I had the incredible fortune of ringing in the new year surrounded by some of my favorite people in the world at an incredible wedding celebration. One of my very best friends got married, and both myself and my husband were part of the wedding party, and I officiated the ceremony. (2019 side hustle: minister for hire!) Honestly, it’s something I never pictured I’d be lucky enough to do, let alone in such a meaningful way.
I’ve mentioned quite a few times before that I have struggled with friendship and making friends for my entire life. I have mostly been the person who has two or three friends, and usually I’m pretty far down their list. I’m often an outsider in groups, and even in the last few years of growing and trying harder and being more realistic with expectations and boundaries, my friendships have come and gone in fits and starts.
So, a few months ago, when my friend asked me to officiate the wedding and be a bridesmaid, I was absolutely blown away. My first thought was, “OH MY GOD NO PRESSURE!” But my second was, “Really? Me? Are you sure?” I had known they’d be getting married, and both Marty and I knew we’d be invited to the wedding, but we never figured we would be important enough people in their lives to merit this kind of meaningful participation. I am still so, so honored.
Anyway, the bride was my college roommate. We actually met when we roomed together at a business camp the summer before our senior year of high school. Seriously, so nerdy. We hit it off well enough and decided that rather than take our chances with randoms, we’d request to be roommates when we started at Michigan State. Looking back, that was very seriously one of the best decisions I ever made – taking the risk to ask her if she’d be up for it, even though I was super scared she’d be like, “ummm, thanks, but no. I’m good.”
We had a good time in college, and I do think we made good roommates. It was a big plus for me that many of her high school friends went to State as well, which basically became a built-in friend group for me too. But as insecure as I was about friends coming out of my crappy experiences with them where I grew up, I never quite shook the feeling that I didn’t actually fit in. And while I have a lot of good memories, I never really felt like I was part of the group.
And honestly, I’m sure I wasn’t completely. It’s tough to walk into a tightly knit group of folks with a long, shared history and share that kind of closeness. But at the same time, I can look back now and see that I was the one who had more walls built up than I realized. I held on to every story that I didn’t have friends, couldn’t make friends, people didn’t choose me to be their friend, whatever – and that clearly manifested itself in those experiences and relationships. My perspective was skewed, and it caused me to miss out on a lot.
Fifteen years later, you can imagine my anxiety walking right back into this group of people. Under my lens, I was looking back and thinking about how I was kind of the tag-along friend, the weird ugly duckling friend, the annoying friend who didn’t even like to party. Sure, we’re adults, sure life is very, very different now than it was in college. Sure, I was asked to be a part of this. But don’t people sometimes do that out of obligation? You know, just being nice and all.
As the weekend approached, plans started falling into place, and I started falling into old patterns, building old walls. I said maybe to some activities, just to protect myself from that rejected outsider feeling. I told Marty I’d just hang back and go with the flow in the background. I fretted about what to wear.
And when our little bachelorette celebration day started, I was nervous. I was afraid of looking stupid, saying too much, being too much. As it ended, however, I was astonished. Because guess what? I was included. I was inside. I was chosen. I was a friend.
I never once felt like any person or interaction was fake or contrived. Everything and everyone felt natural. The group, the energy, the vibe was all love and togetherness. (And, turns out, some of the most influential memories for me were very much the same for the rest of the group, much to my surprise. I was always included after all.) I truly felt like the bride, and all these other friends, cared that I was there. And I cared deeply the same.
The rest of the weekend was easy. Effortless. Absolutely fucking joyous, actually. The anxiety was gone. I could take the walls down. I didn’t doubt any longer that I am a friend by choice and not by obligation. And by the time we all parted, hugs and tears all around, I was entirely sure that these people are a major part of my life, and I’m a part of theirs too.
It’s an utterly different story than the one I had so convinced myself of for so many years.
My husband put it best (AS ALWAYS. Somebody put this guy on the payroll.). In her speech, the maid of honor accurately said that the bride is the person you can’t seem to believe would ever choose you for a friend. She’s bright and creative and adventurous and fun and the most kind and generous soul alive, and when she shines that light on you, you feel like the luckiest person in the world. Tears came spilling down my cheeks at that (they are right now, jeez) because she did such a fantastic job of describing my feelings about it too. As we were talking about it on the way home and I was recounting how much she absolutely nailed it, Marty said to me, “But didn’t you ever think that she might feel the same way about you?”
Honestly, I never did. I never thought that anyone could possibly feel that way about me. And there are some really big lessons in that for me.
First of all, that very belief itself held me back from the thing I always wanted most, more and better friendships. Telling myself that I couldn’t make friends or that I wasn’t the good friend or the important friend or the close friend or whatever kept me from being any of those things. If you believe it, the people around you are going to pick up on it too.
Second, it’s never too late to close the book on a story and start reading or writing a new one. I’m going to be 35 this year. Conservatively, that’s 30 years of believing this negative story about friendship and never inviting it into my life. In one weekend, one magical experience, that entire story changed, mostly because I have finally grown into a place of knowing myself well enough and being confident enough to allow for a different story.
Now, I’m seeing through a different lens – not only for this group of friends, but for others as well. Turns out, I’m an important person in other friends’ lives too. I don’t believe that out of vanity or ego, I believe it because they’ve told me so and it’s probably a good idea to actually hear the words that are coming out of their mouths. There’s no reason for me not to trust and believe that I’m a person other folks would choose to include in their lives on purpose.
Third, those things combined still feel scary. What if I mess it up? What if I’m over-eager now? What if I misjudge and get hurt some more? I might. But I’ll take my chances. Those fears and insecurities held me back from a lot of really wonderful experiences and relationships, and I’m not about to let that happen for one more day.
Uncanny timing, as we’re embarking on a new calendar year. But really, pretty perfect, as self-limiting beliefs, stories, and fears are highly common themes a lot of us are continually working on. The Universe always knows, you know? 🙂
I’ll be talking a lot about these things this year, and hopefully encouraging some new perspective and growth for you. But to start the year, I just want to plant the bug and emphasize that: