I’m lucky that I come from a family full of girls. I have one (awesome) sister and a ton of girl cousins, so I always had a lot of girls around me to hang out with. I never really thought about how lucky I was to have this built in support system until I moved away from home and for the first time in my life had to start building my own support system from scratch.
In the past 9 years we have moved A LOT. We moved from Alberta to Quebec, Rhode Island (lived in two houses there just to make it more interesting), and now Roanoke – and we are ready to be on the move again. This makes it really difficult to be able to have the time and emotional energy to build up a good support system, but I truly believe it’s one of the most important things I can do.
A few years ago my cousin got married in Italy and I was lucky enough to have been able to fly there to celebrate with her. A big chunk of our large extended family actually was able to go and it was a really fun family time. But, there was one day that really sticks out for me. It wasn’t something that happened with my family, and it wasn’t one of the beautiful sightseeing trips we did. Rather, it was a rather common incident that could have happened anywhere. But it was an incident that made me really stop and think about things and realize “I want that“.
I was walking down a street in Gaeta when I came across two ladies who were in their late 70s or early 80s. They were holding onto each other’s arms and laughing so hard they couldn’t even walk straight on the path. Whatever they were doing they looked like wonderful lifelong friends who were out having a bliss-filled afternoon. I was mesmerized and realized that that was something that was really important to my life.
I actually then went on to have one of those moments with my cousin. We went out on our uncle’s boat and went for a swim in the sea. We were floating along side by side and laughing so hard both of us could barely breathe. We both have looked back on that afternoon as a time when we had wonderful belly laughs and played like children. These are the rare moments that are so important to hold onto.
Little did I know that not too long after that trip I was about to enter what I now consider to be my “dark night of the soul” years. Years when I could have really used some good girlfriends but for various reasons I wasn’t taking advantage of the built in support system I already had.
Fast forward through some really crappy times that included me realizing that in order to have these great friends I so desired, I had to learn how to be a good friend to others. Not as easy as it seemed -still working on it – but now it is a conscious goal of mine.
This summer I was able to go back home and spend a lot of time working on these relationships I’ve had my entire life. Relationships with some pretty fantastic women. Having lived a life where we have been so transient and it was so difficult to make connections made me appreciate it all the more. I spent a great deal of time with my sister and really got to see how she’s flourished as a mom. I spent time with my cousins renewing the ties and realizing that the bonds that we made in our childhood were still as strong. It was so good for my soul to be able to go for a walk with someone whom I knew had known me my entire life – knew my quirks, my humour, my life – and I knew them the same way.
These are the ladies I will be clutching onto when I’m 80 years old. Laughing while we stagger down the street. I firmly believe that the girlfriend friendships are among the most important relationships I will make in my life. I am dedicated now to focusing on building on the ones I already have and making new and wonderful ones.
I also have realized in fostering these friendships that I have other important female friendships in my life that are unique and blessed. I have a mother whom I know would move heaven and earth for me, who is strong and kind at the same time and whom I have learned so much from. I have a daughter who is also incredibly strong and kind and so often like me (a learning experience for both of us). I have aunts who are like extra moms and I know I could turn to them at any time (and I hope they feel the same about me).
The realization that there are these in my life who have complete unconditional love for me and for whom I have absolute unconditional love for is a real blessing. It’s so often easy to feel completely alone, like the struggles I have are mine to bear alone, like I have no one to share the daily joys with. But, it’s important to remember that this is not the case. There is this wonderful tribe of women at my back.
There are many things that will come and go in life, but those friends who know you inside and out, who love and accept you, and who you feel the same about – those are true gems.