Tried and True Friendships

What is friendship? Can it even be defined? A friendship encapsulates many different roles yet each friendship is defined differently based on the connection. Some friends are only for a season and some can remain in your life until the end. Now, the dynamic of those friendships will change based on life experiences and we should all learn to understand and respect the process. You may move away and live in different states or continents for work or relocate after marriage, whatever the case may be. Those changes can put a strain on the friendship or make it even stronger….that’s all up to the people involved.

I had some great friendships as a kid. I had friends who I would play hopscotch and jump rope with at recess and when school was out. Friends who would climb a mango tree with me and sit on the grass and eat mangos ’til we were full. Friends that I did homework with and made up dance steps to any song we heard. Those friendships all ended when I moved from Belize to Boston. We didn’t have IG and Facebook then to keep in touch (I’m showing my age lol but I’m not ashamed of it). Mailing letters was an option but money for stamps wasn’t always available. Then in high school I made new friends. Friends that I would talk about boys with. We would go to school and complain about our parents/guardians unfair parenting rules. We would schedule what time we would be on AIM after school to chat and remind each other to call our cell phones before 7pm because that’s when the free minutes came to an end. But there were also the “friends” who made fun of my weight, my hair, my nerdiness and my accent…..yup, my accent. I remember these Jamaican girls speaking patois, and hearing them made me feel comfortable to join in with my Belizean Kriol (Creole) accent. Turns out, I was trying too hard to speak patois and I was saying everything wrong according to them. At that time, timid me didn’t stand up for myself and called them ignorant for not knowing that there are different dialects in the Caribbean so I just never spoke in my accent in school from that day on. But there was this one girl who didn’t make fun of my accent and that was the start of our friendship.

That friendship followed me into adulthood but with a few bumps and bruises on the way. A few years out of high school and we are both living in different states, speaking on the phone every day and texting when we were not calling each other. Then things began to change and neither of us saw it coming. We were both going through a lot financially and emotionally and would turn to each other to vent about whatever the issues were that day. Somewhere along the line I felt as if there wasn’t a balance in our venting sessions. She would express her tribulations and I would express mine but we would always end up back on her issues when I didn’t even get through all of my complaints about life. Then I realized all we were doing was complaining and that was no way to live! I would try to bring some light into the conversation but that was all overshadowed by darkness. This would continue for months and one day I just had enough and told her I needed a break from the friendship. I told her I couldn’t handle her being so negative all the time while I was dealing with issues of my own and I couldn’t handle her burden on top of my own. See, I had this habit of not speaking up for myself when I had an issue with someone, then I would let it fester and I would reach my breaking point unbeknownst to them. So to her, she was blindsided by my decision to press pause on our friendship while I was just mentally drained and fed up.

After a few weeks of not speaking she did reach out to me and I ignored every call and text. I was not ready to dive back into things because I did not think anything had changed. A few weeks turned into months and into a year. We formed new friendships and strengthened the ones we already had outside of each other. Then one day I missed my friend and something told me to call her….she answered. Sometimes you have to break some things apart to put them back together. Over the course of a couple weeks we discussed everything. Within the break we both grew tremendously. I had no reserves for speaking my mind on matters within the moment. I expressed myself wholeheartedly without fear of sounding mean. Our friendship now is not what it was when we were 17-18 years old, but we’re no longer those people either. We are women now with a greater understanding of who we are and our purpose. We recognize our triggers, speak openly of our anxieties and know when to give each other the space we deserve.

We recently had a conversation about boundaries. How we are learning how to set said boundaries and not feel guilty for doing so. I sent her a link on Instagram that had a caption saying “Feeling guilty because of the reaction you are getting once you establish new boundaries? Remember it is more about taking care of yourself as opposed to being mean to the other person.” A new boundary I have in place is choosing how much of my personal life I want to share with people….we had a conversation that went something like this…

Her: So are you going to give me more info on this subject?

Me: No

Her: Ok, I respect it.

It seems miniscule but I appreciated her not badgering me to tell her something I wasn’t willing to discuss. No questions about when I will be ready or why I wasn’t ready at that time or if I’ve given info about this specific topic to someone else. My decision as an adult was not dissected but simply respected.

My friendships now are exactly what I need them to be. Real when it’s time to talk about issues. Fun when it’s time to go to bottomless brunch. Encouraging when one of us feels like quitting school or work. Hilarious when we are sharing memes all day. Comforting when one of us has suffered a loss. Respectful when some things are not up for discussion. Supportive when we have an idea or want to make a change. Balanced….we don’t need to speak every day but those check-ins are golden. I know who I am and the type of energy I want around me and I am glad that I’ve grown into the woman I am today who can recognize what is feeding my soul and what is draining it. All our friends serve a purpose in our lives. We just need to decipher if that purpose is helping us grow or keeping us stagnant.

xoxo

Jess

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