Kindness comes in many forms, but there is one form of kindness that is particularly important and powerful: kindness among females.
Females. We bring life to this earth and are the glue that holds everything together. So, why do so many women live in rivalry? That said, it's been amazing how many strong, independent and encouraging women who have entered my life over the years. It has been an entirely different experience than what I faced in school; there has been no competition with "us," and when I refer to "us," I'm referring to my squad.
"Girl squad;" a term popularized by my beloved Taylor Swift. I've been blessed to collect friends from all over the country over the years, and even if I haven't seen them in ages, we can have three hour phone conversations or grab coffee as if nothing has ever changed. Do they beat me down when I make mistakes or judge me for my actions? No. Do they rub their success in my face when I'm feeling insecure? Never. The women who have made me feel unworthy are no longer in my life; I wish them well, but negativity isn't for me.
My squad consists of women of all different faces, races and places. These are women who I have met over the years who have been nothing but supportive, loving and helpful- women who have picked me up when I've beaten myself down. Women who have stopped everything they're doing to help me, to listen, to encourage and even move me out of boyfriend's apartments (which has happened more than once).
"I've got a squad I can tell you about if you'd like: 6 women ages ranging from mid twenties to 60-best of friends; we have the best times ever and are supportive beyond belief. It's a weird mixup but it works for us. Ours just works the best because so many different seasons and life experiences have happened between the 6 of us that whenever someone is going through something, someone else has been through similar and seems to know just what the other needs to handle life."
Amanda's own squad reminds me of my next point- the power of support. Knowing we're not alone and realizing that others understand the shoes we're walking in, whether they're flip flips or Louboutins.
I've learned a lot of lessons about the power of being a woman and the effect we can have on the lives of others, even through small acts of kindness. I've learned these lessons through my grandmothers, my mother, my teachers, my roommates, my sister and my friends. A little bit surely does go a long way.
We all have bad days, and on some of those days I don't have the patience or mental capacity to hear the woes of another person. You know what, though? One day you'll need someone to listen to you, and one day when you feel you can't listen any more, that same friend may need you, too.
Help each other. Listen. Support. As I said, a little bit goes a long way- just a smile and open ear without interruption (or putting in your own two cents) is invaluable to a friend in pain. Learn to be a little more selfless, one act of kindness at a time.
I was never the wealthiest, the prettiest or the most popular growing up. I constantly compared myself to other girls, but little did I know, they were comparing themselves to me, too. The tender teenage years are so detrimental to young women, and it's painful to look back at what my friends and I experienced growing up. Rumors, slams on body image, stealing boyfriends, slut shaming. It's all just toxic and frankly, ain't no one got time for that. We're all awesome; you're awesome, I'm awesome. Let's just all be awesome and leave it at that (easier said than done, but I'm hopeful!).
Success comes in many different forms. I vividly remember a conversation I had with another good college friend while driving through campus and chatting about the future. When I asked what her plan was for after graduation, she told me she wanted to move back to the Detroit suburbs. I asked why, as I had big dreams of moving to New York City (it only took eight years for me to get here since that chat in '06). Her response: "All my family and friends are there."
Today, this same friend has a thriving career, two beautiful children, a husband and stepdaughter. Our other friends, also living in surrounding suburbs, are also married with children. As for me, I'm single, living with a roommate in New York City and doing exactly what I set out to do. Success comes in many forms; so comparing yourself to someone with a bigger house, a better job or thinner waist is, well, a waste of time. We all move at different speeds, and we all want different things. Stay true to you, but don't beat someone down (including yourself) just because the painting of your life looks a little different than another's.
Do my female friends snicker if I have toilet paper on my shoe or lint on my coat? Never- they are kind and tell me these things in private. Do they mock me when my clumsy ass puts my shirt on backwards or says something embarrassing in public? Not a chance, they love me for my quirks. These women give me constructive criticism, lift me up and want me to be a better person- this is out of love, not to make themselves feel better. I do the same for them.
As I mentioned earlier, I am no longer in contact with people who make me feel bad about myself. I've given many chances to other people, as I would want others to give me a chance, too. No one is perfect. However, it's important to recognize when someone is being helpful and when someone is being flat-out mean. I could tell many stories of passive-aggressive comments and attempts at bringing me down, but this is a post about positivity and acceptance, not the past.
I have three close girl friends from my hometown with the same birthday in the month of April. They're all petite and blonde, but all so different; yet they all possess the same qualities- loyalty and love. I met two of these ladies in my teens, and it would be an understatement to say that we've been through a lot together. Death, divorce, babies, addiction, breakups, cross-country moves... and that is just the beginning.
I know I have not been a perfect friend and I know I have even hurt them deeply, but we have learned understanding and forgiveness over the years. As we grow, we learn. Growing is one job that will never end.
A few weeks ago I was having a terrible morning and texted one of these girls as I walked through Central Park (my therapy), which was the day I was inspired to write about David Foster Wallace. Funny enough, she was also having a similar kind of day. We have always tossed our crazy emotions back and forth and end up laughing about how similar we are; we ground each other and are a constant reminder that "it will all be okay."
If you are fortunate enough to have meaningful friendships, even just one true friend, you're very lucky and you'll never have to walk alone; whether you end up in a house with a white picket fence or in Miami with your three best friends.
Dedicated to the amazing women in my life. I love you.