Recently, a friend shared this picture with me. It is from 1967 and we were all about 8 years old. I look at it and at once am transformed back to that young girl, surrounded by friends, safe in my two piece, no worries of body fat or style, just being happy. I love how that picture makes me feel. I see myself as I was and feel content. That it connects me to this person still is huge. We have been friends a long time.
One thing I have come to realize over the past decade is that friends who have been with you for a long part of your life journey are precious beyond measure. They are more than just people who know you; they are your link to your former self and all you’ve lived through. They’ve kept a part of you that you might have thought lost, but when you are together, it is reflected back at you through your shared memories. I believe this, more than anything else, makes them not only important in your life, but essential.
I have been lucky to have gathered some very amazing people in my life along the way. I have never been one to have a lot of friends, but those I have are in my life for a reason. Sometimes I know immediately that someone is a person I need to know better, sometimes it’s just good luck. Who would know that a friend made on the first day of second grade would be one of my lifelong friends? Or that the young woman placed into the room across the hall from me freshman year would be a person I talk to at least once a week today? Sometimes fate just makes it so. Sometimes you have to reach out and connect. Either way, finding those people who enrich your life and are there for you regardless of time or distance is what makes life’s journey worthwhile.
I was even luckier to have been born in to a family with some ready-made friends waiting for me – and a couple more to follow. I have great memories of growing up the middle in a family of 5 kids and always having someone to scheme or dream with. As we became adults, I found that my brothers and sisters were more than simply my relatives – they were also people I would seek out as friends. We enjoy each other’s company and humor and time spent together is always better. Our family gatherings are often exhausting because we are laughing so much of it. It doesn’t take much to get us (or keep us) going.
At my 50th birthday party, I looked at the list of people who had been invited. There were friends from just about every significant point in my life – elementary school, junior high, high school and college. Friends made at my first job out of college, and several other career stops after that. My siblings were represented, my own family with my three kids were there and cousins who have become true friends. I was touched – each person represented a different part of my life, but as a whole, they represented all of the experiences I have had to make me who I am today. It was an overwhelmingly good feeling to look out at that room full of people and memories and see how I had been blessed.
There have been times I’ve met someone and I knew instantly that this was a person I needed to connect with. I have, over time, gotten better about just saying that to the person and acting on it rather than leaving it to chance. I trust my instincts now and am very intentional about honoring them when they happen. In the past few years, I have made several new connections and am so very glad I have. Age or proximity is not a limit – simply knowing that I can be fully myself with the other person is the main thing.
When Jan passed away, I knew I would be feeling bereft, lost without her in my life. One thing I didn’t know was that Jan had a plan laid out and was going to leave a couple of angels to watch over me. I inherited two of her very best friends, and those two women fit right in to my life like they had always been there. We have been able to support each other through the loss, and that’s how we’ve been able to make it. I didn’t know Jan had that all worked out for us, but she did and it has been another big blessing.
I read something the other day about “everlasting friends”, the kind that you don’t have to see often to be close to, but that when you do pick up the phone to call them, you are able to instantly be reconnected at the heart level as if no time at all has passed. And those are the kind of people I want in my life. I could go on about the power of female friendships and how much they matter, but I think the real key is that these friendships – whether with women or men – connect us to humanity and provide that sense of belonging that we all crave. It doesn’t take a large number of people to give one that feeling, but having the right people in your closest circle makes for a rich life indeed.