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My Female Friendships Were The Most Heartbreaking & Loving Relationships Of My Twenties

My most impacting relationships didn't come from any man I was dating, they came from my girlfriends.

What About Your Friends?

I don't think anyone can escape their twenties without some relationship woes. My twenties were definitely wrought with emotional ties and severances. But as each year rolls by, I find that my most impacting relationships didn't come from any man I was dating, they came from my girlfriends.

I don't think I could've survived this last decade if it weren't for my friends. These women, both past and present, have seen me at my lowest, most vulnerable, most lost moments. Still, I can't say each friendship was without difficulty.

In fact, I believe my most heartbreaking and confusing relationships of my twenties are the ones I had with my girlfriends.

I wish I could say I had strong, unbreakable lasting friendships all throughout my twenties. I wish I could say my girls and I went through our growing pains together and now we have lifelong memories of our wild young days. But that wouldn't be true. As appealing as female friendship ensembles are, I'm a true introvert who can only handle a few friends at a time.

Plus, the downside about cliques is the clique behavior — the groupthink. It's not always all-for-one-and-one-for-all; it's usually a majority rules situation. Like, if you're the newbie in the group and one of the senior squad members decides they don't f-ck with you anymore, then they all don't f-ck with you anymore. Your relationship with one person in the group can determine and/or affect your relationship with the others.

I figured out pretty early that this kind of friendship wasn't for me.

When I was 21, fresh out of college and a long-term relationship, I was ready to blossom into the carefree, badass grown-ass woman I imagined myself to be, and the friends I had at the time helped me (attempt to) do so.

We partied, we bar-hopped, we talked about sex openly and honestly, we took all the youthful wild photos you'd imagine any group of 20-somethings would take. On the surface we looked like "squad goals", but in reality, I was only close to a few of the girls. I'm not the type to recruit a girl gang, I'm usually inducted into an existing one, and that was the case here. They were my friend's friends, but I quickly formed my own friendships within the group.

Even though we had good times, there was really no real substance beyond the laughs. I was about 23 or 24 when life started to get more serious and my depression began to take a toll. I started to feel insecure in all aspects of my life and I desperately yearned for safe spaces. Me being an add-on to the group, I started to feel like an outsider. The cattiness and shady jabs (which usually come along with young girl groups) got tired and I got tired of defending myself against frenemies. I started to isolate myself and ended up with fewer, yet more authentic friendships. And I was fine with that.

By 25, I fell into a self-discovery journey.

I spent the first half of my twenties obsessing over who I should become and decided for my last half, I should dig deep into who I already am — 25 was definitely an eye-opening year. I was finding my voice, shedding away the passive and submission persona I've worn for so long. In the midst of this change, the dynamics in some of my relationships shifted. In short, gaining a sense of self helped me build on fruitful friendships and also helped me say goodbye to ones that no longer served me in a positive way. During this time, I had two close girlfriends, but it felt like I was in some weird friendship triangle.This was probably unbeknownst to them and most likely all in my head, but I digress. I was straddling between a long-term friendship that understood me in the ways I used to be and another that was understanding the woman I was becoming.

I felt conflicted between the two, like I had to choose. As I was growing into myself and into this new friendship, I felt like I was growing apart from my old one, and that scared me. She too had grown into a new stage and new friendships, and the space between us grew further apart.

No one ever prepares you for a friendship breakup. To me, those are the worst of its kind and the hardest to get over. Even to this day, I find myself itching to send an ex-friend a funny meme that only she would get, or a text about a random memory from our glory days. The bond between girlfriends is sacred. It's the most intimate and profound connection that doesn't require anything more than you just being yourselves. So when my best girlfriend and I ended our friendship, I was distraught.

It felt like a divorce.

This person who I confided in, who has seen me at my lowest, who I loved so dearly just suddenly vanished from my life. I felt like a piece of me was wiped away.

Hindsight is 20/20 and as I look back on those two young women crying to be heard and understood by one another, I see that our issue was a lack of honesty. We were very close but we failed at communicating. We avoided the hard stuff. The relationships we have with our girlfriends require and deserve just as much work and dedication as any of our other relationships. I learned that the hard way.

This wasn't the only friendship that ended for me. My mid-to-late twenties were a tumultuous and lonely time. The woman who was like my sister became a stranger, I felt insecure about where I stood with other friends, I got rid of some toxic friendships (but not without some betrayal and a whole heap of drama), and I found myself becoming antisocial to any new connections. It's been both a peaceful and lonesome few years. But I think this was meant to happen to me. I had to learn the consequences of my passivity and unwillingness to open up about my feelings. I also needed to be alone to evaluate my own journey and what I need to do to continue onwards in a positive and healthy way.

It's not always fun but, alone time can be good. It can give you perspective and help you start over again. In the last couple of years, I've cultivated solid, beautiful, and loving relationships with some inspiring and genuine women. In my lonely, I reflected on what went wrong in my previous friendships and am continuing to learn how to be a better friend. Sometimes we operate from a "self-ish" (not necessarily selfish) place — we worry over what we are receiving and how others affect us, forgetting that we also affect others.

Now, as I enter my thirties, I have a better grasp of my boundaries and an acceptance of my shortcomings.

These days, I am not the most emotionally available person, due to many reasons I won't get into now. Instead of overcompensating for my limited emotional bandwidth by trying to fulfill the expectations and desires of every person in my life, I communicate my boundaries and reserve my deepest efforts for more significant friendships. I won't please everybody and I'm OK with that.

Adult friendships have taught me that not every connection has to evolve into a close friendship.

Womanhood is nothing without connecting with other women, pouring into each other with wisdom, love, or affirmations. These moments can happen even in passing. Especially as a black woman, it's incredibly important for me to engage with my sisters — women who share my same reality — even in the slightest ways. When I was 25, I worried over whether or not a new friendship would threaten an old one but now I appreciate the many offerings, both big and small, a friendship can bring.

Friendship doesn't take away, it adds.

Even though I never achieved the whole squad goals thing, I found sisterhood through individual connections. And through all these connections I've found something, which for me, feels deeper than a squad. I found my tribe — women from all walks of life who vibe with me on different levels and who help heal and uplift various sides of me. We may not always share the same circle of friends, but we share a powerful connection.

As I embark on my 30s, I'm making more space for healthy connections, forgiveness, patience, and understanding — both with myself and for my friends.

Featured image by Shutterstock

Originally published on May 22, 2018

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
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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