With today being International Women’s Day, I thought I’d chat about something a bit more personal because these last few days/months have had me eternally grateful for all of the people in my life, but most specifically the women in my life. It’s funny how as we grow older, we realize the value of those die hard, unconditional love kind of people in our lives.
I have always been absolutely obsessed with my gal pals, whether that’s my oldest childhood friend, one of my friends in this new city or my grandmother. I believe so firmly in the women around me that it will take a lot of convincing otherwise to change my mind. As someone who has moved away from home multiple times, I understand the importance and value of maintaining those unconditional friendships and recognizing when other relationships may not carry the same value.
I think you can learn a lot about a friendship in the moments after you meet that person. If you leave the conversation feeling inspired, pumped up and positive, they are someone you’ll naturally want to see again. If you find yourself with a lingering negative, drained feeling after you leave that person’s presence, they may not be someone who deserves your attention. Life is too short for the latter.
I think there’s a lot to be said about the power behind strong, female friendships. I have learned so much from growing up alongside my childhood friends, having a sister who HAS to be my friend (even when she may not want to), watching old movies with my grandmother, frantic texting to friends in other countries, catching up over cocktails with my gal pals and drinking coffee on Sunday mornings with my mom. The first time I moved away from home, I kept in close touch with my home friends but almost felt a twinge of guilt when I started making more friends in my new city. It was in this time that I also learned the value of recognizing when certain friendships don’t enrich your life (and maybe even hold you back). Unfortunately I didn’t understand this until I had distance from those friends to truly understand that being close with other females shouldn’t make you feel like you’re moving further from who you truly are.
In fact, that time in my life, albeit heartbreaking, was also a huge growth opportunity for me. I learned to assign more value to the friends who saw my potential and encouraged me to go after what I wanted rather than those who filled me with doubt and insecurities. I think the best thing you can do for yourself – and those you call a friend – is recognize the friendships that are forever and believe firmly in those people. Toss competition and expectations aside, and jump in, wholeheartedly to the relationships that matter most, supporting those who deserve it without judgment or criticism. That’s not to say you can’t have an opinion, but I think it’s important to consider where your criticism is coming from before voicing it. I have learned so much from simply listening to my girlfriends and how they navigate their lives. Any time one of them talks about pursuing a dream, I am 100% behind them with a ‘hell yes’ and I expect the same from them. Because I have some of the best girl friends (around the world), that’s usually the response I get.
I don’t speak to these women every day but I do make an effort to connect regularly regardless of what is going on in my personal life. Since moving away, I get a number of messages asking me about maintaining relationships from a distance. Here are my top five tips to keep your gal pals/soul mates a top priority (regardless of whether you live on a different continent or just the other side of the same city):
- Reach out – I am, admittedly, not great at this all of the time. Sometimes days and weeks sneak away from me. I keep intending to send that text or schedule that FaceTime then two weeks have passed and I’ve yet to connect. Since I know myself – and my procrastinating tendencies – I now just connect at any time I can, whether it’s over a recipe I just tried that one of my besties might like, a sweater I have fallen in love with, or I heard a song that reminded me of a funny memory. Just connecting, even if its briefly, feels good.
- Be engaged – This is so, so, so important. Especially when you live away. I have made a habit of marking “life events” in my calendar. If a friend mentions a work presentation, trip or big event, I mark it in my calendar with a reminder to connect with them before or after to wish them luck or see how it went. This is a great way to keep up-to-date while also letting the other person know you’re thinking of them.
- Carve out time – Everyone is so busy these days. Literally everyone. I don’t even have a 9-5 job and there are days when I wonder how I’m going to get everything on my to do list done. That’s why it’s important to carve out time in advance if you have to. Find a day/time that works for everyone and book it in. Even if it’s only a half hour for a Skype call or during a 60 minute hot yoga class between engagements, it’s important to see the people who bring out the best in you.
- Find a shared hobby – Chances are, you have something in common with the people you call your friends. If you struggle to get together or chat with loved ones, find a common hobby amongst you. You can pick a recipe and cook via Facetime every Thursday or start a brunch bookclub. You may not spend much time discussing the chapters, but you will have a regularly-scheduled reason to get together. One of my best friends is vegan and while I’m certainly not, we often catch up due to trying new recipes and sharing them with each other. Another is a skincare enthusiast like myself so we often send each other blunt reviews of new products we’ve tried. It’s a simple concept that leads to ongoing conversation.
- Celebrate EVERYTHING – I mean literally everything. A job opportunity? New lifestyle? Buying a first home? Use any excuse to celebrate friends, whether they just had a really good week at work or brought their firstborn into the world. A lot of my childhood best friends are having/have had babies. Being this age, as someone who doesn’t want children, can be tough for some. It’s hard not to focus on how different your lives are going to be. Nights spent drinking wine and dreaming out futures are replaced with rushed coffee dates interrupted by screams and gurgling babies. This is also a great opportunity to learn more about your friends and how they handle their new life. You’ll be amazed at the moments where you find inspiration. Plus, when that baby grows up, you can be the ‘cool aunt’ who teaches them about music and their parents’ secrets growing up.
Full disclosure: I’m not, by any means, a perfect friend, but these are just a few tips I try to employ to make sure the people who make my world a little brighter know it.
I think when you are lucky enough to have a whole squad of girls (even if they don’t know each other/haven’t met), it’s important to recognize the value of that and cherish every second you have together. It’s rare one person has an opportunity to love and be loved by such a strong force, and with the support of other #girlbosses you can do anything you set your mind to.