If I were to give an honest answer when asked about what I want to do with my life I would say that all I want to do is take care of people. In recent months I have learned that my form of self-love comes from loving other people, from helping people be their best selves. Often times I have been told by people that I need to focus on myself more, that I need to take care of myself before I can take care of another person. But what they fail to understand is that when the people I love succeed, so do I. I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by love throughout my life and because of that I have immense faith in my own capabilities even if that may not always feel so clear to me. As a sometimes extreme optimist, I am a big believer in the idea that everything will be okay and it is because of that, that I am able to give so much of myself to other people. It is sometimes disheartening to have people assume that because I am helping someone else, I am not helping myself. I take care of myself slowly and quietly but what brings me true joy is to take care of those around me and make sure that I can help them be where they need to be.
So to all of my friends, especially those who take care of my soul on the daily, this is for you:
You all know that I am not afraid of the word love. I say it all the time. I say it about people, about food, about books and so much more. When I say I love you, it is more than just “I care” or “you’re important to me.” When I say I love you I mean that you are a piece of my heart. I mean that when I send my prayers up, you are in my thoughts. I mean that you are brilliant and beautiful and your existence in my life is one that God had to have organized himself. I mean that you inspire me, that you are strong even when you don’t think you are. I mean that you have most likely saved me on more than one occasion. I mean that you make me laugh, you make me happy and you make me feel like I can be my complete self. I mean that I would do anything everything for you. I would never even hesitate to walk through fire with you, to carry you with me wherever I go. I mean that as long as I have a space to call my own on this Earth, that you will always have a home. I mean that our relationship is as important to me as a marriage would be. I mean that I call you my friend but you are my family. I mean that I love you and so much more.
We live in a society where we are not taught to cultivate friendships in the same way we do relationships with significant others. It astounds me that friendship and relationship aren’t supposed to be used interchangeably. Since graduating college I’ve thought a lot about how I’m supposed to make “work” friends and how I’m not meant to see my closest friends as often because the life I live is supposed to be separate from theirs. That eventually I’ll get married and start my own family and suddenly they’ll just be some people I see once a year. I am not comfortable with the idea that whoever I am married to eventually suddenly becomes my sole friend as if that’s supposed to be some kind of goal to achieve. While I have definitely made my friend group smaller over the last few years, there is no way that I would continue without every single one of my friends. I am not interested in meeting the love of my life when I have already met the loves of my life. I am interested in cultivating a community that wants to see me at my best, that wants to work together, that gives me all the emotional support that I need and I don’t need to seek that in one person.
In a follow up piece by Ian MacKenzie on the death of his marriage he writes, “Love is too big for two people. We must gather our kin around the fire and be willing to admit two people can’t navigate partnership alone. We need the village to hold us, mirror us, love us, thereby allowing romantic love to be its own glorious self, and not a stand in for the necessary things that are not in our lives.” For me, my love is just too big to give to one person. I’ve tried it. And it’s hard. Putting that much trust in someone, putting that much pressure on someone to be your emotional storage, your support and your lover. The expectations are too high. For me, I need to have my people, I need to have different perspectives, different personalities that come together and create a community of love.
I am young but I am not naive. I am young but I know what I need to keep me going and that is the community of friends that I have been fortunate enough to find in the past four years and in this last year especially. They are there at 4am when I can’t sleep. They are there when I want to share funny videos. They are there when I want to start a revolution. They are there when I want to sit in silence. They are there when I want to throw shade. They are there when I need to feel loved and when I’m grieving. They are there when I need more than one opinion. They are there when I’m being an idiot and they need to bring me back into reality. They are there to hype me up and to make sure that my outfit is on point. They are my family, my heart and my soul. It is because of them that I am able to be so unapologetically me.
Without my friends I am nothing. I want to look back on my life and see all of them in the places they want to be and I will work my entire life to make sure that happens. They are my form of self-love and life will always be what I want it to be as long as they are with me.