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