The year was 2008. I was on my way to a meeting to fill out paperwork for my new teaching job. I walked into the admin building ten minutes early, nervous about what I’d find inside. (A little background…I was hired at the high school, in a big district, where I did my student teaching. There were two English jobs available and close to 100 applicants. I interviewed hoping for the best and was eventually hired right behind one other teacher. I’ll give you one guess as to who was hired before me…)
As soon as I walked into the door to get this job thing started, I saw another woman sitting there. We clicked immediately and started talking teaching. Even though this was almost ten years ago and teaching is no longer our biggest commonality, my friendship with Beth is one of my strongest. We have unique traits and interests, but there’s a wave length the two of us share. It started on this random August morning.
Relationships with other women can be tricky. We’re all trying to work our way through our lives: balancing our families with work, keeping our marriages spicy, and hoping our kids are happy and healthy. In an era where women are marrying later and are more likely to be found in a professional setting, I think the women you surround yourself with are more important than ever. You want to have someone to laugh and cry with at all of life’s crazy stops.
One of the things I’ve vowed that I’ll teach my kids is how important it is to be a good friend. Your friends help you float even when it feels like the storm is about to take you down; they know exactly what to say or how to be there. They are also the ones there to ride with you on a beautiful night on the front deck; they will celebrate your successes and cheer you on.
But friendships need to float both ways. What you give back to them is so important. I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think I’ve always been a great friend. I think I’ve actually struggled with it at certain times in my life, and I learned some hard lessons because of this. It’s easy to think of your friends when you need something (a hug, a night out, a huge favor), but it needs to be equally as easy (if not more) to think about your friends when it is all about THEM. Selfishness can deteriorate any good relationship. In order to allow yourself to be totally taken care of, you have to learn to take care of the people around you. You only get what you give.
There are many women who inspire me daily. Some of them are childhood friends. One of my high school friends is still my go-to for mom talk. We were pregnant at the same time twice. Having a pregnant friend while you’re pregnant is like a hitting the jackpot in terms of “I can say this to you and you won’t judge me because you understand the cluster f*ck that is currently my body and life.” She’s inspiring because she’s seen all shades of me as I’ve grown, yet she is still there by my side.
There are college friends. Oh lordy, why do you still like me? These are the girls who didn’t judge me by my fashion or dancing while we explored dark, scary frat houses with the most horrid music playing. They have been there as I’ve gotten married and had my babies, and we’ve succeeded in seeing each other for way more than the sorority girls we once were. This group of girls taught me how to work hard but also that you can’t forget to play. They saw something in me that I didn’t know was there and inspired me to take chances and fulfill dreams outside of the small town where I grew up. They are still the whiskey to my Coke, and I’ll always reminisce with them while looking forward to how our lives will grow and mesh.
There are work friends, and these people are the MVPs of my friend life. They’re my life line for those fast five minutes in between classes (some days my only adult interaction), they willingly cover my class if I have to go to the bathroom during dreaded block scheduling days, and they let me steal their candy, coffee, and tampons with NO QUESTIONS ASKED. They also don’t judge me when I only have 20 minutes to stuff my lunch down my throat. They’ve made me a better teacher, a better mom, and a better wife; three things that are of the utmost importance in my life. They.are.invaluable.
I’ve also made relationships with women at our church and kids’ school. They are the keys to my future because I foresee lots of time together as we navigate the relationships of our little ones, figure out how to raise kids together, and spend fun times on the sidelines (definitely trying not to be crazy soccer moms).
There are also sister/cousin friends. They’re my gang, crew, squad if you must. We grew up together and played ridiculous games (squirrel family, our own made up version of don’t wake daddy, and good old-fashioned house). They let me be the ring leader and helped me develop skills (you know, bossy teacher type skills) that help me every day. They’ve also made me so strong because I feel like they’re behind me watching the hard decisions I make. They’ve forced me into a role model situation that I didn’t always succeed in. Nevertheless, I needed the challenge and hope that in some ways I’ve stepped up to the plate.
There are people like Beth. I’ll get creepy and call her a soul-mate. I worked with her for a while, but even after she left, she was still a life line. I can text her at anytime, about anything. She always understands (even when I’m being crazy) and has kind, encouraging words. We could go for days not talking but it seems like we just saw each other the next time we pick up our conversation. She’s inspiring and hilarious.
Wherever or whenever it is that you find your people, always remember to take care of them. The right relationships will last a lifetime, but we have to do our best to upkeep them with love and make them stay afloat. A strong relationship isn’t an accident.
Also, allow them teach you. They are the best examples you have. You can’t get much better than an always accessible best friend who happens to think your jokes are funny. You’ve picked her as a friend for a reason; it’s probably because she rocks, so let your guard down and learn from her.
I hope this inspires you to think of a friend who’s special, and to be an extra good friend back. I know that sometimes I need a reminder to touch base. Every time I do, I once again see how lucky I am to be surrounded by women who inspire me.