So here’s the thing: Friends are important.
I know this isn’t groundbreaking, or new or original by any means. It’s not even a new revelation for myself. Friends have long been extremely important to me. With just one single sibling, a difficult relationship with my father, and little contact with my extended family, I’ve considered close, intimate friendships as extremely important.
But as cliche as it may be, it wasn’t until I underwent a hardship that I realized just how fundamentally important friendships are. It sucks that it’s sometimes true that a traumatic or devastating event can highlight what the really important things are in life. 2019 saw my decade-long relationship come to a sudden end. My five-year marriage ended in a quick divorce, and I found myself in a different situation altogether. My family no longer looked the same. I realized right then and there that while I’ve always carefully nurtured and cultivated friendships throughout my relationship with my ex, I forgot how intrinsically empowering friendships are.
So here’s why you need to put a little more effort in cultivating your friendships.
They’ll be there to listen to you vent:
Friends are there for you when you need someone to share with. Yes, that could easily be a significant other. It could be with a close family member. But it can also be with a peer that you love, and who has seen you at your immature worst and overall best. They’ve had different life experiences, been exposed to different events and teachings growing up. When I was feeling lonely or defeated (which happened a lot, and sometimes still does), being able to talk to a friend was one of the most therapeutic and comforting things I could’ve done for myself. Plus, friends seem to just know when to simply listen, which is often different from family members. They know how to sit back, offer no more than a few nods, laughs, sighs, and offers for more coffee, tea, or chocolate.
…And when you need a good distraction
Simply put, friends are a much better alternative to drugs, alcohol, rampant sex, or behavior that you may one day regret. In times of trauma or distress or just huge life changes, I’ve learned that (good) friends are there to help facilitate healthy coping mechanisms. I can’t tell you how many times this past summer I’ve given into self-destructive behavior when I avoided confiding in my friends. But when I did choose to reach out, share, talk, or visit, I was rewarded with an empathetic ear, a movie binge, dance parties, and good conversation over a few cups of tea. They’re infinitely better than a distraction, as they facilitate and become part of the healing process.
Female friendships exponentially make everyone happier.
Female friendships, squads, and just general women supporting women seems like it’s at an all time high. Which, given the common practice of women seeing other women as competition, is extremely refreshing. Beyond women being openly emotional and loving with one another I’ve learned that sharing losses, hopes, and the freeing sensation that yes you are finally on your way to finding yourself is pretty damn special. It acts like a combustion reaction, except the fuel never runs out. It seems that if a safe space is guaranteed, free of judgement, women are willing to share their difficulties with one another – whether that means in relationships, career, or family. And it’s been one of the most empowering things I’ve ever experienced. The women I’ve opened up to or reconnected with, and the stories we’ve shared still astound me. Why? Because nothing is more inspiring than sharing your fears with someone who has the same fears – but who is also kind, compassionate, beautiful, and fierce.
Really good friends will tell you things you may not want to hear (but need to).
And you know they mean well when they do it. That’s what’s key: anyone can give advice, question, or push you. But as you may know, receiving unsolicited advice or getting it from someone who doesn’t know all that much about you usually isn’t all that welcome. It can perhaps even be more damaging than helpful, as your situation is likely misunderstood. But when you confide in someone who is trusted and who knows you almost as well as you know yourself, it is an entirely different matter. It causes you to rethink. Redefine and explore the concept you’re contemplating, to fully mold and form what you’re hoping or planning. A friend will likely offer a perspective you hadn’t thought of (or maybe one you’d rather avoid thinking about), or remind you of something from your past you may have forgotten. Which may be hard to hear — but it’s also difficult to share hard truths that may not be well-received. And that’s part of why constantly nurturing friendships is so important; an honest and open friendship where one isn’t afraid to say something can be the most rewarding of all. From my experience, it can take years of graciousness and understanding, with a pinch of unconditional love for, well tough love to peacefully exist. And when it does, there’s the reassuring pulse that they mean well, they love you, and that they only care about your well-being.
Being a friend to your those you love is a rewarding thing, in of itself
As in every type of healthy relationship, being a good friend to your friends is just as enriching and nourishing. What do I mean by “a good friend?” Being there for them when they need you and even when they don’t need you. Listening. Making an effort to spend time with or for them (via phone, through letters, in person). Energizing them. Bringing joy. Understanding. I can go on and on here, because being a good friend to my chosen family is of utmost importance. Being there for someone is special – but someone whom you love? Knowing that you’ve helped them or brought them happiness is powerful fuel for your own happy cup. I’m about to go extra right and leave off with a Maya Angelou quote, one that I like to keep in mind: “Your legacy is every life you’ve touched, every person whose life was either moved or not. It’s every person you’ve harmed or helped.”