6 Thoughts About Girls Night Out – The Morning After Edition

1. Thin privilege exists

If you think thin privilege doesn’t exist read this and this. If you think thin privilege doesn’t exist try losing 50 pounds, putting on a tight skirt, and becoming an automatic magnet for guys in the club to grind up on you – unless there are skinnier girls around you. If you think thin privilege doesn’t exist, look around.  Also, the bar tender called me tiny. That NEVER happened before.

2. How did we get in without paying a cover?

The trick is to stand in the doorway and be incredibly indecisive until the bouncer loses their patience and lets you in for free. Also, A) Thin privilege B) We’re girls – my feminism is cringing at this right now.

3. If you go out and you didn’t get someone to buy you a shot, you didn’t try hard enough

Again, my feminism is cringing, but also such #LifeGoals. Also, why did we drink Fireball?!?!

Next up: how to tell if a guy is worth it by the type of drink he buys you.

4. Domino’s Pizza at 2 AM is the only proven way to avoid a hangover 

10/10 would do it again. But actually the results of my personal, non-biased, scientific study suggest that Domino’s Pizza at 2 AM after a night of drinking significantly reduces the risk and severity of a hangover by at least 95%.

5. Does dancing burn calories? 

Everything hurts. Literally everything. The tips of my toes hurt! I feel like I worked out for HOURS! Everything hurt while I was dancing – until I was drunk. When I was drunk, it didn’t hurt anymore. And so, I danced more. Now, everything hurts. Was it worth it? Probably.

6. I need to go to more queer bars

Getting drunk, dancing, and making out with guys is basically the standard fare for a night out at a straight club. Which is a totally fun set of activities, but also it gets old fast. Queer clubbing is WAY more fun – there’s so much more to anticipate! There’s more diversity. There are less guys just trying to get a quick hookup. There’s more color! Also, the music is better.

Also, I learned a lesson last night: The key to life is patience. Don’t guzzle, just sip.

And, here’s one more thought: Is it “girls night” or “girls’ night”? – It’s girls because we were a group of girls going out; we (the girls) don’t own the night. Except we did, and we always do. The verdict is undecided.

 

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Reflecting on What’s Unsettled, Uncomfortable, Unfocused, and Uncertain – Thoughts for the Jewish New Year

During the Jewish month of Elul, the month preceding the Jewish New Year, we’re asked to welcome introspection. We’re invited to identify what unfinished business, what distractions, are keeping us from living in the moment. This practice compels us to have conversations with our self, grappling with feelings which are unsettled, uncomfortable, unfocused, and uncertain. So, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and reflecting!

This reflective practice, prepares us for teshuvah. The practice of teshuvah, literally translated to mean “return”, and conventionally translated as “repentance”, helps shape how we experience the challenging truths of ourselves and our lives. After Elul, after identifying our missteps, and realizing where there is room for improvement, the practice of teshuvah compels us to turn outward. We look toward our community, our friends, and our family for their forgiveness and insight about how they experience us. Only then can we come full circle, return to ourselves, and identify how to put our best selves forward in the next year. By doing teshuvah, we make a choice to focus on our flaws, and find the strength, direction, energy, and support from those who are most important to us so we can grow and improve – so we can reunite out body, mind, and soul.

Rabbi Alan Lew, in his book “This is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared”, reminds us that “everything we do is an expression of the entire truth of our lives.” He goes on to say that, “The present moment is the only place we experience ourselves as being alive, the only place we experience our lives at all”. In a very literal interpretation, I take this to mean that we must be present without any competing distractions to fully experience ourselves – our constantly, continuously becoming selves. Glennon Doyle Melton describes it this way; she says, “to be human is to be incomplete and constantly yearning for reunion.” I understand this concept to imply that we’re always yearning for reunification with ourselves, and that very often the representation of ourselves that we share with others is not our true, flawed, and imperfect selves.

And so this return, this reunification of body, mind, and soul, is incredibly difficult to achieve especially when I find myself battling so many unsettled, unfinished thoughts. The type of thoughts that creep up on me when I least expect it, and that push into my consciousness no matter what I do to avoid them. It’s much more comfortable to maintain some distance from myself. In fact, Rabbi Lew explains that, “we spend a great deal of time and energy… living at some distance from ourselves” typically because of fear of what we may learn, or perhaps because then the hard work of improvement and self-realization will be looming right in front of us – and that’s daunting. We maintain stories that are no longer relevant because we are terrified of acknowledging the truth of our lives – of our existence. Brene Brown also explains this idea in her work. She says, “There is a narrative that all of us hold on to that we have to retire at some point because it no longer serves our lives or our stories.” This choice, the challenge to either move forward and grow, or remain trapped in the fears and narratives that have limited us in the past, is the cornerstone of the Jewish High Holidays.

And so,  I’ve spent the month of Elul, a Jewish month of introspection considering, yet again, the importance of stories. I’ve asked myself “which stories are holding me back?”, “which stories, which truths, have impacted me in ways that, maybe, haven’t even fully revealed themselves yet?” I’ve considered, “what unfinished business is tearing [my] focus away from the present tense reality of our experience? From the present moment, the only place where we can really live our lives?” And, I’ve participated in Do You 10Q to help me discover more about myself, and make this gigantic task a bit more manageable.


Here are my answers to all 10 questions, in 3 sentences or less:

  1. Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you?

A year ago, I would have told you that I had to exclusively find and sustain strength inside myself, and be strong for my friends – even if it meant pretending (also see this).  Then, I experienced the incredible power of friendship when I was struggling and needed help. Now, I’d tell you I can’t be my best without the support my friends and family; they’re the ones who give me strength and energy – especially in the areas where I still have room to grow.

  1. Is there something that you wish you had done differently this past year?

I wish I didn’t think I needed to go through all of life’s challenges on my own. I wish I understood the power in admitting I needed help earlier. I wish I didn’t waste so much energy pretending things were fine, and instead I put energy into doing everything I could to find strength, safety, and calm.

  1. Think about a major milestone that happened with your family this past year. How has this affected you?

This year, I earned my Master’s degree in Urban Education Policy. My education, passion, and experiences prepared me to step into my role as a Research Coordinator at the Brazelton Touchpoints Center. I learned an incredible amount this year, and now I have a job that I absolutely love!

  1. Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?

One world: Orlando. Earlier this year I started writing about asexuality (among other things) on Ravishly. However, it wasn’t until Orlando that my identity within the queer community felt both salient and threatened; this event made me simultaneously want to be out, and reject any and all queer identities at the same time. [Side note: interestingly this year Yom Kippur coincides with National Coming Out Day!]

  1. Have you had any particularly spiritual experiences this past year?

Read here. And here. I’m constantly craving spaces where the energy is contagious, and where I can be so present, confident, and welcomed that everything else fades away – for me this is often Shabbat.

  1. Describe one thing you’d like to achieve by this time next year. Why is this important to you?

I want to be less fixated on food, and weight by this time next year. I realized this is really just a way to feign control when other things feel too hectic. It’s easy to let this line of thinking become an obsession, and get out of control.

  1. How would you like to improve yourself, your life, next year? Any advice you received that could help?

I want to work on being more emotionally intelligent, and giving more attention to how things make me feel. I’ve discovered that if I can identify how I’m feeling in a situation, and allow myself to authentically feel the entirety of my emotions in their context, right when they’re happening, I can be in charge of deciding how to react, and what steps I should take to alleviate the feeling or perpetuate it. My friends have reminded me that my feelings don’t have to feel out of control, and that other things will fall into place when I allow myself to feel whatever emotions are associated with anything I’m experiencing.

  1. Is there something (a person, a cause, an idea) that you want to investigate more fully next year?

Since I’m a huge research nerd, I want to learn more about research methods, and what approaches resonate with me so I can make an informed choice when I pursue a PhD in a few years. I also want to learn multilevel modeling and longitudinal analysis techniques!

  1. What is a fear that you have & how has it limited you? How do you plan on overcoming it this year?

I am inexplicably afraid of stopping because I’m afraid of what I’ll learn about myself, and I’m afraid that the flooding will be too intense. This “go, go, go”,  do all the things mentality has been both an adaptive coping strategy, and has stifled my personal growth. As overwhelming as it may seem, I’m working to create space to learn more about myself, and let myself know it’s okay to stop.

  1. When you get your answers to your 10Q questions next year, what do you hope will be different about you?

I hope I am able to be more honest with myself both about my strengths, and the areas where I can improve. I hope I’m still relentlessly passionate and aggressive in my pursuit of my goals, but that I’m able to supplement my professional life with a healthy balance of socializing and other activities that bring me joy.

Those are my answers! What are yours?


גמר חתימה טובה – May you be sealed (in the book of life) for good.

“Change is the only constant in life.”

I’m a completely different person than I was a year ago.

I guess you could say, I’ve matured. You could say that I grew up. You could say that I’ve entered full-fledged adulthood – whatever that means…

I’ve overcome challenges. I’ve become more introspective. I’ve whatever… this boils down to: I’ve learned an incredible amount!

I’ve always been a “process over product” girl. I thrive off of the opportunity to learn!  I appreciate most the experiences that garner ripples of knowledge, and layers of impact that, in some cases, I’m still realizing the effects. My mental endurance and, exemplified, agility drive me to crave knowledge and information. I want to uncover the “why” and the “reasons”. My refusal to quit and inability to stop fuels me each day! Naturally, to me, the journey toward clarity from chaos is exhilarating. In fact, in hindsight, all the experiences that have been the most influential for me were also the most challenging; those experiences taught an inexplicable amount.


Before I proceed, I’m going to briefly recap this past year both to give context to this piece, and to own it for myself.

I graduated, and left a school where I was thriving. I spent nearly every day for four years feeling on top of the world. It was amazing. I felt unstoppable. I left everything I knew, and everything I loved. I left what felt safe, and supportive, and leapt, basically unwillingly, into something that was incredibly risky, ambiguous, and into something that I wasn’t sure I would be any better for doing.  I left my mentors and friends for a glamorous name, and what I expected would be the next best step for my personal and professional development.

I had such high hopes too! I wrote, “it’s okay to be scared. I hope this fear will actually fuel me to make the most of this opportunity rather than cripple me. And, if my past experiences could inform my next steps, I’d say that based on those outcomes, and how influential they were for me, Brown can have just as big of an impact.”

AND, it had a huge impact. AND, I was miserable. I was absolutely miserable.

After months of struggling silently I found respite, and strength in writing, some amazing friends, and a hefty dose of much needed therapy. I jumped into my own uncharted space. I started to connect with myself, and others in a really vulnerable, and public way. It’s been hugely influential to my personal growth, and exploration. The outcome of this past year far surpassed the simple, although not so simple, accomplishment of getting to May 29, 2016, earning my Master’s degree, and being done with school. I longed for that commencement day; I yearned for this year to be over fast, and for time to travel by at warped speed.

And then it was over. As I anticipated, and wished for, it was as if I was traveling too quickly down a hill in my car, and I pulled up on the emergency brake right before my car flipped. It was just over. The danger was gone, and in front of me possibility glistened. If I could do this, I could do anything. There is no doubt in my mind that this year was one of the most difficult in my life.

This year, I struggled with claiming my sexuality, achieving my professional aspirations, abandoning and admitting to several variations of self-harm, losing friendships, and family feuds – to name a few. I wouldn’t listen to my friends; I lost so many friends. Yet, I had no idea how to even begin to navigate these challenges. It was scary, dark, dangerous, and lonely. I didn’t crave the solution, I craved the end.

It’s only been a short time, and I’m already noticing that I’m in such a different place. Some days, I can’t believe I ever experienced that depression. [Side note: crazed journal entries don’t lie – it happened. It all happened]

At the end of it all, I, now, stand corrected. Leaving UConn was the best thing I could have done! I had to leave to learn how strong and capable I really am!

I’ve regained my feeling of invincibility. I truly feel like there’s nothing I can’t do. I learned that it’s okay to be terrified because we grow most from the experience that evoke vulnerability and uncertainty.


I wrote my graduate school personal statement based on this mantra:

 “Do Three Squishy Things a Day You know you are truly leading when you do at least three things a day that make you uncomfortable” (City Year)

I learned to live up to the words that pierced my mind for so many years, and in so many moments. Those words continue to propel me to serve, lead, and learn each day!

I wrote previously, “there’s something to be learned from every experience… We are truly influenced by everything around us and by all of our experiences.” I grew to strive to live by the principles that ground me and, ultimately, in the face of this cascade of challenges, I learned to thrive own my own.

I learned to love, and use the phrase “what I heard you say is…” I practiced actively and reflectively listening.  I found value in really listening. LIKE really, really listening.

A good friend once told me that, in her opinion, good conversations are what college is about. I realized that I don’t need to be the person occupying the most space in a conversation for it to be a good a conversation. With time, even in this new space, I had several more invigorating, thoughful conversations, and continued to fortify existing relationships. I had to be really intentional about it, but it was worth it!

To that note, I learned that my relationships, and the people that I was afraid to leave would stand by me (most of them anyway…). I discovered that relationships are like the tools in a toolbox. They’re necessary to build us up! I realized a good friendship is rewarding and special – it’s a privilege.

Most importantly, I learned the importance, and value of reciprocity and vulnerability. Like a pendulum swinging, I swiftly wavered between not letting anyone in, to burdening my friends with my suffering yet not knowing how to accept their support. Finally, I resided in the middle both valuing my friends’ contributions and conversation, and being valued for my insight and influence too.

I also discovered that if I can identify how I’m feeling in a situation, and allow myself to authentically feel the entirety of my emotions in their context, right when they’re happening, I can be in charge of deciding how to react, and what steps I should take to alleviate the feeling or perpetuate it. I gained emotional intelligence, critical awareness, and intuition. Feeling didn’t have to mean feeling out of control. I found “calm and content”. [Just so you know, it’s WAY different than complacent.]

Before this year, my life was a hectic, hot mess – to be frank.

Imagine the pieces of a package scattered across the floor: the box, the gift wrap, the bow for the top, and the contents – a myriad of shapes and sizes. This year, step-by-step, that package was assembled, wrapped, and tied together with a bow on top! A complete, confident me emerged – looking pretty spiffy, and ready to face my next adventures!

I can’t precisely put my finger on it, but I’m definitely different. And, when I stop to think about my life, I simply feel happy and confident. I also feel proud.

Now, I say things like “there are no counterfactuals in life”, and “relationships are not bound by geography”. I remind people that the biggest regrets stem from the opportunities we didn’t take. I share that the incessant wondering quickly spirals into an interminable game of “what if”. That type of wondering will wear you down to the core of your weaknesses. Some of my weaknesses are vulnerability, change, and ambiguity – I learned this too!

Can you give voice to the areas where your strengths can be capitalized to cultivate your personal growth? Can you recognize how empowering, and exciting that feels to give voice to all the ways you can direct your own positive energy and strength to bolster your  personal journey and self-exploration?

 

Writing about Writing

Writing about writing involves thinking about writing, or even better, thinking about thinking about writing! (Yay! Meta-level thinking!) If I stay here too long it can feel really out of control really fast. But, in short bursts the feelings of ambiguity and possibility are bearable to entertain.

Anyway, I haven’t posted recently because I’ve been over on ravishly.com living the dream as a contributing writer! Here’s my contributor page: YAY!!!! Similarly, I’ve been over on themighty.com (here) writing about chronic pain.

Writing has been the most amazing outlet for me! It’s helped me find space, give voice to my words, and speak my truth – that’s super powerful. When I’ve felt most “stuck”, both with things I’m dealing with and how to write about them, I’ve read the piece aloud and recorded myself with the inflection, tone, and emotion I heard in my head, and would have used in a conversation with a good friend. After listening to the recording and following along with my words I was able to overcome the “stuckness” and finish the piece. Writing is a welcomed, reliable, trustworthy companion these days. When I’m writing I notice nothing else. I retreat to a state of flow. I feel at peace. Maybe even happy? It’s allowed me to think fully in a way I have truly missed.

I didn’t even recognize this feeling – this change – until I stopped and acknowledge how refreshing and unfamiliar it feels to think coherently again! My friends said, “I feel like you’re back”. I nodded confidently. Slowly but surely, I’m finding parts of myself that disappeared months ago.

My words are stamping the world with imprints that are illustrative of the messiness of life. Through my work, I’m declaring “dealt with” (mostly) the things I’ve kept to myself or ignored for WAY too long. It’s liberating! The experience of spewing my thoughts, taking a break, and revisiting and reorganizing what I’m trying to say has helped me feel calmer, express myself, and gain a sense of connection I didn’t realize I’d find with myself and people across the world – literally.

I wrote this a few weeks ago and it still resonates with me: The last six months of my life have been the most challenging I’ve experienced in a while. I graduated and left a school where I was thriving. I spent nearly every day for four years feeling on top of the world. It was amazing. I felt unstoppable. I left for a glamorous name and what I expected would be the next best step for my personal and professional development. After months of struggling silently I found respite and strength in writing. Rather than just reading (daily) the articles on sites that share my values and teach me so much, I jumped into my own uncharted space and started to connect with myself and others. It’s been hugely influential to my personal growth and exploration. Earlier I wrote, “from fury comes insight.” That’s how I feel when I tame the chaos I’m experiencing by writing. This feminist writing space has shown me that people “get” that not every day can be a good day and I can tell others understand that academia can be a difficult and special space to reside especially in the face of other challenges and experiences.

The type of connection, belonging, validation, and excitement I’ve felt from my friends online is inexplicable. This journey has introduced me to some incredible, down-to-earth, empathetic people who are practically the hidden treasures of internet (they’re also just people but I’m glorifying them here because they’ve made a difference to me. Internet fame is real!).

When I’m writing, I can be myself and share my thoughts. It actually feels really vulnerable, exposed, and terrifying! Sometimes I get “stage-fright” and want to swallow my words back up or not claim them as my own. In those moments, I take the the Shonda Rhimes “yes” approach – even though it scares me. I have to own this!

Recently, I shared that I traded social media connections for authentic, personal connections. In this context, I valued in person conversations, and quality over quantity. I still value quality relationships but my parameters have expanded. Connecting with people online showed me that these connections can also be authentic, valuable, personal connections. I’ve found more people who “get it” and been more open about my experiences than I ever anticipated. I’m loving cultivating meaningful relationships as a I grow as a writer, academic, and activist.

I have discovered the world of shared experiences and stories. I feel closer and more whole than I expected or thought was possible. There’s a world out there where people absolutely get it and care. I realized that even though I feel lonely,  I am not alone. That was necessary.


 

If you’re experiencing writer’s block (or loneliness), keep writing! As much as you can, keep exploring, connecting, wondering, asking, and thinking! It’s an adventure, and in the end, it could turn out to be like nothing you ever anticipated – it might even be better!

 

 

The Intersection of Logic and Ridiculousness

Recently, I had the most amazing conversation with a friend. Imagine this conversation as if it were a route on a map. It started out at the corner of vulnerability and suspense. Then, it rounded the corner into an open lot of questioning and wonder. It meandered to a land of thinking deeply and differently. The conversation took a perplexing turn toward striving to understand contrasting and complex perspectives. Hours later, we contently (and brake screechingly) arrived at the intersection of logic and ridiculousness. One the lyrics in the song Maps – Fun Home says, “maps show you what is simple and true” (Click here for another great Broadway song about maps: A Map of New York – If/Then). However, in this conversation nothing seemed simple and true. The adventure we jumped into did not have definitive boundaries or expected outcomes. Even so, despite the many twists and turns, I didn’t feel lost! That’s how I know it was a conversation worth having!

I was (and still am) swimming in my thoughts. But, the accompanying feeling of drowning or going off course wasn’t overwhelming; it was exhilarating! I was thinking so quickly my whole body was engaged. I was craving that!  It was like a switch turned my mind on and things lit up! My brain was entertained and invested in this discourse for hours contemplating the multiple pathways I might contend with as I navigated through this thoughtful, meaningful exchange. For those hours, I recognized myself. I felt comfortable and confident. It was as if life was breathed back into me. il_570xn-704413268_4vxg

I have to believe that’s what it means to be truly connected to someone else (speaking of connections… click here to read about “Jew-ography”!). The whole world could be moving on but you’re right there committed to that moment, that interaction, because this is so real and so personal. It’s that synchrony, that energy, that is so influential! I was reminded of what it feels like to be me. I miss that. I miss the space to think so intentionally and to be truly connected. I loved listening, struggling with, and accepting each perspective simply for how it moved and shaped the discussion. This was an inexplicably redeeming,  special, allows me to breathe deeply and smile authentically (even if everything else that day sucked) opportunity. I’m so appreciative!

Today I Could Breathe!

I  feel like most of what I write is critical or negative. I want to take space to acknowledge the positive when I can. That’s important. That’s probably called, or may resemble something like, balance.

So, today was a good day!

A few weeks ago, I wrote about “owning this” and talked, generally, about how I’ve been experiencing some tough stuff and what that feels like. Those challenges are still incredibly real. They’re pervasive and unbelievably difficult. They’re even a bit dangerous in the ways they present themselves. [It’s a huge accomplishment for me to recognize and state this – just saying] Since then though, I’ve had some amazing conversations with friends and mentors.  I realized the utility of a support system in a different and more meaningful way than I have in the past. I appreciated my friends who created a space where I could articulate how truly miserable, scared, and uncertain I’ve been feeling. I privileged honesty and speaking my struggle in spaces where I felt safe.

I really hit a low point (I’m sill very much there) where I felt out of control. It’s like you know rationally that the behaviors you’re exhibiting aren’t healthy but you can justify them, contort them, and separate them from “you” right up until the moment when you can’t anymore and then the reality, gravity, and urgency of the situation feels so heavy, so crushing, it’s unbearable to attend to or face. I didn’t have the words to argue when my friends suggested I needed some support. It also wasn’t a time that I was asking for support. [you know you have amazing friends when you don’t need to ask] I’m pretty sure that when you get to such a defeated place, the arguments against seeking some help don’t hold water anyway. At the same time, though, I didn’t want to face it. I felt like if I did nothing in response to their concern that it wouldn’t be real. If I could keep avoiding it then, maybe,”I” wouldn’t need help. Turns out, the effort I spent avoiding all of this was, perhaps, more cumbersome than facing these struggles head first and bringing them into the light.

This past week, I heard a lot of things I really didn’t want to hear but I also realized the importance of both seeking out and receiving support. Throughout all these conversations two statements have been super influential for me: “I believe/hear you.” [validation] and “What do you need [from me]?” [support]. However, aside from just hearing these words, what’s been essential has been how I’ve responded to these statements. I accepted my friends’ feedback, their care, their warmth, attention, love, and guidance. Previously I didn’t want to respond to their outreach. I didn’t want to acknowledge their concern. What was different this time was that I shared my space, made myself vulnerable, and felt the true reciprocal nature of friendship. Specifically, I learned how necessary it is to allow or welcome [I tried “let” but it seemed too tied up in oppressive language, like laying down and “taking” their help] others’ supports. You don’t have to face this all alone. Asking for help or accepting it represents a different type of strength. It more closely resembles self-awareness and demonstrates that you know how to harness and leverage your resources in a way that lets you present your best self each day.

So, this week I did some evaluating and made some important, necessary decisions  (with the help of some amazing friends and a little motivator called accountabili-buddies [in other words, my friends getting on my case – because they care]). The interesting thing is, when the clouds parted and the sun shined through [that’s my interpretation of  how it feels the moment you experience relief – when you realize everything is not hopeless and things will in fact be okay, with some work and a whole lot of “next steps”] I acknowledged how seriously deep and detrimental this struggle has been.

Acknowledging and naming this, owning this, has been one of the most difficult and also inspiring and empowering things I’ve done in a long time. So, today was a good day. Today I did something so incredibly scary but also so necessary. I did something specifically for me. And many of the anxieties I had were lifted when I realized it was okay to not be “okay” and that for even an hour I didn’t need to spend all my energies on keeping up appearances. I could be genuine and admit my personal truths. Recognizing myself in this moment [even when this version of “me” feels so unrecognizable] had a positive impact I wasn’t prepared for. Embracing support didn’t feel as scary or weak as I expected it to feel. Rather, it felt reassuring. I felt like I could finally breathe today, like I could focus today. Today I felt worthy and (recently) uncharacteristically energized.  I felt light and most importantly I felt safe.

Thoughts on Relationships and Validation

Today, I’m tackling one of the topics on my “Things I Want to Write About” list: relationships and validation. This post isn’t about how great it feels to be told I’m right or consistently needing my ego stroked.  It’s about recognizing the power of and my appreciation for the friends in my life.

Months ago, I wrote the following important (to me) sentences:

“Relationships are among the many tools in your toolbox. They serve a purpose and they’re necessary to build your complete self”

That’s where I’ll start. This past year, I’ve learned a lot about relationships. I’ve learned to let people get to know me and I’ve started to understand and truly appreciate the necessity of reciprocity in friendships. I’ve allowed myself to be just vulnerable enough that I can accept others investment in me. Rather than pushing them away or putting up high walls, I’ve shared pieces of myself to add to the foundation of our relationship. Together we built something wonderful and soon I was able to feel how influential these investments were. In a year, I learned the meaning of true friendship and I’ve found my “people” (because why shouldn’t we reference Grey’s Anatomy wherever we can?!). I gained friends who likely know me better than I know myself and somehow, they always know the right thing to say to make everything better (or at least manageable for a moment).

Twice recently, I’ve had friends thank me for allowing them the space to “get enraged”. That’s the reciprocal part! That’s when I realized again that validation, active listening more precisely, is an essential aspect of friendship. I didn’t have to have the answers. I just needed to listen, acknowledge, and then ask what they needed from me. That shift from trying to “fix” the problem to simply supporting a friend has meant so much to me. It means that we can admit that sometimes the solutions are hard. We can respect and acknowledge each individual’s needs. Sometimes “I hear you. That sucks.” and saying or hearing nothing more is more powerful than whatever advice you could spew or pretend to listen to in the moment. Other times, our friends are our first line of defense where we can leverage our networks and share experiences and resources (when they are asked for of course. Consent is important!).

An interesting element about validation that I don’t think I initially realized is that in order to be validated, you have to share parts of  yourself – introduce people to the “real you”.  That means, you must have the tough conversations and sometimes let down walls or cross boundaries. You have to move past small talk. The benefit is, when you let the right person “in” you can experience the beauty of feeling truly cared for and important to someone. And, that’s all we can ask for some days. All we can hope for, all we can expect, is that we are important enough to someone and that our relationships are dynamic enough and salient enough to weather the storm and anything we might encounter.

This year, I’ve learned to love and rely on these relationships. The first time I realized how influential these friendships are was when a mentor, advisor, teacher, and now friend said to me “I hope you get everything you want”. That was one of the first times I felt genuinely supported without any external expectations. After I heard that, I smiled and felt like I could do exactly what I wanted without letting anyone down.  I can’t explain why that interaction touched me so significantly but, (at the risk of sounding cliché) it changed my life. So, since then I’ve been seeking out more meaningful moments like that. I’ve been searching for the spaces where I am heard. I’ve been wanting more friendships that change my life and warm my heart.

So, yes, validation feels good. It reminds me that relationships are necessary and that I’m not alone. It reminds me I CAN ask for help and, I don’t have to put up a front or appear to always be “okay”. Together we can share the true privilege of supporting each other – a privilege I like to call friendship.