I have lived in seven towns and cities. Each one was unique. Yet, each one was also very much the same in respect to the people who helped make those places feel like home. From post-secondary to being a newlywed, to raising a family, to relocating for work – somehow, some way, the circle of friends I needed appeared exactly at the right time.
There is a vulnerability and safe space that flourishes within the walls of friendships. Friends enhance the capacity to embrace the humanness of others, and the grace to offer and receive acceptance, forgiveness, and understanding. This depth brings “more” to our journeys.
The stages of adulthood often reflect the friendships that develop. Gathering in college dorms, away from home for the first time, camaraderie blossomed over high-waisted denim, zesty cheese Doritos, and hair that had a bad-ass personality. We were opinionated yet knew next to nothing. Naïve and hopeful, fearless and fearful, full of richness yet penniless, we shared philosophical thoughts on topics that were refreshing and novel to young minds. The world was viewed through bright eyes and open hearts. Adulthood was on the horizon, and holy shit, we had no doubt that we were going to rock it! We shared belief in endless possibilities.
Then came careers or families or both or neither. Days became entwined with individuals who shared common interests or little people. Conversations revolved around raising miniature humans who kept throwing curveballs at parents struggling to survive responsibilities with all pieces intact. We were trying to pay bills, and meet demands while attempting to keep our heads above the water; juggling a multitude of balls that no one warned us to expect. The comfort was in knowing that we were all in the same leaky boat, paddling with broken oars and wicked humor. Friendship kept us afloat with gatherings full of laughter, and cheap alcohol, and really, really good times. Friends evolved into family. We were blessed with a village that helped raise our children and shape us into adults. Life is so much easier when others walk beside you.
Then kids grow up, and adults grow older, and life changes rapidly yet slowly, all at the same time. Sometimes our footing is shaken as friendships we thought would be life-lasting vanish with the seasons and leave us wondering “what the hell just happened?” Empty nests, moves, loss, differences, or breakups can shatter confidence and identities. Often, we are forced to regroup, regather, and reassess.
This is the situation I found myself in when our family uprooted, near mid-life, and moved away from the small town that gave us big roots. It was simultaneously exciting and terrifying. To say our high school kids were not happy with us for the first couple of years would be an understatement. People who were constants became less so when hundreds of miles separated lives. We were on our own. I needed to meet new, local friends in order to embrace the change. I was missing the “more” factor that rounded out my life.
Meeting people when traveling through significant shifts in life can be difficult. Sometimes the easy avenues that opened doors to relationships, such as children or careers, are no longer accessible or simply do not serve the purpose of creating friendships. It can be daunting to own who you are and put yourself “out there”. I sat down and decided to utilize the power of social media, reaching out to anyone I might know in the area. Yes, this was possible because we lived near one of the larger city centers, but it also required thinking differently about the options available on hand to network.
I sent out messages to women who were part of my past in varying degrees; high school and college friends, individuals who also relocated to the area, work colleagues, etc. I invited them to a night out at a local pub, encouraging them to bring others who they thought might enjoy the collective interaction.
That was 6 years ago. The circle of friends that has emerged as a result has been soul-medicine on many levels. We are a mixed bag of diverse personalities, who provide an unwavering sense of trust and security. We discuss and laugh, and cry. We support, and encourage, and tease. We take turns falling down while the others meld together to extend kindness and compassion. The aloneness of dark times is made less lonely.
We have read books, seen live performances, and attended events and concerts. Our group has held suppers, attended vision board, pottery, and painting workshops, and wore pajamas to movie nights. Sometimes we have hung out, doing very little while discussing everything. There have been monumental losses, celebrations, and milestones. And when the entire world turned upside down in the blink of an eye, we took solace in technology that allowed us to see each other and reconnect, if only for a couple of hours. It has been enough to fill our hearts with hope that a future with normalness might be around the corner.
Relationships take work, effort, time, and courage. You might get hurt, but hell, you also just might bloom through your personal connections! Some of my friendships have left permanent footprints, and solid foundations, in my heart. Many taught me hard lessons that brought resilience and growth; ties were formed, and bonds were broken, plenty were brief acquaintances, and a handful of friends are still my absolute favorite humans ever! Every experience has created memories.
Friends belong. Friends accept. Friends love. Friends heal. Friends inspire. It does not get much “more” than that.