“People come and people go. They take and they give. Build you up, just to let you down, that’s just the way it is. But all I need is one friend, to get me through the day. One friend, that never goes away. Only one friend to understand and never let me down” — Kep ‘Mo

Feeling connected, being known and deeply knowing, is to me, as vital as air.  Friendships have guided me toward who I am and challenged me to stretch and evolve. I live my best when engaged in meaningful, heartfelt conversation. I value and eagerly anticipate friend-time. I hold amazing memories, in my heart and mind, of experiences shared with friends.  I am not yet, as good a friend as I aspire to be.

Mary Eller and Carol Dunleavy were my first BFF’s, the template for all future friendships. We discovered our selves and each other at Woodward Elementary School. Our connection grew over time until I thought of us as a tribe, a posse,…..MY everything. We tentatively shared innermost thoughts and deepest, darkest secrets. Together, we conquered the fear and confusion of school de-segregation, trials and tribulations of solo and ensemble, frustration and pain over the unfairness of life, profound grief when faced with death, and eventually the wonder of new life.

In Senior High, I made a terrible friendship error; I prioritized a boy over Mary and Carol. I was enamored with the idea that a boy found me cute. I neglected sacred friend-time in favor of boyfriend time. I morphed into an inauthentic version of myself in a lame attempt to please. I told the boyfriend what he wanted to hear instead of what I truly thought.  I believed that if I lost him, I would be lost, so I did whatever it took to avoid this possibility.  In the process, I lost my self.

As a result of self-doubt, I withdrew from my besties. I wasn’t secure enough to stay real and raw while feeling not good enough, deficient and fundamentally flawed. The hope, bravery and acceptance I experienced hanging with my home girls was overshadowed by the illusion of love. I rationalized that I had always been the quirky outcast of our threesome. I convinced myself that Carol and Mary merely tolerated me, while winking and chuckling behind my back.  I consoled myself believing they just didn’t get it, when actually I didn’t.

I’ve discovered plenty about the importance of connectivity as a result of recovering from my High School fax pas. I continue to inadvertently commit friendship infractions. I’ve become selective in my choice of friends and end relationships with those that turn into frienemies. I struggle to balance friends, family and career.  My voice is still shaky when I stay real. Keb’ Mo’s lyrics capture it best, “But all I need is one friend, to get me through the day.  One friend, that never goes away. Only one friend to understand and never let me down.”  In order to have that one friend, you need to be that kind of friend.  Here are some of the friendship lessons I have learned, the hard way.

  1. Friendships need to be grown and nurtured. Without attention they wither.  Prioritize time and energy for friends as a mean of nurturing yourself.
  2. Listen deeply, to both understanding and honoring your friends.  If you are only listening to refute or one up their experience you aren’t hearing the unique perspective they bring to the relationship.
  3. Invest in each other by supporting change, hopes and dreams. You don’t need to agree with each other’s vision, but remain supportive by allowing the space to dream.  Be there fully if it doesn’t work out.  Avoid “I told you so’s.”
  4. Allow for both conflict and joy in friendships. Being real means speaking your mind and/or disagreeing.  This shouldn’t be a deal breaker, but rather a road to deeper connection. View friend’s differences as an opportunity to learn and grow.
  5. Hold confidence dear.  If a friend shares from the heart, respect the courage it took to share.  Keep their words between the two of you. It is theirs, and theirs alone to share with others, if and when they choose.
  6. If your significant other isn’t your friend, make a conscious commitment to have them become one (hopefully your BFF.)