My best friend is Wonder Woman. Every woman wishes she was as cool as her, every mother wishes her daughter as mature as her, and every guy wishes himself as witty as her. She is an all-star stellar woman and I can’t believe I get to call her my best friend.
We met our freshmen year of college and lived together for 3 years. We were friends before we knew how to wear eyeliner or gauge our alcohol limit, learned how to cook and navigate a handful of heartbreaks together, and no matter how many situations we screwed up, we always had each other. At some point we decided to label each other “wife”, because “roomie” and “bestie” just didn’t feel accurate anymore. After graduation (and despite living on separate continents for a year), my wife was the only person (besides me mom) who kept in touch with me every single day. And I mean literally every single day. If I was too busy, stressed, forgetful, or drunk to be on my phone she would blow it up with “JUST TELL ME YOU’RE ALIVE AND NOT DEAD IN THE JUNGLE OKAY I LOVE YOU BYE.”
I have always told her that being around her doesn’t make me feel like my truest self, but that together we ARE my truest self. Being in this very privileged position, I have learned a lesson or ten from “the inside”. I feel bad for every one who isn’t her best friend, so I thought I would be an incredibly kind human being and share some things she has taught me.
One night in college I was stressing over some test or boy or interview, and she patiently listened to my venting as I paced around the kitchen table. She was sitting down, eating a big bowl of cocoa puffs. As I sat down post-venting exhausted, she replied with, “I just think you need to eat a big bowl of cereal right now. There’s nothing like cereal at midnight.” So I decked out on my own bowl of cocoa puffs, and we crunched our way into chocolaty oblivion. Afterwards, I don’t even think I cared to sort out the issue that I was so worked up about. All I remember was my sugary nirvana in the moonlight. To date if it’s late at night and I start working myself up about something, I break out the cocoa puffs and always feel better. One could say I’ve learned how to eat my feelings. But I say thank you, dear cocoa puffs. And really, thank you best friend.
Despite the beauty of Elizabeth Taylor’s classic wisdom, my best friend taught me that alcohol should never actually be the thing that I go to when I’m genuinely upset by something. She has, however, always supported the less crude drug: caffeine! On harder days when I would come home from school in a huff, she would see me and get the coffee brewing before I could even take off my shoes. She has also taught me to keep it classy when I’m distressed with bright, red lipstick, and that when I’m crying to rub that rouge all over my lips. It’s startling how it actually makes you feel better! Finally, she has always reminded me of the wisdom of mothers. If I am talking about anything that has unhinged me, her first question is, “How are you feeling about it?” But her second question is always, “What has your mom said about this situation?” Wonder Woman, I’m tellin’ ya.
My best friend has shown me through example that even though it’s more comfortable to sit on the floor, gauge where you’re at before you do so. I’m the I-make-myself-comfortable-wherever-I-go kinda gal. If the person I’m with is taking too long, if I’m tired, if I need a break, I will sit. This has embarrassed my best friend on multiple occasions, but despite our, “This is not the time or place to sit” banter, she has (sometimes not always) been right. Once we were sitting outside an audition room, and I was sprawled outside with my bags and food and water and music. She was standing up, neatly tucked in a few, calculated feet away. A large man with a grim face walked by and nearly tripped on my apples and Nutella; I reached around his feet and got everything back in my bag. And then he walked in… to the director’s chair. He was the one and only person to audition us. At that moment my best friend’s example reminded me how fun it is to not be remembered as the “apples and Nutella spilling all over your feet with a random girl reaching through your legs” kinda gal.
My best friend is the energy of a lady from the south wagging her index finger as her eyes burn into yours with her expectations being communicated clear as day. But I’ve learned that the woman who can be that strong gets to expect that integrity from others because she readily gives it without question herself. My best friend does not bullshit people. While she has a quick tongue and has talked her way out of multiple awkward situations, she also (more importantly) has an incredibly kind heart that respects people too much to not be honest. Her actions and words are tried and true, and she expects others to be nothing less. I used to be terrified for her, thinking people would sorely disappoint her expected high standard of behavior. But to my delight and shock, I have watched people raise the way they act around her based on her expectations. Take no shit, but also give no shit. She is a brimming example of that.
I can’t say how many conversations have changed direction or become completely honest because my best friend has asked me this one simple question. I talk to her every day/multiple times a day, and even so she never assumes she knows how I am. It’s refreshing, because even when I don’t check in with myself, she does.
I have been astounded to watch this principle be true time and time again. While we all want to know we aren’t alone, we also need to feel heard and have uninterrupted times where we can just vent. I have watched the eyes of someone crying or venting glaze over as their chosen listening party breaks in with consolation over the fact that their situation is not novel because listening party has in fact been exactly there before. BOOM all upset is invalidated, and while no one feels better the upset person is now just trying to prove their situation different, rather than getting to explain just what it is. My best friend once said, “Even if the EXACT same guy cheated on you with the EXACT same person at the EXACT same time and place as ‘upset party’, just shut the f*** up and let them be upset!” She of course qualifies this rule by letting upset party know that they are not alone and that they are understood later in the conversation. Because there is unequivocal merit in that feeling. But at first? Just let the person have their moment.
If your parents are in town unexpectedly, well then you clear your plans and clean the apartment and get the food they want. Someone in your family is down on their health and you have the ability to drive/train over and help them? You cancel your meetings and date nights and make that family member your priority of the week. Roommate’s family is in town and it’s late and they are talking loud in the living room and you can’t sleep? Suck it up. You don’t get to send a politely annoyed text to your roommate asking them to tell their family to “Please quiet down”. Their family is your family and you treat them with the same adoring, eye rolling, unconditional love that you would your own. And if you need to talk to your significant other about something that is bothering you but he or she is at a family event that they can’t get out of (or they can, but they haven’t seen their family in a while)? Then you swallow your needs and put them and their family time first because truly that is what is most important in this moment. Of course “family” may not mean the traditional “mom and dad and sibling” to some. Families coming in a variety of meanings; your family might be the family you choose. Who ever your (and everyone else’s) family is, my best friend has taught me to always love them hard and support them with steadfast commitment. Family first, no matter what.
Looking out for the other person is the best thing you can possibly do for both of you. This includes (but is not limited to) never being too proud to say, “I’m sorry”, “I love you”, or “I should/shouldn’t have”. It certainly includes being vulnerable enough to say, “I couldn’t bear to lose you”, but also includes having an irreverent and honest enough sense of humor to say, “Yeah but I hate you when you do (insert chosen pet peeve). A pride-less love is an extremely rare one to come by, but at its root is a deep sense of understanding of the other person, and a desire to make them feel as loved and comfortable as you wish to feel yourself. Yes, my best friend loves like this. Yes, she is perfect.
It’s a very tricky balance of voicing your opinion vs. knowing when that voicing is warranted. The answer of course is always situational, but this line is especially hard to decipher when we feel powerless (or have felt powerless in the past). The present day symptom is we then assert exactly what we want or feel or need in situations where we could have just been gracious and held our tongue. But we are scared that holding our tongue makes us weak. Holding our tongue is unfair to ourselves, and why should we have to hold back?! My best friend has been a brimming example of what it is to just simply know your own self and power. That sometimes you don’t have to hold back, but it can be a lot kinder to do so. For example, if a friend is talking about something they find to be an excellent idea and you disagree, but you’ve already told them this before and they’re clearly deciding to do it anyways, then you say, “Okay” and love and support them no matter what. You can say, “Yeah well I tried that last year and it didn’t work so again I’m just warning you now!” (Brain says YES! I asserted my knowledge and myself and I feel strong!). But it would be lot kinder to just support them. Other times you might POUR yourself into something and not get credit. Maybe you cleaned up at the office or took out the trash for your significant other or organized everything needed for a class project…and then everyone but you got credit for it. Sure, you could pipe in later and say, “Just so you know I did such and such and this and that until this happened!” But wouldn’t it just be a lot more gracious to let the event go on smoothly and take joy in others joy? (Also fun fact people usually figure out it was you.) Sometimes it could be grandma being so very UN politically correct at the dinner table, or a coworker being incredibly annoying, or any other situation where we have a MYRIAD of things to say…and again, CONSTANTLY piping in to assert your opinion, for credit, for validation… it’s fine. It’s allowed. But the funny thing about trying to prove yourself is that even if people believe you, the desperation with which you use to voice what you did/what you’re standing up for takes the sparkle away from the action/idea itself. My best friend has taught me through example that you can be unapologetic in spirit and action, yet often the strongest (and kindest) choice is to just be gracious.
My best friend and I are total opposites in so many ways. For example, her instincts are far more accepting of unexpected situations than mine. If something goes unplanned, she says stuff life, “Wow okay alright damn so that’s what it is now. Okay moving on.” Where as my instincts are more like, “No! Let’s pick this up and make it exactly how we want it yay!!” But we balance each other out perfectly. She is sometimes too accepting of a situation and doesn’t think we can do anything about it, while my positivity lifts us up and moves us into a more exciting, momentous solution. Other times I pick up a situation prematurely and try to fix it (and end up making it worse), when really I need the grace to just let it be what it is, and she is my constant rock reminding me of that. She has taught me that while positivity is necessary and beautiful, it’s equally necessary and beautiful to say, “Everything is not okay”…. the qualifier being, “But I will be, and we will be, soon.”
Originally published at onmogul.com.
Originally published at medium.com