It's Okay to Be a Tired Woman
When the alarm's annoying buzz blares at 5:45 am, there is one thought that immediately comes to mind: I can't wait until I can go back to bed.
Lately, the pep in my step, the energy to meet the day, has been lost. At 29, I have a lot to be excited about and a lot to be grateful to jump out of bed for. I have my dream career, a writing career on the side, a wonderful husband, a loyal family, all the cats a girl could want, and many more great things. I have plenty of reasons to be energized and enthusiastic about life.
But lately, it's been a struggle to overcome one huge hurdle: I'm tired.
It's not just a lack of sleep or a restless night kind of tired, though. It's a bone-chilling, wearying tired. It's a can't even function, can't even find a smile kind of tired. It's a body tired, brain tired, heart tired kind of tired.
I'm just tired.
I crave weekend sleep-ins. I dream about the next time I don't have to set an alarm. I hurry home, not so I can do things I really want to do, but so I can melt into the couch in my pajamas at four o'clock and watch Netflix.
I'm just plain tired. I'm exhausted. I'm rundown, worn out, beat down, done.
And yet, behind the tired, one feeling simultaneously rules my mind: guilt.
The Do-It-All Woman of 2017
Looking at my own life and at my female friends' lives, it's no wonder so many of us have become practical zombies, both physically and mentally.
Because we are told we can do it all as a woman, we feel like it's our obligation. We try to excel at our jobs and put in 110% effort in every task. We challenge ourselves to keep our homes at unreasonable levels of cleanliness and organization. We take care of husbands, kids, parents, and pets. We run from event to event so as not to be anti-social. We join groups, volunteer, contribute, and organize at every chance we get. We make sure we say "yes" more than we say "no" so that we are a team-player.
A woman in 2017, after all, has to be a go-getter, a doer, and accomplisher...in all aspects of life. To step back, to take it easy is to fail. At least this is what society seems to tell us.
Pulled in ninety-eight different directions, it's no wonder we're all feeling run-down. It's no wonder there are mornings when we truly consider smashing the alarm clock into pieces or running away. It's no wonder our biggest goal sometimes is to climb into bed, uninterrupted, and just sleep away the day.
Many of us have backed ourselves into a corner and left no room for breathing. We fill our days with so much stuff, that we can't possibly have a minute to just relax. Our days are crazy packed races and to-do lists. A moment not accomplishing is a moment wasted.
In short, we are tired because we don't let ourselves have a moment to get rested. We put so many other people, events, duties, and tasks above ourselves, that we are bound to run out of fuel.
We are left decrepit and downtrodden. But even then, we don't cut ourselves slack. We are left feeling like there's something wrong with us or like we are failures.
We tell ourselves we need to just move on and find energy. We need to eat more oranges or drink more coffee. There are, after all, no excuses for the 2017 woman to just take a break.
Learning to Listen to Your Body
It's easy to fall into the do-it-all trap. It's easy to ignore the extra yawns, the negative feelings, and the desire to just take a step back.
However, to be a strong woman in 2017 and to be a woman who can find true meaning in life, we must be willing to listen to our bodies. We must hear ourselves when we say we're tired. We must recognize that we can't run on E forever, and that it's okay to say "no."
We must be willing to realize the weariness in our bones is a warning flag that we need to take care of ourselves. We must realize that taking care of ourselves isn't selfish or wrong.
We must learn that although we can do it all, we don't have to. Mental and physical wellness are both crucial elements of happiness. To ignore our exhaustion, physically and mentally, is to not be our best selves in any aspect of life.
So to all you tired women out there, take a break. Take a moment. Take a day. Take a weekend. Take time for you, just you, to sit back and relax. Take time to say "no" even if you feel like you should say yes. Take time to skip a practice, a meeting, or an event. Take time to rejuvenate and to relax.
Take time to realize it's okay to be tired...but it's not okay to ignore it.
In my fuzzy gray sweatpants and a sloppy sweatshirt, I snuggle into my spot on the sectional, remote in hand and a coffee on the end table. A few cats curl up in my lap and our mastiff Henry finds his spot among his favorite collection of toys as I make the big decision—will it be Jane the Virgin, Reign, or Nashville tonight?
Meanwhile, my husband plops himself onto his computer chair in front of his beloved computer games, waiting for the oven timer to beckon him forth for his chicken patty or frozen pizza. It’s a Saturday night and we’re under 30, but you wouldn’t know it by our schedule. The wild life of the 20-something isn’t quite our scene—we’re content tucked in at home with our favorite things.
Although lazy days at home are essential and envy-worthy, strings of them have led us to somewhat humdrum, introverted lives. Other than some trips to the beach and a few local events, our scrapbook of memories mostly sits empty.
This is a far-cry from our dating years, when we went countless unique places. Our scrapbook is filled with memories from museums, art installations, plays, concerts, zoos, and aquariums. We can flip through the pages and say, “remember when” with smiles and laughs about the experiences. Most of these trips were school sponsored or college sponsored, but the point is the memories we have from those trips are memories we used as a foundation for our connection.
They are the moments we look back on with a smile. They weave our connected history.
Achieving our Bucket List
At 29, we’ve come to realize that it isn’t really the traveling part or where you go—it’s the fact you’re doing something new together. Looking back over the years, the times we got out of our comfy clothes and pushed ourselves out of our comfort zone to try something new are the times we remember with a smile.
Thus, with 30 looming over us, we felt a need to change it up this year. I know age is just a number, but there is something symbolic about the shift from the 20s to the 30s. I want the shift to be memorable. I want this to be a year we can fill our scrapbook. I want it to be a year we talk about for the next decade.
So this year, we’ve vowed to try new things. We’ve made an achievement list inspired by my husband’s love for gaming. We’ve included big goals and trips that probably won’t happen, but we’ve also set small realistic goals.
We’ve picked local places we’ve never been. We agreed to do some sort of volunteer work together this year. We’ve vowed to go inner tubing and horseback riding. I agreed to finally get my tattoo this year. We’ve talked about memories that will fill our scrapbook and give us a sense of adventure.
Adventure on a Budget
Because, like so many, we’re on a budget, our list isn’t extravagant. We don’t own a yacht, and an impromptu trip to Tahiti, although adventurous, isn’t in the cards for us right now. We are small town, simple people who have never been out of the country together and probably never will be. I’ve come to learn, though, that adventure doesn’t have to equate to an expensive, budget-blowing venture.
Some of our favorite adventures were super cheap and super close by. I don’t think you have to be a world traveler to find adventure. Adventure takes on its own form for everyone. We’re challenging ourselves this year to find our own.
In short, we want to fill our year with new memories because at the end of it, isn’t that what life is all about? At 29, I think we’ve finally realized that the amount of shoes in your closet, the amount of video games on your shelf, and the amount of hours you’ve logged watching Netflix don’t create a life. It’s the true connection of exploring this huge world together that will be something we can look back on.
Are we doing a great job at adhering to our newfound sense of adventure? Not particularly. This past weekend, we checked one of the more luxurious items off our list—we went for our first couple’s massage and added a new memory to our scrapbook. Still, on an average week, it’s hard to break your homebody habits, and Netflix is a beckoning siren’s song.
Adult responsibilities, stresses, and exhaustion all tempt us to leave the scrapbook blank for one more year. There’s nothing wrong with a few lazy days, and we know our list probably won’t get completely finished. Nonetheless, we’re getting out and making as many memories as we can. We’re saying “yes” to more invitations even when we’re tempted to say “no.” We’re finding that life isn’t necessarily built sitting on a couch eating snacks. Life is about finding, exploring, trying, experiencing, and finding. Life is about building moments together so that someday, when we look back on this life we’ve had together, we can say, “Do you remember when…”
I think we’ve figured out that making memories with those you love the most is how you truly find an adventurous, fulfilling life full of joy.
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On the way home from running errands in our quaint town, my heart fluttered as I drove down the familiar street. I paused for a second at the stop sign, taking in the sight of my first apartment with my husband.
It was a one-bedroom apartment with a “no pets” policy. For the first few months, we didn’t even have internet or cable. Metal folding chairs were our furniture in the early weeks. Trips to the grocery store involved heavy calculations so we didn’t go over our tight budget. Doing laundry required walking outside, around the building, and down a flight of stairs to the dingy basement.
We lacked so much.
However, when I drive by that apartment, I’m always filled with warmth―and not just from the sweaty memories of the summer of record-temperatures without air-conditioning. Thinking of that first year of marriage, I never think about all of the things we didn’t have.
I think of all of the amazing memories and the sheer love we experienced in that first year.
There were spontaneous walks to the local coffee shop on a lazy Sunday afternoon. There were game nights where we played Yahtzee until two in the morning by our single lamp in the cramped dining room. There were spontaneous kisses, simple bouquets of flowers picked from the garden. There were evenings sipping hot chocolate and watching the first snow out our front window. There was the daily feeding of our “pet squirrel” we named Jerry.
There were first Christmas parties, first surprise birthdays where we jammed our family into every inch of the apartment. There were daily laughs, tons of milestones, tons of firsts in that apartment.
Five years later, and we’re still together, still making memories. We’ve got a house of our own now and two extra bedrooms. We’ve got a yard, a grill, and a house full of pets. We’ve figured out our budgeting. We have cable, internet, and several televisions. We have so much more furniture and really, so much more of everything now.
Things are good... but I’d be lying if I said that newlywed euphoria was still present in our marriage. Gone are the days of random wildflower bouquets. Kisses aren’t as frequent, and simple things like playing Yahtzee aren’t as exciting as the newest show on Netflix.
Still, our love has matured and deepened. It’s not as fluttery and magical as the first year, but it’s stronger in many ways. We’ve grown, and so has our love. We’ve weathered tough storms and scary moments. Our connection has moved past the firsts into a region of reliability and steadfastness.
That’s not a bad thing.
Some days, however, I wish I could go back to that first simple year. It certainly wasn’t perfect. There were days of scathing remarks and vicious fights. There were moments we had no clue what we were doing.
Looking back, though, the moments of togetherness, of excitement, of love, shine brighter than the bad ones.
Our society often views newlyweds with criticism and condescension. We like to remind them that “tough times are coming” or refer to them as clueless. We scoff at their belief that passion and romance will last forever. We scowl when we see them drowning each other in sweet looks and tender touches in public.
I think, though, we should be sending them a different message.
So I say to the newlyweds: Bask in every glorious moment of the first year.
However, down the road, the memories you make as newlyweds will be the moments you flash back to. They’ll be the moments you smile about on rough days together. They’ll be the foundation for your life together, the moments that remind you of why you’re better with each other.
They will be the moments that make you smile as you drive past your first place together. More importantly, they will be the moments that remind you why,wherever you are in life, your significant other is truly where home is.
Today marks ten years since I graduated from high school.
After seeing a friend’s Facebook post and realizing this, my stomach sank a little bit. It’s official. It’s been a decade since I was that bright-eyed eighteen-year-old ready to take on the world. It’s been a decade since I stood, adorned in a cap and gown, looking to the horizon of life with excitement, with my twenties ahead of me, without a gray hair in sight.
Brushing aside my hair, which now has quite a few grays, I mourned for a few moments before going back to my day—weeding the garden, going to Walmart for dish detergent, eating leftovers for lunch, and doing dishes.
I’m pretty sure when they asked me ten years ago where I saw myself in a decade, this was not the day I imagined.
The truth is, the luxurious, settled, mature life I imagined isn’t quite what I got. Adult life is tedious, it’s difficult, it’s exhausting, and it’s full of difficult decisions. As much as I thought I could set myself up for an easy adult life by working hard in high school, this isn’t the case.
It’s not all bad, though. Over the ten years since graduation, I’ve had a lot of milestones, a lot of big moments. My first teaching job, getting married, my first apartment, my first house. We bought our first dog, who is now my best friend. I published three books, and we went on lots of trips. We’ve explored, we’ve changed, we’ve worked hard. We’ve made a good life.
Over the past decade, I’ve loved and lost. I’ve learned and changed. Below, ten major lessons I’ve learned since graduation.
1. Adult life is expensive.
When you get that first paycheck, you feel a little like Gatsby. But then the mortgage, student loans, car payments, groceries, and everyday life starts to eat away at the number. Soon, you realize the life of cruises and expensive wine are dreams of a naïve high schooler. In reality, sometimes our biggest splurge is going to Wendy’s on a Tuesday and not ordering from the Value Menu.
2. When one thing goes wrong, expect at least a few more to follow.
The water heater broke a few weeks after we moved in. We took a deep breath and shelled over our cash. And then the truck tire went flat. And a cat got deathly sick. And our money was just being sucked out of our account like a huge vacuum was over it.
When one thing goes wrong, more will quickly follow. Seriously. Murphy’s Law isn’t something to mess with. Oh, and we’ve also found when we start to dedicate ourselves to building up savings—at least ten expensive things break.
3. Life can change in a single moment.
For good or bad, life can change in one single day. As we’ve gotten older, we’ve realized life is fragile. Just when you think the ride has smoothed out, something will completely change your direction. Be flexible. Be prepared to deal with things on the fly. Never take anything for granted.
4. Friendships will disappear.
Those best friends necklaces from high school will tarnish. It’s not because anyone chooses it. Life just gets busy. Sometimes friends will disappear and come back later. Be sure to welcome them with open arms. Be thankful for the friends you have at every stage of life. They’re there when they’re there for a reason.
5. Sometimes life is about luck.
Hard work can get you so far, but sometimes life is about luck. Sometimes it’s about doing or saying the right thing at the right time. Sometimes it’s just about the stars seemingly aligning to help you achieve your goal. So if things aren’t working out the way you want, it’s not always your fault. Work hard, set yourself up for success, but realize this won’t always be the answer.
6. The house will never, ever be clean.
True statement. So just give up now. No one looks back on life and wishes they’d spent more time mopping. As a side note, though, if you follow this philosophy, be sure to never, ever accept unexpected visitors. You need a heads up to shove stuff in closets and get out your Swiffer.
7. Paying bills isn’t fun.
Watching money drain from your account—not fun. Keeping track of what needs paid when—not fun. Mailing bills, checking bank accounts, wondering what the light bill will be when you accidentally left all the windows open and ran the central air—not fun.
Bills suck. As a teenager, you think the freedom of living on your own will be worth it. It’s really not.
8. Your hair/skin/teeth/nails will never be perfect.
I have spent more money than I care to know over the past decade trying to get the perfect hair, whiter teeth, better skin. I’ve tried to resist the aging process, panicking and spending $100 on an anti-aging kit over a single eye wrinkle.
And I still don’t have supermodel skin, teeth, hair or nails.
Buy makeup. Take care of yourself. But don’t go broke trying to be perfect.
9. Your metabolism will never be as good as it was at eighteen.
Two donuts, a few sodas, and McDonald’s all in one day? No problem. At least not at eighteen.
I would say about five years after graduation, I started to notice that my metabolism couldn’t handle the diet of a teenager any longer. Growing up means having to actually count calories sometimes, to actually say no to the second piece of cake. And it also means you might actually have to exercise to fit in your bikini. I told you adult life is tough.
10. Sometimes big dreams come true.
Ten years after graduation, some dreams haven’t been achieved yet. But many of them were. I have my dream teaching job, I’ve published three books. I’ve hit many small life goals and had so many special moments.
No life is perfect. There are always regrets and sorrows, dreams that haven’t come true. The thing is, sitting here ten years after graduation, it’s actually fun to look back at how much life has changed in the past decade.
Advice to Recent Graduates
So recent high school graduates, enjoy your time. The next ten years will go so fast. Seriously. But know that it’s okay. In ten years, you might not be exactly where you planned. You might be pulling weeds and shopping at Walmart instead of sitting on a luxury cruise ship or traveling the world or sitting on your yacht. But you’ll be okay.
Because you will have the next ten years to work on those dreams you haven’t accomplished yet. Ten years after graduation, this is what I’ve learned most of all. There’s always time to go after your goals. It’s never too late.
So I’m not going to be sad anymore or mourn my youth. I’m going to smile at all of the life I’ve lived these ten years.
And then I’m going to prop my feet up because I’m tired from my day of chores. A twenty-eight-year-old body certainly isn’t as resilient as an eighteen-year-old one, after all.
What am I doing here?
We all have days when we wonder what the answer to this question is.
There are days of feeling down, feeling unnoticed, feeling like a royal mess-up.
There are days when we hurt others, when we get hurt, when we feel like a failure.
There are days when we want to quit, when we're tired, when we just want to throw in the towel.
There are days when we're confused, when we're lost, when we're just drowning in a sea of uncertainty.
What am I doing here?
It's a question that has been a universal question since man's existence, a question we try to answer in so many ways.
It is for this reason I love Walt Whitman's poem. He tries to answer the question.
His final verdict?
You are here for a reason. You have something to contribute.
The meaning of life is that it just is.
O Me! O Life!
BY WALT WHITMAN
Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
Our lives are a string of worries.
Do my shoes match my outfit? Did I remember to pay the electric bill? Does my email sound too harsh? What will I make for dinner? Is she really mad at me or just tired? Are my split ends showing? Is this pimple super noticeable? Do they think I’m annoying?
Questions, fears, and to do lists swirl in our minds until we’re so dizzy we can barely see straight.
We flitter about from one task to the next, never resting, barely breathing, trying to accomplish and succeed and plan and promise. We live our lives in the fast lane, we live them in a whirring momentum we can’t stop.
At the end of the day, does it matter if my necklace is purple and my shirt is pink? Does it matter if there’s a gray hair poking out from my roots or if I forgot to return my library book on time or if I spelled a word wrong in the email? Does it matter if the meatballs were a little burnt or there’s mud on the carpet or I haven’t cleaned the ceiling fan in a year?
Our lives are a string of worries.
But are they the right ones? Sometimes we need to step back, to breathe, to get off the crazy train speeding toward the future. We need to realize our worries are not always the things that matter most. In fact, they rarely are.
Our lives are a string of worries, but they don’t have to be.
Take a moment, take it all in, and realize what matters. If today was it, would you really worry about the bills or putting gas in the car or finding organic apples at the store? Or would you spend your time doing what matters most—loving your family, finding your bliss, and soaking in the beauty around you?
Our lives are a string of worries… but you can choose to cut the string and focus on what matters most.
No mom is perfect. We all know that.
From what I've heard, mothering is a tough job. There are moments of frustration, of doubt, of worry, of confusion, and just sheer stress. No mom is the mom from 1950s sitcoms or movies. No mom is the carefree mom from the commercials we see on television. Every mom has her moments.
I know for a fact there were moments my mom wanted to rip her hair out... or mine. I know for a fact there were moments when I drove my mom crazy or made her sad or made her want to get in the car and drive away.
But the thing about my mom is she never let it show. My mom took advantage of every moment of every day we had together growing up. She put me above everything else in her life--above a career, above housework, above herself. Growing up with a stay at home mom, I lived a life of adventure, even if we were just in the backyard. There were hours of tea parties and playing store and reading at the picnic table. There were picnics on the living room floor on rainy days and trips to the park. There were walks with our dog and movies and games galore. There were art projects and exercise routines and dancing.
I was an only child, but I was never, ever lonely. Growing up, my mom was my best friend. Even though I know she got mad at me sometimes and lost her patience, I don't remember many of those times. When I think back to childhood, I think of her laughter, of her funny jokes, of all of our moments playing together.
When I think back to my childhood, I picture one thing above all--her huge smile. She saw life as something to enjoy, something to be optimistic about. There was never boredom or worrying. My mom taught me to always be thankful for the day and to make the most of it. That's what I remember the most from those days.
Every mom is the best in her child's eyes. I am no exception. My mom was the greatest influence in my life. Today, my mom continues to be my best friend. She continues to spend as much time with me as she can. We've traded in the tea parties for coffee on Saturdays. We've traded the cartoons and games for shopping. We've traded the dancing around the house for Zumba at the gym.
One thing hasn't changed, though. My mom's smile. She still sees life as something worth enjoying, every single day. When I fall into a rut of complaints and stress, she reminds me to lighten up, to stop whining, and to find something to laugh over.
No mom is perfect, but my mom comes as close as she can get. She is loving and kind. She is funny and compassionate. She is energetic and giving and unstoppable. She is strong.
Today, on a day when so many are thanking their mothers for all they've taught, I want to take a moment to thank you mom, for being a role model, an inspiration, and my best friend.
Thank you for all of the lessons you've taught that, perhaps someday, I'll pass on to the next generation.
Things I learned from my mom
1. It's okay to eat ice cream for lunch sometimes.
2. Soap operas are completely valid forms of entertainment.
3. It is okay to skimp on housework in order to enjoy #2 on the list. and #1.
4. Animals deserve love.
5. Laugh every moment of every day.
6. Good hair is important.
7. Lime green is a gross color.
8. It's okay to fall in love. But it's also okay to be independent and able to support yourself.
9. School and work are important, but fun is important, too.
10. Be kind to everyone. You aren't better than anyone.
11. Money doesn't equate to happiness. Seriously.
12. You don't have to go to pre-school to love learning and to be ready for school.
13. My numbers, letters, how to read, state capitals, etc.
14. Always tell the truth.
15. Retail therapy is valid therapy.
When we're teens, we have a vision of what thirty looks like.
Mine went something like this.
I would have THE perfect hair style after years of failures, of course. I would have mastered my makeup, be both classy and fun in my style. I would traipse around town with a Starbucks in hand, my perfectly coordinated outfits highlighting the body I'd always wanted to have. I would have the perfect job, a perfect house, maybe a few children. Life would be... well, perfect.
In essence, I was living a bit of the 13 Going on 30 facade. Because as I get close to thirty, I've realized perfect doesn't exist.
At twenty-eight, I still haven't figured out what the heck to do with my hair. Smokey eyes... they're a dream I haven't mastered. I still have an odd fashion sense, and I have never achieved the perfect hourglass shape. Kids are nowhere to be found. Our house is cute but it is definitely not from Home & Garden magazine. Most days I feel like my decor is a mix of flea market and college dorm room.
Unless some major strikes of good luck hit in the next few years, I don't think thirty will be the thirty of my thirteen-year-old dreams.
Society tells us we, at some point, have to get it together. The twenties are for exploring, partying, having fun. Thirty--well, thirty is when we grow up.
I disagree, though.
The thing is, a number cannot define your life. It cannot set everything into place. But that's okay.
A big part of all three of my novels, Voice of Innocence, Then Comes Love, and Without You, is the concept we don't always figure out what we want in life at twenty, thirty, or even eighty. Life is always about choices and change, about finding who you are at each stage of life.
So the next time you see that perfect woman on television, in books, or in magazines, the one with sheer confidence in her eyes because her life is perfect, just smile to yourself and know perfection never exists. That's part of the fun in life.
I am and always have been a worrier.
I'm OCD about my hair straightener; I have to check it at least twice before I leave the house because I worry I'll burn the house down. We've had to turn around on a family trip so I could check it.
I worry about burglars. I worry about making mistakes at work. I worry about a lot of things.
I've always been a fearful person. I'm the one thinking about what could go wrong. My list of fears is huge.
But I'm working on it. I'm trying to find the courage to overcome them. It's tough, though. Here are my five biggest fears at the moment.
I would actually define this is a downright phobia. I can't look at a needle or a picture of a needle. I can't think about it. Someone talking about a needle makes me squirm. If I have to get a shot, I squirm and tear up.
I will walk up thirteen flights of stairs to avoid an elevator. Seriously. Once I'm in, I panic. I'm terrified of being trapped in it. I would never, ever, ever ride the elevator ride at Disney called the Tower of Terror. I get sick even thinking about it.
I've never been in a tornado, but ever since I was little, I've been afraid of them. When it gets really windy, I panic. A few times, we had a Tornado Watch when I was home alone. I went to the basement.
I still sit in the hallway if there is a bad storm. Henry also doesn't like storms, so we comfort each other :)
This could also just be labeled fear of the unknown. I'm a control freak. Unless you are the grim reaper, you don't control death. I guess this bothers me.
Will I ever overcome these fears?
I can hope so. I can say I will. But I don't know.
I honestly am not working toward overcoming them. If I had, I would've gotten my tattoo by now, went on those roller coasters, and faced up to the rest of them.
But I'm not taking any steps toward it.
I think that's okay. So many experts tell us fear prevents us from living, but maybe not. Maybe fear is just part of the human experience. If I didn't carry these fears, who knows how different my life would be. Just like our strengths and talents, our fears do define us. We tend to see this as a bad thing, but is it? Isn't it just a part of what makes us different?
Friendships are difficult to define, especially if you are a woman.
When I think about my life, there have been so many friends fade in and out of my life. There have been people I thought were my friends who turned out to be enemies. There have been people who I thought would just be acquaintances turn out to mean so much. There are people who were important for a single stage of life. There are people who have been there through many more.
At twenty-eight, I've come to learn that friendship doesn't always last forever. Then again, sometimes it does.
The quote above is one of the truest quotes I've learned. Interestingly enough, it came on a friendship frame from a person I stopped being friends with long ago.
In life, friendships can sometimes fade. They can change.
But the true friends, the ones who really impact you, do leave a footprint,a mark, an indelible stamp of themselves on you.
Below, some lessons I've learned at each stage so far.
Early Childhood Friendship
When I think back to some of these first friendships, I smile. My first friend ever was a neighbor boy named Thomas. I can still remember the first day we met. I still have a scar from falling on my bike when we were playing. It was a time marked by simplicity and innocence, of carefree bike rides and outdoor games. It was, in short, a beautiful time in life.
In Kindergarten, I became friends with several girls. Cue female friendship drama. I can still think of some of my close friends from elementary school. I can also picture all of our silly fights, our arguments, and the tears, too.
Early friendships seem simple, but they really aren't. A friendship in Kindergarten can easily be tainted by a dropped Pop-tart or a Barbie being named the wrong name. I learned early on that girls can be really mean and dramatic. I learned friendships aren't permanent. I learned sometimes you end up playing alone.
But young friendships can also be some of the purest forms of connection. They aren't completely tainted with the fear of social pressures or fitting in. They're usually pretty pure.
Looking back , these friendships can set the tone for our relationships later in life. They teach us how to get along, how to compromise, and how to move on sometimes.
High School Friendship
The best years, right?
For the most part, yes. These were the years of sleepovers and movies, of mall shopping trips and laughter. These were the years I had the most friends.
It's funny how in high school, you think you'll be friends forever. Adults warn you, but you don't listen. Those gleaming best friends necklaces won't ever rust. You'll never lose touch.
And then you do.
I still talk to some of my friends from high school. Social media has made it easier, for sure.
There's only one person I'm really still in contact with, despite some distance. Kristin, my best shopping friend, fellow bookworm, literature lover, cat lover, and everything else in between, still keeps in touch. We still laugh about our favorite memories, from a winking Santa card to the time I almost choked to death on a piece of gum. Even when we faded out of each other's lives for a while, she was always still there. She was one of the footprint makers in my life, and she will always be such an integral part of my fondest memories of the past and my hope for new friendship memories in the future.
High school friendships help us transition into adult life. They remain a part of us because they are a part of our fundamental years. Sure, there's a heck of a lot of drama. Some of the girls I thought were my friends turned out to be mortal enemies. I was stabbed in the back, gossiped about, and argued with. But it turned out to be a good thing. Even those friendships in high school that go awry prepare us for the tough, no nonsense world of criticism and falsehoods.
College is tough. Gone are all the friends you grew up with, the ones you saw every day at school. You're starting over, you're starting fresh.
And for the first few days, you're alone.
You walk alone. You sometimes sit alone. You (cringe) sometimes eat alone, something that would have been social suicide in high school.
It's an adjustment. You learn to be independent. You learn friendships truly do come and go.
For me, my college years consisted of one constant friend, though, a girl who is still one of my best friends. Jamie.
We met in religion class. I saw her, thought she looked nice. We both had bangs, both were a bit quiet in class. So I choose to sit beside her.
It turned out to be the best choice I made. Once we got to talking, we literally never stopped. Like not for a second. Chad laughs when we're together, saying we never stop talking.
College is stressful. There's a lot of work, a lot of times you don't think you can make it. Despite popular belief, socializing sometimes takes the bottom rung on your priority list. For me, though, I was lucky to have Jamie by my side to make me laugh when I wanted to quit, to commiserate over crazy classes with, and to dance with clay with the Black Potter. We had so many good memories and still are making more. From boyfriends (now husbands) who were stuck in a heart to Jesus in a tree to Sheetz Mochas to dancing to Grease, we made more memories in four years than I've made with others in decades.
College friends come into our lives when we're in transition, when we're trying to grow up. But keeping your college friends close is such a gift because when you are grown up, they remind you of the fun, crazy times. They remind you not to let go of that person you were, the person with a vision, with a dream, with passion.
Growing up sucks. Adulting sucks. Seriously.
Friendship in your adult years can be tough. Time becomes a big hurdle. Between work life, family life, and laundry, when the heck do you have time for friendship, for jaunts to the mall, for careless dinners out?
You don't. You just have to make it.
Friendships during the adult years are kind of a culmination of everything you learn earlier. These friendships are marked by time and distance sometimes. Sometimes friendships work better during certain periods of your life than others. Sometimes friendships fade because of convenience or different life stages.
We've had friends slip away because of a major fact: they have children and we don't. Children can sometimes change the face of friendship, change the connections you once had.
But that's okay. Friendship, like life, is all about changing. Nothing is a constant.
Thus, in adulthood, I think I've come to realize the best friends you will ever have are the one's who sort of have to be there. Your family.
My parents, my husband, my extended family--these are the friendships that have stood the test of time. These are the people I go to when I want to laugh or when I need to cry. These are the people I always make time for, I always prioritize. These are the people who have left footprints tattooed on my heart, but never slip away.
Some friends stay for a few months or for a few years. Some of these friends are forgotten, their impact slipping away and irrelevant in a new stage of life. Some of them mark us, for better or worse, and change who we are, how we see friendship.
Family, though, are the people who mark us with their footprints and stay to see how those footprints change us.
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