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How To Deal With You And Your Friends' Growth Spurts

"I don't need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod. My shadow does that much better."—Plutarch

What About Your Friends?

Life is interesting. The very day that I sat down to pen this piece, one of my favorite YouTube channels, The Skin Deep, premiered a new episode between two friends—Lafi and Eboni. When it comes to the topic that's at hand, I don't know if growth spurts can get any more extreme than one friend who is a new mom and the other friend who is currently transitioning from female to male. And here's the thing, y'all—no matter what your personal feelings are on transgenderism, I still think the episode is worth watching—and pondering. One reason is because it's clear that the love and loyalty between these two individuals are rock solid. Second, I believe that their personal and friendship journey beckons us all to ask the question, "What would we do if a friend of ours made a significant life change?" Deeper still, "What would we do if they made a decision that we either couldn't relate to or perhaps didn't personally agree with?"

The interesting thing about the word "growth" is increase and development can mean different things to different people. So, while you're trying to maintain a friendship with someone who may define growth in a way that is different from your own, how do you discern the differences between growing together and growing apart?

As I watched the entire episode, one of the questions that I really liked was, "How has your love changed for me over time?" It served as a reminder that none of us are the same from five years ago; we'll also be different five years from now. As you're trying to balance how to maintain your friendships in the midst of you and your friends' growth spurts, here are some tips to help you both keep your connection intact.

Know That Growth Spurts Are Completely Normal

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I know, right? When it comes to the world that we live in, what does "normal" even mean? I am going with that word from the angle of growth being a standard—it is a standard for all of us to experience things that will result in us expanding, evolving and, hopefully maturing. When those things transpire, we change. As we change, our relationships change.

One of the closest people to me, when we first met, we used to spend hours on the phone, talking about basically everything and nothing. But less than a year into our relationship, she got engaged. A few months after that, she got married. We then went from always being on the phone to constantly emailing one another. After the birth of her first child, emailing got a lot less too. As her life has shifted, we've had to come up with "new normals" in order for us to still nurture our relationship. Our friendship serves as a constant reminder that, if you live long enough, folks meet new people and cultivate relationships that alter their lifestyle. It can take some real getting used to but still, it is very normal.

Accept That Growth Spurts Are Oftentimes Uncomfortable—and Unpredictable

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My youngest godchild is about to enter the cutting teeth stage of her development. We can tell because, for the most part, she's a pretty chill baby. But right through here, she's sleeping more and she's also more irritable than usual. The good news is she's about to get her first set of teeth. The sucky part is she's on the way to having a few months of pain.

Most of us want our friends to thrive in life. But when someone decides to start their own business, move to a new city (or country), take their relationship to another level, totally switch career paths, embark on doing things that will be better for their physical and/or psychological well-being—while the transitions are necessary, that doesn't mean that all of the newness doesn't take some real getting used to. In the midst of the growth, some things are going to be uncomfortable and unpredictable.

So, you know what that means. If your friend already doesn't know how to feel about what they are going through, they aren't going to be the best at offering up tips on how to help you adjust to their adjusting. The key is to remember that, just like teething, growth spurts come in waves; things won't be all topsy-turvy and disheveled forever. Try and be calm, supportive and not super sensitive. Things may be a little "weird" right now, but this too shall pass.

Also Accept That They Rarely Happen in Sync with Each Other

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Remember how I said that a part of what comes with friendship is learning how to know the differences between when you are growing together or apart? It's my personal belief that some of us put unnecessary strain on our friendships because we don't factor in growth spurts into the dynamic. If you just took a job out of state and your BFF takes a new career path that has demanding hours, that doesn't automatically mean that the two of you are growing apart; it may just mean that you both need to be more intentional about making sure that you schedule time to catch up. If another friend of yours recently had a religious experience that altered their perspectives and perhaps even their value systems and, at the same time, you had a different type of spiritual awakening that changed you too, it doesn't mean that you both can't still coexist—you both just need to remember to respect one another's path and be open-minded to where you both are…now.

Some people end friendships that honestly could've went the distance if they had simply realized that, although they changed individually, that didn't mean that the friendship was doomed. It simply meant that the love and mutual respect that they shared had to make room for the friendship to transition a bit. That both individuals still need one another—just maybe in different ways than they did in times past.

Know That Patience and Open Communication Are Required

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I've shared before that one of my all-time relationship-related quotes is, "People change and forget to tell each other." At this stage in my life, there are only a handful of people who I've been friends with since the turn of the century. My pregnancies changed me. Heartbreak changed me. Leaving corporate America to be a full-time writer changed me. Leaving the denomination that I grew up in changed me. Learning how to set some freakin' boundaries changed me. Letting go of toxic family members and releasing counterproductive friendships changed me. I could go on and on, but I think you get the gist.

As I think back on all of the changes, and the people who have rocked with me throughout each of them, I know for a fact that we wouldn't have made it through if it hadn't been for their patience ("the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like") and commitment to listen to my needs as I gave them the stage to offer up their own as I was going through all of my transitions.

Real talk, some friends fall out because one or both people become impatient as they witness their friend's changes. But what my friends have shown me is when the love, loyalty and commitment are there, so long as the changes don't cause the friendship to become unhealthy, supporting your friend is the only real option you've got. And yes, that support requires quite a bit of patience and open communication. For a season, until everything settles, anyway.

Prepare for Some Things Needing to Shift Within the Relationship

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One of my closest male friends is one of the most ambitious cats I know. It's like every six months or so, he's got another big idea that requires us to shift our talking schedules and it sometimes requires that I lend my support in a different kind of way. If he didn't bring so much consistency, confidentiality and outright joy to my life (because he is hilarious), it would be easy to let all of his professional changes to cause us to grow apart. But since I really do adore all of what he brings into my life, whenever he hits me up with the, "Hey, I'm on this right now", I have learned to respond with, "So, what do you need from me in this season?"

Different seasons have different purposes and needs. That goes for the weather; that also goes for relationships.

What a friend of yours needed from you last year may be totally different from what they need from you now. Same goes for you as it relates to how they relate to you. Handling one another's growth spurts can be so much easier if you're both simply willing to meet current needs rather than settling into the rut of doing what you've always done for one another. This tip alone? It can be a real friendship lifesaver. It really can.

Remember That Embracing Growth Is a Part of What Commitment Is All About

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The more work that I do with married couples, the more that I admire marriage; especially when it comes to couples who have more than 10-15 years under the belt. Because man, what those marriages model to me is how much commitment is required to remain with someone who is constantly changing as you change.

I make it no secret that I am a control-freak-in-recovery and so, sometimes in times past, as certain friends would go through their own process of evolution, me not liking the changes would result in me almost punishing them for changing. It was like I was so accustomed to the predictability of things being a certain way that, when they weren't that way anymore, I would emotionally disconnect.

Being a marriage life coach has shown me that, one of the most profound ways to show someone just how "in this" you are, is to give them the space to grow while still remaining solid in your commitment to them. It's like saying, "While you're out here metamorphosing, I'm gonna be right here, having your back every inch of them way."

When people know that they've got individuals in their life who don't merely tolerate their growth spurts but actually embrace them, not only does it cause them to evolve; it evolves the relationship as well.

As the individuals grow, the friendship grows. And when both people keep that in mind in the midst of the turbulence of the growth spurts, the end result can be a truly beautiful, sacred and lasting thing. Something that all of us ultimately desire from our dearest friendships. See what growth can do?

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

Allow These Things To Happen Before Calling Someone "Friend"

5 Things You Can Do Today To Be A Better Friend

According To Aristotle, We Need 'Utility', 'Pleasure' & 'Good' Friends

10 Things You Should Absolutely Expect From Your Friendships

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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