Friendship is like a delicate, but favorite recipe. It requires time and effort, loving care, and to be present to make it turn out right. But it’s worth every effort, because it’s the sweetest, tastiest cake you’ve ever made (all my favorite recipes are cake). But without those things, it is difficult to make it come out right. And sacrificing that favorite recipe is one of the biggest costs to moving and following your heart and dreams.
I make no qualms that I am career and ambition driven. I have moved *gulp* 4 times in the past 6 years, all for career, none for heart. Each time it gets increasingly harder to make friends and maintain friendships. Things get lost on translation, I am confronted with more demons, other people in the past tribes get closer, you become a pleasant visitor to the party, but not a regular. You have a lot of friends, but no bridesmaids invitations nor a secret holder, because no matter how hard you try, moving and shaking has a cost each time. And each time the cost deepens.
You try really hard to hold on. You love them and they love you, but never knowing when you’ll return, and in some places, never returning, it changes. And what’s hard is that no one can quite grasp what that means unless they have been there too. So it may even seem to them, nothing has changed, but you feel it.
Today, I scurried quickly out of a banquet dinner for a bunch of first year students in a summer program, practically in tears. Because in five short weeks, you could feel the community they had built, and I felt like an intruder with no home. I haven’t had a full blown tribe or community in years – like I belonged. I am craving that. And that craving is oddly burdening existing friendships because I simply feel tolerated at times, but not included. And it’s rightfully so! Some of it is because of my own tendency to withdraw and become quite cold when I’m feeling misunderstood or outcasted. This is probably from being unmercifully bullied as a child and so spending a while searching for belonging as a young adult. I learned to shut off and shut down. Never let them see the real you (I totally identify with the queen in Frozen). Other parts of not being included is that you simply cannot be included. You dont exist in that time and space.
Many women can live without that tribe. I am not one of those women. I have learned this painfully the past year. While I struggle sometimes to understand why someone may want to spend a ton of time with me, I’m grateful for having women and men who have cherished me as part of their group. Who have welcomed me. I don’t need a large group (actually prefer it to be smaller), but I need it. And I need it close to me. I need to feel included.
Lately, I feel more of a burden than anything to my friends. I also think having a group allows for shared connection among one another where you don’t feel you need to hide or go silent. It also gives you multiple reality checks that I think is helpful. I am optimistic that it can be developed again. I’ve developed it a couple times in my life, and hopefully, in my older age now, I haven’t become so far gone as to not be able to create it again. I’m rusty, sure. But I hope I can find that community, rather than feeling like a stranger in my life.
Moving and change is wonderful. But everything comes at a cost. I’m hoping to buy back some of this one.
Tonight I am thankful for friends who say what needs to be said even when it is tough to hear.
I have been blessed beyond measure with three intelligent, amazing, beautiful, kind and ferocious female friends that make up the inner most circle of my tribe. They have laughed with me, cried with me, traveled with me, gotten drunk on nachos, margaritas and self-love with me, and when I have been completely broken and not had any idea how to put myself back together they have not tried to fix me. Instead, they have gently held my broken pieces and breathed words of life and loving reminders of why I deserve to be whole and complete in my own right. They kept my pieces safe until I was strong enough to put them back together. For this, I am eternally grateful.
But sometimes…a lot of the time…they are more than willing to say the not so nice things. The things that hurt. The things that knock a few pieces loose again and cause me to have to re-arrange and rebuild. It hurts. It sucks. But I know that it is done with the most love imaginable as they only want to see me thrive and be the best me I can be.
This happened Thursday night. So Tegan…this ones for you!
After a long day of work, a rough couple weeks (okay months) in the lack of love department and right before watching the much anticipated Black Panther premier, as I stuffed nachos in my mouth and had another discussion about why men suck, why I deleted tinder and why I refuse to settle. Tegan, my most gentle and kind friend and the last person on this planet who would purposefully hurt someone, after explaining to me what she feels is causing my frustration and patiently listening to my rebuttal uttered this statement…
“But you’re still single”
From a few tables down I legit heard the waitress say “Damn Tegan. Shots fired.” (We frequent this restaurant a lot but they know each other from high school just in case you were wondering).
Let me back up just a tiny bit to give some context to the statement. But trust me. It doesn’t make it any less harsh.
Here is a brief history of my dating life: I’m minding my business trying to live my best life. Random guy enters the picture in some random way (tinder, going out, sliding in my DM’s, someone saying hey I think you would like this guy. Normal 21st century dating stuff). I give said guy a chance. If I had a super power, it would be my ability to see the good in anyone, latch onto that, and fall in love with it. That happens. I’m amazing. Guy decides nope not what he wants. Guy exits in some usual dramatic way that involves either a very confusing argument or him explaining how amazing and wonderful I am but why he just can’t be with me because he is scared, has goals, doesn’t want to hurt me, or they try to convince me I’m crazy for having standards. I’m sad for a while (though the amount of time spent being sad is getting shorter and shorter). And I swear off all men. Until the cycle starts again. And scene.
It works like clockwork it’s almost scary. So after this happening about 13574893020193837920 times (actual number. Not an exaggeration). I guess the people closest to you get pretty sick of it and decide forget it…I’m just going to let her know it’s all her fault so she can fix the problem and finally find a man.
Just kidding. That’s not what she did. I gave her a really hard time and got really loud and dramatic and for the duration of the movie told everyone I was re-evaluating our friendship. But really I totally understood what she was saying.
So the discussion prior to the statement was that I tend to date the same type of guy. And clearly that’s not working. A lot of the discussion centered around looks and the type of guy I am attracted to and maybe that’s why it’s not working for me. Her thesis was that I need to date someone I’m not attracted to and that attraction will grow and that other things should be more important. That I need to try something different.
Let me pause right here. I’m not shallow. Of the list of qualities I am looking for in a man, drop dead gorgeous Michael B Jordan look alike is not one of them (though I wouldn’t be mad if it happened that way)
I have dated some ugly guys (sorry if you’re one of them) but according to Tegan, I even have an ugly guy type.
So her suggestion was try something different. Find a nerdy, ugly guy who I’m not attracted to who would worship the ground I walk on. Attraction will grow.
My concern is however, that to me that sounds a lot like settling. Not to say I would never date a “nerd.” I’m sure plenty of people would call me a nerd for my love of reading, knitting and all things Harry Potter related. But to me it felt like “don’t chase the spark” (explanation to come) and just find someone who is looking for a relationship and see if it works out. And my fear more than being single forever, is settling just to be with someone and waking up 20 years from now not knowing how I got there and wanting to run.
I don’t think it’s wrong to want a spark (see I told you it was coming). And not a lustful dang he’s beautiful I want to have his babies even though he is a butt hole spark. But a connection. One I’ve never been able to explain but have felt on several occasions leading me to no longer believe in the idea of a soul mate. But something that makes me interested from the beginning and wanting to spend time with them and get to know them. To endure bad days with them and be their safe space and to know each other.
and for that spark to grow into a beautiful, committed, connected relationship that is unbreakable by fight, or distance or some random thot.
But here’s the thing. Of all my friends. Tegan is the only one of us not single. Not only is she not single, she’s engaged!
So I would be stupid not to at least take a few minutes (or the remainder of dinner and the duration of Black Panther) to think about what she said.
While I watched all the amazing black women before me on the movie screen with a few glimpses of men in there too I got to thinking about what I admired most about Tegan. I know she hates being called strong but that’s exactly what it is. In particular, her ability to hear “advice” and opinions from all sorts of people, including myself, take it, process it and in the end come up and act on the decision that works best for her. It takes strength to go against almost everyone’s opinion of your relationship and say screw you, I’m sticking with it because it works for me. It might not make sense to you, but it’s my life, I see the vision, and I have faith that in the end it will all make sense for everyone else.
That’s purposefully vague because I’m not trying to put all of Tegan’s business out there but just know, that it worked out. Heck, she got the ring, but more than that she has a man she loves, who adores her and it works for them. I can’t be mad at that.
So, I said all that to say this. As I sat in a movie theater, watching one of the most amazing movies I’ve seen, with a cast full of beautiful and amazing black people, and strong and fierce black women, next to my best friend whom at the moment I was deciding wether I wanted her to remain my best friend, I came to the conclusion that maybe she’s right. She probably is right. But I also came to another conclusion…
Maybe I’m right too…
Maybe it is possible to find someone, and have that initial spark, and be attracted to them in all different areas, and for them to like me back and want to make things work. I don’t like operating from a mindset that assumes that all interesting, intriguing, goal oriented, employed, and slightly attractive men, especially black men, are ass holes. I have seen many a woman with this kind of man and it work. So I have chosen to hold out faith that it will happen for me. That I won’t have to settle. That there is someone out there who as Tegan put it “will appreciate all the awesomeness” that is me.
And maybe he’ll be gorgeous, or maybe he’ll be my kind of ugly. Maybe I’ll have to try something new and get out of my comfort zone, or actually leave the house, or maybe he’ll be at Salsa’s one night overhearing our ridiculous conversations and he’ll be intrigued. I don’t know. I don’t have the answers. I know that for now I am tired and will allow myself to rest and in the future I will try again. And maybe one day I’ll tell this story at my wedding reception, or maybe one day we will be 60 years old and still meeting for Mexican and movie night and Tegan will say
“I told you so.”
My Dearest Friends,
Thank you for the love and light you have given me in my life. At my lowest points, when I feel unworthy of love or incapable of being loved, you are there to remind me of my “enoughness” and that I am loved.
Valentine’s is a celebration of love and I’d be remissed to ignore the great deal of love that you put into my life. My oldest friends, those we cannot remember how or when we became friends, thank you. You keep me grounded in my roots, you remind me of the past and how much I’ve overcome, and your love always feels like coming home – familial, warm, and safe. You are my rock. We have withstood time.
To my friends who developed during hard times in my life. Who gave me a love wine and whiskey, fed me when I was too sad or weak to feed myself, and weaved yourselves into the fabric of my being, thank you. I love you for providing me the gift to grieve and reinvent myself with no judgement and lots of space. I’m thankful we are still friends, and I hope I’ve been able to return that.
To my friends who quickly became family. Who encourage me to dig deeper, stay authentic, and fulfill my potential on a level I cannot even see at times, I’m so grateful for your ability to believe and see the good in me when I cannot. I’m grateful that you hold me accountable to be the woman you see, even when I feel like shit. That you remind me of my worth on low days. You give me the gift of self worth.
I’m thankful for the friends who have stepped in as family in my travels. That have been the sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, and cousins when my biological family could not fulfill those roles due to space, time, and place. Thank you for inviting me to the metaphorical “cook outs” and family dinners, and keeping me safe and always making me feel like someone has my back.
Thank you to those who know me better than myself, and remind me when I forget. I’m grateful for my friends who tell me like it is, but with a gentle touch that reminds me, they love as they love themselves.
I love you all and the way you make laugh, cry, and rejoice. The way I could never truly be lonely because you all live in my heart and remind me often that you do.
I most of all you love you because you allow me into your worlds, expose your vulnerabilities with me, and trust me with your being and souls. I can only hope the love you feel from me is half the love I feel from you.
You all allow me to be me without condition or expectation. You are my soulmates and my Valentines forever. No matter what happens romantically in my life, I always know I have love because of you.
I love you. You matter. May your life be filled with the love you crave and desire, and not a penny less. Happy Valentine’s Day from the bottom of my heart.