I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships lately.
Losing someone so special to me has left this void of space in my soul and I spend a lot of time wondering if she knew just how much I loved and admired her. The more that I think about things, the more I realize that I have spent my life trying to become a person she would be proud of. I looked up to her so much more than I think I was even aware of myself, and I wanted to be someone kind and inherently as good as she was herself.
Now that she’s gone, I just think of all the things I’ll never get to tell her and that has me thinking of the other relationships in my life. So often we leave feelings unsaid and assume people know how we feel about them, so I’ve been trying to be better about saying how I feel in the moment and using the time I have to make sure people know that I care and admire them.
Reflecting on that, I come back to relationships in my life and the way that they have shaped me. Ultimately, our time here on earth is meant for relationship building and we are inherently shaped by everyone we encounter. Some harden our hearts, some brighten our minds, some enliven our souls, and some can even leave us damaged. It’s a scary idea because it’s something we can’t control beyond a certain extent – we can walk away from toxic relationships, but we also open ourselves up in this vulnerable position whenever we let someone new into our lives.
In thinking on that, I wanted this blog post to be about some of my most significant friendships that have shaped me. It’s hard to find an appropriate time or place to really tell people how you feel so I thought this would be a good space to do that. I think it’s important for me to be authentic when I’m feeling depressed, but it’s just as important to be authentic when I’m not. In moments where I’m thinking rationally, I want people to understand that I’m capable of understanding the depth of love and connection I have in this world. The problem is that depression confuses all of that and sometimes makes it impossible to sink in when you’re feeling hopeless and alone.
I’m going to group these into categories and then freely discuss. Full disclosure – when feelings are involved, I’m a lengthy narrator so this could get long.
Your Work Friends
Sometimes I think your work friends are actually your closest friends. These are the people who see you every single day. They go through the same daily grind as you and share a common struggle. What’s great about work friends is that they’re not people you would always seek out to form a connection with, so you get benefits from them that you don’t get with those who share similar interests with you. These people can be from totally different backgrounds or age ranges and offer so many differing perspectives that spice up the everyday mundane drone of the work week. They’re the only reason you even get through work, half the time. They’re the reason leaving even the crappiest of jobs can sometimes be heartbreaking. They’re the friends who save your every-day monotony and give you reasons to laugh throughout the week.
I love work friends. Work friends sometimes become some of the best friends in my life and I always appreciate the laughter they bring to my life. I have had A LOT OF JOBS in my lifetime and even though some of them weren’t the most exciting or glamorous jobs in the world, I was always happy at work because I had them there to laugh with or complain to. These are my work-week heroes who listen to crazy stories, celebrate birthdays and milestones, cover you when you’re sick or experiencing tragedies and are there for you when they really don’t have to be at all.
I don’t think work friends get enough credit on the friend spectrum but they’re some of the greatest people in the world and they are incredibly influential on your life. I’ve had some amazing work friends that I’m really happy became regular life friends as well because I can’t imagine my life without them. Some of my best stories, best laughs, and best memories come from my relationships with people at work.
These friendships have really shaped my work ethic. They help me to be a better driven person professionally by pushing me through the tough spots but they also have helped me to have a better understanding of relationships in general by exposing me to people I wouldn’t normally pursue a connection with.
The Pure Friend
I think everyone in life has a friend who is literally so pure they are just the most precious gem in your friend treasure trove. If you don’t have one, then I hope and pray you find yours soon! I don’t mean pure in the sense that they are reserved or sheltered from the world in a white coat never swearing or uttering a bad thing – I mean pure as in just honestly the best. Fucking. Person. Period. Like, you don’t have a bad thing to say about them because they are just who they are and who they are is dope as hell and you are so thankful they stumbled into your life. You might not be super close with this person, but you never have a bad time with them and you’re always happy to see them when you do.
For me, this is my friend Joe. I have a lot of negative feelings towards my time at Brockport and the way my career ended there, but I would do it all over again if I had to pick between that and never meeting Joe. He is the friend that can keep up with your crazy, understands your confusing thoughts, laughs at EVERY JOKE before you even say, and just straight up genuinely makes the world a better place. He also bakes, which is the best, because you reap the benefits of his hobbies in the form of treats. The granola to my Sponge, the struggle to my bus, the ying to my yang – this is a friendship that I treasure and brings me nothing but utter happiness. Joe and I could talk about serious issues in the political climate and seamlessly (maybe not seamlessly but very confusingly, over the course of six unrelated stories) transition into a conversation about the meaning behind a dream about a fish tank and not skip a beat. I just always felt understood with him and there was never any hiding who I was or fear of judgment – just laughter and food and drinks and procrastination and all the pranks.
This friendship shaped my ability to believe there is good in this world despite all the messed-up shit you see every day. Things don’t have to be dramatic or complicated – they can just be good.
Side note – bonus points if this friend comes with the cutest puppy in the world who becomes your self-appointed God-Child/Nephew.
The Unexpected Friend
This is the friend you didn’t expect to become an important part of your life. I think this friend is special in a way that the others aren’t able to be, because this isn’t a friendship that really “should have happened’ in whatever way that works out for you. You meet a lot of people and it’s obvious some are just meant to be in your life, but then there are those who you meet in certain categories and you never expect to walk away one day having them be someone you care so deeply about.
My friend Sarah falls into this category. Aside from the fact that I actually thought she despised me the day we met; she was never someone I would have thought I’d still be spending time with on a regular basis with years later. In our case, she’s younger than I am, and I was her boss, but it was early on when I realized we shared the same old soul. What I appreciate most about our friendship is the fact that there’s still a mentor/mentee vibe that lingers underneath where I’m able to be someone to offer insight into situations I’ve experienced because I’m a little older. It’s nice to have someone who trusts you as that kind of person and it’s nice to be needed in that way.
This friendship helped me understand that relationships don’t have to make sense all the time. I don’t know why someone who’s 6 years younger than me wants to hang out with me and my friends – but does there really need to be a reason?
Soulmate is a complicated word and I think people define this differently. For me, this is the friend that was meant to be yours and completes you in a way other people can’t. This is someone who lifts you up, inspires you and makes you want to be a better person because their light brings out your best light.
My little is my soulmate and will always be my most precious jewel. It was evident in our first conversation with each other that we were meant to be together. I have never been so inspired by a person’s soul as I have by hers. She is kind, determined, unbelievably talented, and the most genuinely good person I have met. She is my little sister, but she is also the person I look up to. The person who makes me want to be better, to do better, to strive for better than I have. I look at her accomplishments and I am so proud of the woman she is.
We may not live together anymore, and we may not get our daily naps or cuddle sessions, but she is a person I know will always hold a special place in my heart above the rest. The fact that she married one of my high school friends (more to come) just brings out my hopeless romantic who believes in true love and fairytales and rainbows and everything that books and movies say can be true.
This friendship healed my heart. My little knew me during one of the worst times of my life, when I was an actual train wreck and she loved me through it all. She believed in me when I couldn’t believe in myself and gave me hope. She healed the hurt I had from friends who taught me that friendship came with conditions by loving me without any.
Your Second Family
This is the family who adopts you as one of their own. These relationships are precious because they extend beyond the friend that brought you in – you share dinners, and holidays, and celebrations, and late-night talks, vacations and kitchen hangouts together. They roast you in the family group chat, or ask you to dinner on a week night. These are the people who will sit and talk with you for hours in a kitchen in your pajamas or make fun of you for snoring in your sleep. They’re your family and you’re a part of theirs and it’s a really special thing.
Admittedly, I’ve always been that friend who likes to talk to people’s parents. I’m not sure why, I just always gravitate towards adults (I say that as a 29 year old like I’m not an adult myself). But when Danielle and I became close, it was a package deal with her family. I remember being utterly terrified of her dad the first day he met and accused me of trying to steal his guns (hahahaha) but from that day forward I was just part of the family.
These relationships are special to me because I have a lot of baggage when it comes to family. My family has had a lot of ups and downs and I’ve endured some crappy things (and some awesome things too, don’t get me wrong) and the Freeman Forest was this home away from home safe-haven for me. To know you have people who love you, when they don’t have to, is such a special thing and it heals a lot of the damage you may have picked up over the years. Group chats, and bus trips, outdoor adventures (and disasters), dinners and just hanging out in the kitchen are things you probably do with your friends all the time. These things were ordinary, but they were my favorite things to do for so long because of the people I was doing them with.
This family means so much to me in so many ways. You don’t have to like your kids friends or your siblings friends – that’s why we all go out and get friends because we’re all different – so when your friends with someone and their family chooses to care about you and include you in their lives as well, it’s a really powerful and beautiful thing. I’m really lucky to have a group of people who took care of me like I was one of their own.
The Family Friends
These are the family members in your life who are more than that. They’re your best friends and bridge the gap between two parts of your world. Cousins, sisters, aunts – these are people you were born into a relationship with but choose to deepen that connection outside of just family functions.
I’m really lucky to have two cousins who have been more like friends to me my whole life. Allie and Jenny have both brought me so many moments of laughter and have been the sanity I needed to get through crazy family parties, funerals, celebrations and everything in between. I would actually be lost without both of them and I’m grateful that we get to spend more time together because we choose to be more than just family by being friends as well.
Your High School Friends
These are probably some of your most complicated and yet simple relationships. That sounds contradictory but hear me out. These are the friends who’ve known you so long they have seen you through practically everything. They were there for the bad fashion decisions of your past, they were there through your awkward stages, your firsts of practically everything and you’ve grown up together. That much time complicates a lot of things – relationships have highs and lows, people grow apart, move far away or change and there’s a lot of room for negativity to creep in if you’re not careful. It’s hard to maintain these friendships but you do it anyway. The simplicity of it all is that no matter the time or distance, these are the people make you feel at home.
For me, its likely surprising to no one that these friends are “the boys” as I often refer to them. Looking back on our younger days, it’s sometimes really, really….REALLY hard to see why I even called them friends in high school but I promise you the deeper impact of our friendship makes the teasing and nicknames worth it. When I think about people who’ve shaped my life, these guys have a significant place in my emotional DNA.
It’s hard to change your identity when you’ve known someone since you were a kid. Sometimes I think the friendship I have with these guys clouds my ability to see myself as anything other than the annoying girl they made fun of in high-school because that’s how I’m used to defining myself. It’s hard to grow and become something better when you have a lot of people in your life who have seen you through that growth period and treated you a certain way. They have broken my heart in more ways than I can count, but they’ve also seen me at my absolute lowest points and stuck by me despite everything. When you grow up with people, you have to accept that you’ve probably hurt each other at certain points through that growth and that’s why I love them despite some of the not-so-picturesque parts of our past. As with all groups, there are some I have stayed closer to than others, but I can’t tell you how much joy these idiots bring to my heart when we’re all together. Seeing them grow up and accomplish things, get married and thinking of them starting families literally overwhelms my heart.
For me, these are the people who influenced how I viewed love and shaped me into the hopeless romantic who wants to believe that everything can have a happy ending. Most people don’t get to have friends from elementary school and still talk by the time they get married, but I do. That idea of perfection has been toxic for me at times, but it also brings joy to my heart and reminds of the good in this world.
Your College Friends
These are the friends who will never judge you because they have gone through the weirdest shit with you. (They’re actually probably judging you hardcore, but in a loving way because they’ve been there too.) These are the friends who were there for the transition years – the years where you weren’t quite an adult yet so you could afford to make horrible decisions and spend the next morning huddled together on a bed laughing and wondering how you were still alive. These are special friendships because it’s likely that they’ve seen you through horrible times that deepened your connection, but they also were there to have the best fucking time with you when you needed it.
For me, these are my sorority sisters and fraternity brothers. When you’re in college, everything is this heightened, dramatic experience but when you leave you realize just how lucky you are to have lived with 9 people and have room sleepovers, spontaneous parties, nights in playing just-dance, endless movie marathons on break and every party in between where someone did something insane. When I look back, I just remember all the laughter and fun (and some of the drama) and I’m so lucky to find people I know I can count on for my whole life.
People judge this era of my life – and for good reason, I was a disaster in college – but my sisters were there for me at my brother’s funeral to support me when he died even though we had only known each other a few months at that time. My roommate held me the night he died and let me cry until I fell asleep. I drove to be with her when her mom died. I’ve celebrated, and cried, and everything in between with these girls and they’ve never missed a beat if I needed someone to lift me up. My last blog post was intense and the first 10 people to comment on it and offer encouragement, love and support were these women who haven’t seen or talked to me in months/years.
I look back on this time in my life and it brings so much laughter to my soul. From parties, to fundraising for Push for America, to standards board, to life in a disgusting house filled with the best and worst people to live with (depending on whether or not you wanted to work the next day or eat your own frozen food items) these are friends I’m so thankful to have. These are the friends who shaped me through the most difficult time of my life. They are the ones who let me re-define myself, for better or worse, and still show up to support the woman I am today.
When you think about friends, these are THE friends. The friends who are literally your ride or die. They are probably the most judgmental of all your friends, but they do it from a place of love. They’re the people that just get you – no frills, no expectations – they accept and love you for your total person, even when that person is a disgusting pig or pain in the ass.
Everyone has a tribe and I’m thankful that my friendship with my cousin led me to finding mine. These are people I never would have thought I’d find, let alone would want me and my non-stop singing, harry potter loving, annoying ass self, around. These are the friends I can hang out with in my sweatpants all day, every day, but will also tell me when it’s been long enough in the sweat pants and I should probably start trying a little harder. They will tell me I’m beautiful and genuinely mean it just as genuinely as they will tell me I’m a troll who needs to brush my hair.
These people become family in a way that family never could. They’re the family you chose because your souls matched up in some way, not because you were born into it, and that relationship is special. There are too many of them to name individually, but they are invaluable in my life and something I wouldn’t trade for all the American dollars in the world.
These friends have helped me realize not take things so seriously all the time. School and work are great, but life is about being ridiculous in a restaurant at 2am as much as it’s about getting a degree or a good job. Friends should support and lift you up, but they should also tease you and help you realize you’re being a diva too. They bring the balance to your life and that’s why they’re the ones who stay with you throughout the whole rollercoaster ride.
Have you fallen asleep yet? Are you still here? I told you this would be long. But I went to a Gender Reveal Party and I’m feeling sentimental and I thought it would be good to let out some positivity rather than always focusing on my self-deprecating thoughts of loneliness. If you take anything away from this, I hope that you become more honest with the people around you and let them know how much you care, now. I think people would be a lot happier if they had any idea how much they mean to others around them and brightening someone’s day always feels great. I hope this brightens some of yours!