I’ve been thinking a lot about friendships lately. I have a significant number of strong relationships with women I’ve met over the years and I’ve found myself examining what makes some stand the test of time while others dissolve.
This was brought to the front of my mind again during my retreat in Bali. While I was excited and honored to have so many friends I’ve known for 13+ years join me, I was also apprehensive. We met living in St. John as bartenders. Some of them acted as big sisters, taking me home when I was too drunk at the bar, helping me navigate through toxic relationships and pointing out patterns of self-destruction. Impostor syndrome kicked in. They’ve never seen me in my role as a teacher or taken a yoga class with me. Will they be able to take me seriously? Will they think I’m a fraud? Will the entire trip be a disappointment because they still see me as the wild child I was back then?
For months leading up to the trip, I undermined my hard work, the years of study, practice, and training. I convinced myself, yet again, that I wasn’t worthy.
At 6:45am on the first morning of the retreat, my friend Ali walks up to me before practice. Ali is one of the big sisters, she trained me in fine dining when I was wildly under-qualified. I’ve seen her twice in the last eight years. With tears in her eyes, she wraps her arms around me and says, “I’m so unbelievably proud of you, of how much you’ve grown, of what you’ve built in Charlotte. I’m so happy to be here.”
I wrap my arms around her and squeeze her tightly, tears streaming down my face. “Thank you,” I whisper, as all the self-doubt melts away.
How could I forget: island girls have always been good at supporting each others’ evolution.
Relationships aren’t always easy. Life happens. People change and this can be difficult to process sometimes. When a big shift takes place with someone we love, it feels like we should only be filled with joy and happiness. Especially if they make a big lifestyle change, switch careers, move to a new city, get married, have kids, fill in the blank. Yet instinctively, fear kicks in simultaneously. I suppose it’s the fear of being left behind, of somehow becoming insignificant as the person we love grows, evolves, and expands. What if they change and don’t need me anymore? What if they grow so much they transcend our relationship and I’m left here, alone? It makes us question our own evolution: am I doing enough? Am I enough? Is my life on the right track?
When these thoughts arise, it’s easy to run away with them. Sometimes the realization that the person sitting across from you isn’t the same person as when you met is too much to bear. But if you can recognize this as fear, give it a nod, and shift back to how miraculous it is that they’ve grown into the person they are today and that you are a part of this evolution — your relationship becomes stronger than the distance between you. We are dynamic beings. Unconditional love means allowing space for transformation.
When I moved to St. John when I was 22 years old, it was hard for some people to understand my decision. There were friends who wanted to know when I would come back and get a “real job.” They couldn’t grasp or relate to the dramatic turn I made on my life path — it was easier to push me away than give me space to figure out who I wanted to be.
There were also those who didn’t quite get it but supported my journey anyway. The ones who stuck around, supporting my evolution, even when it got messy.
Sometimes friendships are messy. Life is hard and sometimes we don’t know how to process our emotions so we take it out on the ones we love most. We put unrealistic expectations on each other. We don’t clearly communicate our feelings. The dynamic of our relationship alchemizes, sometimes due to circumstances out of our control. The only constant in life is change. Maybe the strongest relationships are the ones where we allow each other to grow and evolve but we stick together, even if we aren’t the same people we were when we found each other.
Sitting around the dinner table on our last night in Bali, I marvel at how many strong women surround me. I watch them as they laugh, tell stories, sip wine. Completely in awe of how much they’ve evolved since we met over a decade ago. I realize how much they’ve impacted who I am.
Maybe the key to lasting friendships is facing your fear of being left behind and recognizing the only way this will actually happen is if you choose not to be part of the evolution. Sometimes the best way to hold on is to let go.
To everyone in my life who contributed to and supported my evolution:
(you know who you are)