Why investing in my female friendships is the biggest priority of my 20s
September 17th is National Women's Friendship Day.
As I trekked down 54th Street towards 9th Avenue with my grandmother's floral suitcase in hand, I checked Google Maps; I was almost there. I turned onto 9th Avenue, searched for building numbers, and that's when I saw them: three of my closest friends from college, sitting on a fire escape right above me. "HEY!" I shouted, followed by a chorus of "ANNA!" as more friends appeared through the second-story windows.
Thus began our first post-college reunion.
After graduating from our college in Boston a year earlier, my friends and I spread out across the country — and the world — to Pennsylvania, California, New York, Tennessee, even Australia. But upon Victoria's return from a year abroad, we all decided it was time to reconvene. It'd been too long — Facetime and group messages couldn't suffice for all we had to catch up on.
That weekend with each other felt like getting out of the car after a winding drive, sinking into your couch with a quiet sigh of relief. It felt like putting your head back on straight. Nothing grounds you more than joking, laughing, and expressing yourself without constraint because those around you have long accepted you for better or worse.
At the age of 23, having recently assumed the role of full-time adult with a nine-to-five, life feels…odd. I've deemed this period of my life "The Bummer Phase." If you're like me, you've now acclimated to corporate America. It's harder to make real friends because your social scene is no longer built-in as it was in school. Without all that structure provided by a student lifestyle, figuring out your next step feels vague and slippery. The world seems equal parts wide-open and closed-shut. Add our political reality and dating struggles into the mix, and you've completed the recipe for one full-baked Bummer Phase™.
With this being the climate of my life, nothing feels more important to me than my relationships with my female friends.
Why female friends, specifically?
As a woman, sharing my life experiences with other women and women-identifying folks is both validating and elucidating. They tell me that no, I'm not crazy for feeling what I'm feeling. They provide me with more context as I navigate the world of womanhood, expanding my understanding of my own realm of experiences.
My women friends remind me of my self-worth when I'm up a proverbial self-pity creek without a paddle. When I say, "I just want to date someone who doesn't suck," they reply, "Why don't you just focus on your work? Your passions? Your goals?" Sometimes, they understand my feelings better than I do. They ask, "How's your heart?" They make me die from laughter even in my worst mood. They teach me that ruthlessly making fun of the people you love is important sometimes. They ask me the tough questions, teach me about empathy and integrity, remind me of the virtues of strength and determination.
They've been there for me, with unwavering support, through some of the hardest transitions in my life.
While some millennials in their mid-twenties are focusing on relationships, I’m relishing in my alone-ness.
I just haven't found anyone with whom I've mutually shared the desire to share a life. And honestly, the way I feel about dating at this age can be summed up by my friend Olivia's mother.
I can’t be bothered to fret about my singledom when I’m too busy figuring out who I am and what I want for the foreseeable future — all alongside women who call me on my bullshit and simultaneously build me up.
(P.S. Single people now outnumber married people in the United States, so I'm not alone in this one.)
While long-distance friendships are hard, planes, cars, and modern technology make it easier than ever to stay close. With some money saved up and a mutual understanding that seeing each other whenever possible is paramount, I've been able to stay close with friends from Portland to Puerto Rico. And I wouldn't want my life any other way.
With that, I say to my ladies: Thank you. Your friendships have provided me with the most memorable adventures of my 20s so far. Here's to a lifetime of more scheming, loving, and growing.