Close your eyes. Picture your very best friend. Or better yet, pretend you’ve just been arrested and they’re lining you up to place your one call. Pick up that phone. Whose number are you wishing you could dial but admittedly can’t because you’ve relied so heavily on your iPhone that you can’t even recall their area code let alone entire phone number? Who is the person you know without a shadow of a doubt will pick up that call on the first ring and have you out by lunch time – if they aren’t in line behind you, laughing hysterically.
We all know what a real friend looks like. Or rather, how they make you feel. They feel like a warm hug when your bones are tired, like that first bite of a freshly baked baguette slathered in salty, creamy butter and like buttoning those perfectly worn in-yet-chic-yet-oh-so-comfortable jeans that make your ass look like a straight descendant of J Lo. A good, true, seasoned friendship is one of the safest, warmest, most wonderful feelings. A feeling of stability, of support, of grace, of presence, of loyalty. A lifetime friendship is one that grows with you (like those magic jeans) and feeds your soul through the years. Maybe you talk daily in a constant flurry of iMessages and shared meals, or maybe you go weeks without face to face contact to finally be reunited – falling effortlessly back into the warm, worn-in rhythm you’ve grown to know and love. When I was younger, I was what I liked to call an equal opportunity friend. Every girl I deemed as friend potential was a candidate to be one of those baguette and dynamite denim type friends. I’d give my all (which, if we’ve met, you know is a lot) and sometimes, occasionally, sadly wind up nursing a heart ache thanks to a fickle pal or disloyal confidante. Truth be told, not every friend we find is going to be the ride or die variety. In fact, most aren’t. I know. That sounds so harsh. But take it from someone who is almost always all in – a true lifetime-r is hard to find and more often than not, some friends are for seasons. The warm, glowy, easy peasey seasons. The seasons full of dinner parties and cheese boards, date nights and brunches. Those are great friends to have. You need those friends. They’re the gap t-shirt of friends. Looks good, feels good, isn’t forever. Eventually, that season is over and the fabric starts to pill in an unflattering way. The winds change and the sun shifts and the season just isn’t as warm, anymore. There is snow – bitter, snapping, cold snow that makes your ears hurt and your nose run. There is rain – constant, torrential, stinging cold rain. Those are some hard seasons, and they come for all of us. It’s in those seasons that you know your gap t-shirt just won’t cut it. You need the real deal. You know what I’m talking about. Times get tough! Times change. And hardest of all, so do friendships. We don’t know why. Sometimes we don’t even know how, or when – often, you can’t always close your eyes and pinpoint the exact moment that shirt stopped fitting, or that friendship stopped feeling right but it did and suddenly that is…well, that. And that’s hard. Or sometimes, it’s not.
One of the greatest joys in life is finding a forever friendship and Lord knows they aren’t easy to come by. I firmly believe that in this lifetime, we’re lucky to find one. Sometimes we share a womb with one, sometimes we meet the one on the first day of high school, sometimes you meet the one in your mid-twenties in the copy room of a terrifying job. I think finding that one is just as magical, just as profound, and just as powerful as meeting our soulmate. Both will shape your heart, your world, your outlook, and your life forever from that day on. Both will walk through life with you hand in hand, heart in heart, together. They’ll feel your wins and losses as deeply – if not more so – as you do. They’ll protect you, stand by you, and always remind you of the goodness inside of you. They’re the one! And maybe, just maybe, you’ve found more than one! That’s lucky. I can promise you though, you’ll find one. Unless you’re a sociopath and in that case, you should work on some of that personal stuff and then come back to the whole friendship thing cause I can bet there will be another post-socio lookin’ for a pal like you!
All kidding aside, the older I get the more sure I am of two truths. One: you cannot hold the gap t-shirt friends accountable for not signing up to be a lifer. They’re just not meant to be your ride or die jeans, girlfriend. They’re not. And that’s okay! That does not make them a bad friend. That makes them a wonderful dinner party guest, a fabulous person to split a brunch tab with, and a great date night duo. Appreciate them in those moments – enjoy them at those dinner parties, pass them that cheese plate but do not make them your one phone call. You will be left in jail. And/or have your feelings hurt. Jail is worse though, I think. Two: One of the greatest gifts this lifetime has to offer is a forever friend – make sure they know they’re treasured often. This. This, I learned from my Mama and my Godmother. I’m Olivia Ann, Ann being my mom’s best friend of nearly 30 years. Ann’s had such a profound impact on my mom’s life she named me after her. There isn’t a town that we’ve haven’t lived in, that Ann didn’t move with us to. In so many ways, Ann was essentially my third parent! Talk about lucky. And talk about friendship – a love for another person so full, so self-less that you step into their lives so completely and walk with them. There wasn’t a school event she didn’t make, a holiday she missed, or a milestone she wasn’t there to celebrate with us. They’re 10 years apart in age and have grown through two completely different lifetimes: mid twenties, newlywed life, first time home ownership, infertility, pregnancy, preemies, condos, houses, homes, careers, 1 divorce, 3 cancer diagnosis, 8 emergency surgeries, 20 moves between them, 2 only children, motherhood, womanhood and everything in between. They’ve grown together, grown apart, grown closer, and simply grown because of their steadfast friendship. My mom will tell anyone that Ann is her person, and Ann will say the same. They have never missed an opportunity to make the other feel loved, appreciated, celebrated or confident in their position as ‘person’ in each other’s lives. Their friendship is enviable and has taught me that you should never miss an opportunity to tell your person that they’re just that.
I recently made a pretty wonderful, pretty exciting, pretty crap-your-pants scary decision, career wise. It was one that was made with the utmost care, forethought, deliberation, emotion, and conviction. If you know me in the slightest, you know that I would never make a decision out of impulse, especially one that concerns my work and my people that I’ve loved. I’m careful. I’m thoughtful. I knew, know, and will not forget that this is the right choice for me – to leave a wonderful place behind to go pursue a career that calls to me. That doesn’t mean it was easy. Anytime we close a door there is a moment of grieving, of doubt, of anxiety. Leaving this job meant closing the door on a chapter of my life and a career path – I’d taken this job as a girl with a boyfriend, moving away from home for the first time, coming to work in higher education with her beloved Godmother. Now nearly three years later I’m married to the man of my dreams, my parents have left the state of California, we have a home, two dogs, and my beloved Godmother has brain cancer. So closing this door, the door to the office and campus that my Ann had so lovingly served for so many years, felt hard. It was so wrapped up in layers of emotion and probably still is. As you can imagine, announcing my departure from an office who had seen me through three incredibly huge, incredibly wonderful, incredibly challenging years, wasn’t easy. Right, just not easy.
The days that followed my decision I felt incredibly vulnerable and incredibly sure – like I knew I had just made a move that would change my life for the better. I’d let go of the monkey bars. I needed my people then, now, more than ever. The outpouring of excitement, shared joy, squealing voicemails, congratulatory flowers, text streams and cards are reactions that I’ll treasure forever. They were feeling my joy just as deeply as I was. Sure, I’d fortified myself with the firm mantra of: it doesn’t have to work for anyone but me and KC, it doesn’t have to work for anyone else, this is your choice…but damn I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a visceral need for my people to be proud of me, happy for me, and sure of my future success. My lifers were. My home team was overjoyed. The only people who seemed skeptical, who seemed a little unsure that this leap of faith would find me landing on my feet were the ones who were quick to ask me things like “wow, you guys can afford that?” or “yikes, I couldn’t do that!” and in that very moment I knew. These were the gap t-shirt friends. They had felt good, looked good, and now were running through their season. It sounds harsh, but if you’ve ever had a friendship like this you know it’s not. You will still love these friends, root for these friends, and appreciate these friends. You just won’t waste a ton of time trying to make these friends see your vision, your journey, your path. That’s not their role. That’s not their season. And that’s okay. I still have love for these friends and will be happy to do brunch, to make a cheese plate, to share a Saturday night but, I won’t expend any energy trying to turn them into something they’re not. They’d been great friends. They’d been the friends who were happy to share an overpriced cheese board with me, but maybe, not too happy to sit on the kitchen floor to let me have a good cry, not too happy to roll their sleeves up and do dishes with me, not too happy to stand by my side for the entire ride – bumps and all. I’ve been lucky enough to feel the real deal, and to have a handful of lifers without whom I simply couldn’t imagine doing this thing without. My forever team. So if you’re reading this and picturing your lifers, pick up that phone and call them. Tell them they’re without a single shred of doubt forever, your people. Till the wheels fall off. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go jean shopping.