and new, Joselle’s life and my life are completely different. She is married with a wonderful daughter. I am so far from that life I may as well be living on a different continent. As we’ve grown and lived and, yes, aged, our views on religion, sex, work and so many other issues has diverged. But that doesn’t matter to either of us. She continues to be a friend as faithful to me now as she was when we were 14, putting on makeup in the girls bathroom. Her ability to see me as who I am and accept me before I could ever think about accepting myself has made all the difference.
On this International Women’s Day, I have to recognize these three amazing women who have enriched my life in ways beyond measure. In the end, these three women gave me the greatest gift I’ve ever gotten: their unconditional support, friendship and acceptance. They have shared in my tears, laughs, speeding tickets, bad choices in men, broken bones and passport stamps. They have helped make my life what it is:
A life worth living.
What could just B more amazing?
The article The One with the Old Friends was written by Elizabeth Schap and first appeared on just B more.
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