I’m in an odd season of life. A lot has changed in 2018. I took a big chance in moving to Chapel Hill for a new job and what, at the time, was a mere possibility that I might be able to open my own barre studio. I’ve had to face fears, step out of comfort zones, get lost (literally), get found, and ask for help, something I’m not very good at. I’m probably even worse at accepting help.
This isn’t the first time I’ve moved to a place where I know no one. I have a vivid memory of the day in August 2008 when my mom, stepdad, and the twins pulled out of the parking lot of my campus apartment in Knoxville. I looked up at the 15 or so story nondescript tower of bricks and felt an odd sense of peace, even as the realization that I was 100% entirely on my own for the first time ever hit me. I was where I was supposed to be right then, and trusted that the rest would work itself out.
I remember, too, praying for friends while on the elliptical at TREC shortly after that moment. I was working my way up to 30 minutes at that point and distracted myself from how winded I was by using that time to talk to God. “Please, God, let me make a friend here,” I prayed. “Let me have someone.” He answered by giving me the courage to insert myself into a conversation a group of girls as we were leaving a chapter meeting of our sorority. Those girls became some of my sweetest and dearest – and most likely to pull me into a ridiculous outing – friends.
It was a little different when I moved to Nashville. I knew people there thanks to college and grew my friend group through them. I found myself in still another “I need friends” situation when I moved back to Charlottesville. I didn’t really have close friends in high school, and my life was so different at that point, some 9 years after we graduated, that those who were still around, I couldn’t relate to. Again, I forced myself out of my comfort zone and again, ended up with some of the best friends a girl could ask for.
A similar situation is playing out in Chapel Hill. I’ve been here almost eight months now, and I’m finding footing in the friend department. Each set of these friends – Knoxville, Nashville, Charlottesville, Chapel Hill – have a unique place in my life, a special role they play. That’s really incredible if you think about it, and someday, I’ll have them all in one place at one time. I have a feeling they’ll like each other.
A Friendship Stirring
I’ve spent much of the last decade going. I focused on the next thing, and then the next thing, and then the thing after that. I find myself now in this place of wanting to slow down. Settle down. Commit. To a town. A church. A relationship. That’s a different place, a new place. I’m working out what that place looks like, how I can accept slowing down when I’m so used to moving, constantly. This new season has also brought about a lot of reflection on friendship. The concept had been stewing on my heart for a while. It became a bigger pull during a recent Bible study. In Nashville for Business Boutique, the importance of good friends was driven home.
Liz – one of my Charlottesville friends – burst into our hotel room several hours after my arrival in all her charging hell with a water pistol glory. That’s her. Loud. Sassy. Unapologetic. Uniquely and entirely her, flip flops, top knots, and all. We were a little loud upon reuniting for the first time since dancing the night away at a Taylor Swift show in D.C., in July, and immediately flopped onto our beds to catch up on our lives, like we hadn’t been texting one another frequently.
In a lot of ways, Liz gets me. She, too, prioritized a trip to Hattie B’s over the opening Dave Barnes concert at Business Boutique and responded with a resounding (loud) YES when I leaned over and whispered “wanna get food?” when the morning sessions ran over and our stomachs were growling. We never ran out of things to talk about, I’ve almost reached a point where I trust her driving, and it was a no judgment zone as we went to Jeni’s twice within 12 hours, and I requested coffee at fairly regular intervals. When she dropped me at the airport, it was with a promise that I’d see her in a few weeks for our annual Citizen Burger Bar and Sons of Bill Christmas Concert outing. She’s one of those friends – the ones that will stand by you at your wedding, show up for the birth of your children, and all around tell you what you need to hear.
At Business Boutique, I was surrounded by 3,200 women who were there to chase a goal. Many of them were there with a friend or a co-worker. Those who came solo hopefully found a new friend or have a support system back home. While it wasn’t a segment topic, the idea of women supporting women, of asking for – and accepting – help was a theme woven throughout. In a season of finding new friendships and beginning to consider what it would mean to “settle down,” the idea of friendship took on a new definition while sitting in Cornerstone Church’s auditorium beside one of my best friends.
Think About Your Friends
Take a moment right now and think about who you consider a friend. I don’t mean the familiar faces you see while at the grocery store or even that coworker you don’t really know all that well, but you chit-chat over your packed lunches and sometimes go in together to get the minimum order for the Chinese place down the street to deliver. I mean the people you call up when life goes really well and you want to share your good news with them, the same people you reach for when things go south and you need a shoulder.
Now that those people – your people – are on your mind, ask yourself an even harder question:
Are they a good friend?
In this season, I’m learning what a good friend is. It’s the Lizs. The people that call you when they’re in crisis or when they know YOU are in crisis. They’re the people that send you texts throughout the day your mom is having major surgery to ask how she’s doing, how YOU are doing, do you need anything? They celebrate your successes and you let them know how happy you are for them when you see them succeeding after taking a leap of faith.
The thing is, friendships change. Some are forever. My friend Kathryn lives in Washington. She’s my first “internet friend.” We bonded over a long off-air TV show, Falcon Beach, I can’t even remember how many years ago. We’ve only ever met in person once, when she stayed with me for a few days in Nashville, but she and I have that sort of friendship that is just – there. We can go several weeks without any more than liking one another’s posts on Facebook, and one text can set us off in a deep conversation. She’s someone I know I can count on to be there for the good times and the bad ones.
Other friendships fizzle. Life takes you in different directions and before you know it, months have passed and that once #BFF is now a double tap on Instagram during an aimless scroll at a stoplight. There are no hard feelings, no “he said, she said.” Just a chapter that has drawn to a close. You can probably think of a number of these friendships. I certainly can.
Then there are friendships that aren’t good for you. It’s my belief that we’ve all had that friend – they have great qualities, and you have a history, but they just aren’t feeding your soul anymore.
A friend – a good friend – should add value to your life. They should support your goals, give you encouragement, send you a note reminding you of what your purpose is. They give you tough love when you truly need it. They keep your secrets, confide in you in turn. When you’re having a bad day/moment/week, they don’t turn the conversation to them – they listen, offer advice, and maybe pour you a glass of wine.
How do you deal with those friends? The ones that were perhaps one of your core people, but now just don’t make your heart feel okay? You can try to talk to them. In elementary school, we had a whole campaign around “When you… I feel… Don’t do…” for dealing with negative emotions. Even now, I think that’s a pretty good starting place. You can also break up with them.
I know. Breakups suck. But so does allowing yourself to spend time with people who, frankly, suck. What’s that saying? You can’t pick your family, but you can pick your friends? Something like that? If you’ve exhausted all options, walk away. Maybe you explain why you’re ending the friendship (I recommend this), or maybe you simply pull away, but if a friend is no longer being a friend – do you really need them?
Choose your friends wisely. The people you surround yourself with are a reflection of who you are, and who you will be. Make sure they add value. Make sure they make you feel good. Make sure you want to look at your wedding photos 20 years from now and see them in it.
And if they like dancing all night to Taylor Swift, so much the better.