When I was a child, my dad occasionally had the opportunity to bid for a better job (he worked for the railroad) that would require relocating to a new city. As a shy kid, nothing is more terrifying—except maybe doing a demonstration speech in a required public speaking course— than having to make new friends.
So I did what I had to do. I screamed and cried and pleaded: “please don’t make me leave my friends.” We never moved. Not sure how much of that was my fault.
When my husband has periodically broached the subject of moving to say California or France, my inner eight-year-old would start hyperventilating. On the outside, I was calm and rational—or at least not throwing a temper tantrum—but inside my shy self was screaming, “I can’t leave my friends!” I honestly have no idea how he got me to move to Colorado in the first place. The only explanation is that I was in love (see previous post about moving for love).
The thought of having to make new friends (talk to strangers again!) was unbearable. And really, why should I when the friends I have are so kickass.
Yet it was those same friends who made me realize I was ready to move on. (Yes, ladies, it’s your fault I’m leaving).
Over the years, when I would make an offhand comment about being shy, they would laugh in disbelief. General consensus was that I was most definitely not shy. You hear that enough and you start to question your long-standing beliefs about yourself.
Good friends help you realize that you’ve outgrown your childhood perceptions of yourself. They make you see all the ways in which you are awesome.
They teach you to hear your own voice, even when that voice started as no more than a timid whisper.
There’s a saying that goes something like “behind every successful man is a strong woman.” I think behind every strong woman, there’s a pack of strong women.
They are the ones sincerely cheering for your successes, and not going behind your back to tell others that you didn’t deserve it. They are the ones helping you brush aside failures with helpful comments like “he was such an asshole” or “you would have hated that job anyway”.
They teach you how to laugh at yourself. For example, instead of politely ignoring the giant zit on your nose, they name it. When you ask (and only when you ask) if the dress you’re trying on makes your butt look big, they tell you with a straight face that you look like you’re wearing a fully loaded diaper.
To a 15-year-old, statements like those are soul-crushing (and would likely qualify as bullying in today’s high schools). By the time you reach your late 30s, comments like those make you spew wine through your nose. Honesty is funny when you’re in good company.
If you look back at your high school yearbook, you probably read lots of adolescent musings like “stay sweet” and “best friends forever!” If you’re like me, you haven’t talked to most of those BFFs in decades (Facebook doesn’t count).
Adult female friendships take longer to make but once made, they stay for the long haul. I’m lucky to have a few friendship gems from my teens and early 20s who are still in the Midwest.
These are the women who when my husband and I headed for the Rockies said, “We’ll miss you. We don’t quite understand why you’re leaving, but do what you have to do. If you come back, we’ll be there for you. If you don’t, we’ll still be there for you.” We’ve gone the distance.
I expect nothing less of the friends I’ve made in my adopted home of Colorado. I may not be able to shove these larger-than-life women into my suitcase, but I’m bringing them with me. I will hear them cheering for me from a 1,000 miles away. They are REALLY loud.
And believe me, I may be physically leaving, but I’m not really going anywhere. When you need to cry, I’ll be the sympathetic voice on the other end of the phone line. If it’s really bad, I have credit cards and I’m not afraid to fly.
When you do something amazing—which, of course, you will because you are amazing—I’ll be the voice screaming, “you go, girl,” from the shores of Lake Michigan. You may not be able to see the fist pump I throw in, but you’ll hear me.
Thanks to all of you, my dear Colorado friends, my voice has gotten really loud.