When big life moments happen or the seasons of your life turn, oftentimes I’ve found that those moments tend to put a magnifying glass on the friendships you have.
Whether you’re experiencing joy or despair, that shift internally and externally can highlight the good and not so good in your relationships with people. This has happened to me throughout every major life event I’ve had in my adult life: when I got married, when I had my daughter and when I recently left my home of 12 years in LA to move across the country into the unknown. (Forgive me for the Frozen quote, but ya know… #momlife) All of these events have been highlights in my life that I’ll never forget, because of the immense joy and gratitude they brought me. Yet, I’ll also never forget the significant relationships I lost simultaneously. I’m a feeler. I’m very much an introvert and have never been one to have many friends, but the ones I do are imprinted deeply in my heart. They become woven into the fabric of my life in a way that, to me, is irreplaceable and when stripped away, is forever missed.
The most recent experience I had with this was two-fold, because while I was experiencing this major life event of starting over in a new city, my friend was also having a huge life event of her own and I would miss it because of this move and COVID restrictions. She was upset, to say the least, and rightfully so. One of her good friends would be missing a monumental chapter in her life. I, on the other hand, was sad, terrified, worried and excited. Does that sound like odd feelings to have about missing an exciting event in your friend’s life? That’s because those feelings had nothing to do with that. They were about my move. I was overwhelmed with mixed emotions about leaving my home of 12 years and everyone I knew. Terrified about starting over, but even more terrified of what I’d expose my daughter to if we stayed. I was worried about how this unsettling journey would effect my daughter. I was excited at the possibilities of providing her a better life. Coping with all of those thoughts and feelings on top of packing up our lives and coordinating this massive undertaking consumed all of the emotional capacity I had in that moment. Being overwhelmed with my own story came across to my friend as indifference to hers and that upset her even more. The fact that she’d not once asked how I was feeling, how my daughter was doing or how preparing for this move was going upset me. While I was overwhelmed, the stress, bliss and significance of her own life event had her at her own capacity. Duh!
The thing is… we’re all the main character of our own stories in life and while we may want everyone else in it to play the supportive best friend who’s there to follow two steps behind us, laugh at all our jokes and help us solve all our problems, that’s not reality. When we experience a big life event, it feels like the most important thing in the world and it is – to us. This is totally valid, but only for us. We can’t expect it to be true for other people, because while we’re having that experience in our life they’re off being the main characters in their own and what they’re going through is probably the most important thing in the world to them.
When these things happen, I’ve seen people drift apart forever, in my own life and in others’. So much so that I’d come to accept that different seasons of life, bring different seasons of friendship. Well, I’m determined to change that narrative, or at least try to. I love my friend and I love having her in my life and I want us to see each other through all kinds of big life events as we ebb and flow and one day, laugh as we reminisce about it all, old and grey with a glass of wine in hand.
We often manage to commit to people we’re related to for a lifetime because when those people are called family there’s an assumed permanence. You can dislike with your brother or not speak to your mom for a year, but you come back to each other again when that season runs its course. You support each other if shit ever hits the fan, despite having nothing in common with them apart from some genetics or a mutually acknowledged piece of paper that says you’re family.
So why is friendship so conditional and temporary? Why do we just write people out of our story altogether at the first sign of conflict?
These aren’t people we got stuck with by circumstance, they’re people we found and chose to bring into our lives intentionally. That doesn’t mean we can expect them to stay frozen in time as that person we first chose to be friends with. They’re people. We’re people. We’re designed to evolve and change. If you love someone, is it not worth putting the extra effort into consciously choosing to having them in your life forever? The same goes for relationships. “Making it work” means making a choice to consciously grow together instead of growing apart, because we never stop growing. The person I’m married to now is very different from the person I met 8 years ago and I know he’ll be a very different person 20 years from now. The same goes for me, but we make the effort to grow together because we kinda like each other and want to ensure that we are partners in each other’s lives forever.
Relationships require effort from both parties and what you seek is a reflection on the effort you put in, so it has to start with you.
If I wear my heart on my sleeve, express myself to the people I love and provide them a safe space to express themselves to me, maybe the relationships that matter to me won’t turn over with the seasons of my life. Maybe, if I work hard at those relationships and lead with love, they’ll be around for a lifetime like the tattoos on my skin. Maybe I’ll find myself tattooed on someone else’s heart, despite life taking us on different paths or evolving us into different versions on ourselves.
Now, to clarify, I’m certainly not suggesting you tolerate toxic relationships, because it’s equally as important to know when to say goodbye and take care of yourself if someone is repeatedly causing you pain or mistreating you. However, if this is a moment of conflict and your relationship is built on mutual love and care, you’ll know in your heart if it’s worth putting some extra effort into it to see that relationship through to the other side of that conflict.
My mom gave me parenting advice years before I had a child that I’ll never forget. She said,
“When people pull away or things get ugly, it’s a lot harder to love them. It’s easier to want to just walk away but in those moments, that’s when you need to hug them that much harder.”
Shenae Grimes-Beech is an actor and YouTuber with a highly engaged community of like-minded women who are here to stand up for what they believe in and lean into discomfort, especially when it means doing the right thing.