Monday, January 01, 2007

The Lowdown on the Girlfriends

It's hard to be my friend. I don't mean that in a self-loathing or self-pitying way. It just is. Not because I'm high maintenance. Or because I get jealous easily. Or even because I expect a lot of my friends. At least I don't think I do. But I am a complainer. I always have something to complain about. And if I'm not complaining to my husband-- and often even when I am-- I am complaining to a friend. Add that personality quirk to the fact that I'm rarely free for anything social, and my circle of friends is, well, limited.

That said, I am a friend for life. If you've been my friend any time in the past, you could call me up at any time in the future-- I would most definitely remember you, even if I lost your address somewhere along the way and failed to continue sending Christmas cards. And I'd want to hang out. Because despite the fact that it's hard to be my friend, I am a total loyalist. And when I make friends, they are pretty much people I'd want to re-encounter over the course of my life.

So despite my unavailability (though, to be honest, if any of my friends called me any time day or night in a crisis, I'd drop just about anything and go running), there is a small group of people who seems to have been able to really put up with my constant complaining. And in honor of the new year, I thought I'd publicly express my gratitude toward these women. . . who really help sustain me throughout the year.

Let's start with D. She is my oldest friend. I met D in second grade. She skipped first grade and landed in my second grade class. I'm not sure if it was the day she joined our class or the day after-- but I simply asked, "Want to be my friend?" And we have been ever since. That's pretty amazing-- to find a girlfriend who will stand by you through all the boy-chasing of elementary school recess, through the awkward first menstrual cycle of sixth grade and the discomfort of the "group" showers required after PE when I was the only one with boobs. A girlfriend who stood by me through first kisses, voted for me (I assume) in school elections, worked on high school projects, and shared a limo to Senior Prom with me (and my date, of course). Heck, she even went to Homecoming with my husband once! And when we went off to college, we stayed in touch-- less regularly. But somehow, we always managed to pick up right where we left off. She sheltered me during my first real heartbreak (that would be Greg in the 8th grade) and during my first adult heartbreak (that would be Mike). She was with me when I got married, when I bought my first car (without my parents' help), and when Jason and I bought our first house. We used to joke that she'd have to come visit so that we could finally conceive a child (and she acted appropriately grossed out by this suggestion). And even though we live across the country from one another and our lives have, at least momentarily, taken different paths, there is a mutual respect, a mutual comfort, a mutual love. I know I'm not describing it with justice. . . But when that Bette Midler/ Barbara Hershey movie Wind Beneath My Wings came out, it became our movie. I always though D would be a performer-- she has an amazing voice, and she even sang at my wedding. That's not where life has carried her, but I hope she knows that I would always be content being the wind beneath her wings. Even though we are so very far apart, I know that she is a true kindred spirit. And I feel blessed.

Next there is A. A is my best friend here in San Diego. We met in graduate school, the first night of class. As we made chit-chat that night, we discovered that she knew (and once dated) my then-boyfriend's younger brother. We were immediate friends. We completed our teaching credential program-- she as a math teacher and me as an English teacher. We hung out. We drank coffee. Her family took me in as one of their own, including me in holiday meals. I can't explain it, but I felt instantly like I had known A forever. Perhaps what sealed the deal for me was falling asleep on the floor of her apartment that year, sobbing, heartbroken (over the aforementioned breakup with Mike). A and I attended church together, walked together, and just hung out. At the end of our first year as friends, we agreed to move in together (with another person), but somehow the deal fell apart-- I don't even remember the details anymore, to be honest (which is pretty rare for me). What I do remember is that somehow it didn't destroy our friendship. And that made me feel completely relieved. Because A is a keeper-of-a-friend. We don't share a common view on politics, and we don't always see the world the same way. But A is genuine, and fun-- and so darn patient. Here we are, in the same city, and sometimes we can go a week or two without talking. And just pick up where we left off (as you can tell, this is a very importat quality for me). A just gets me. She, like D, has been there to help me celebrate the big things-- and to pick me up when devastation hits. For example, A really helped carry me through the infertility rollercoaster. And still loves me.

A and D are our son's godmothers. Casey is lucky that way. (Not to say Marcie isn't lucky-- she has her aunts as her godmothers, so she is pretty darn lucky, too!)

Next comes G. Eight years ago G would not have made my list of top girlfriends. This isn't because I didn't know G. In fact, I met G the same year I met A. She and I met because we were working on our Masters degrees in the same program, and we frequently paired up on projects because we were the only to secondary teachers. Interestingly, G has been there for all my major life moves except my marriage. I hadn't even begun teaching yet, but G treated me like a veteran-- someone with real expertise. I don't know that she even realizes she did. But her cheerleader approach to relationships is really uplifting, and I think she single-handedly gave me the right ego boost for a successful start to a teaching career. We lost touch after that first year, talked again not long after I was married (and she'd left teaching temporarily), then reconnected randomly a while later. G and I work together now. She is the reason I have the job I have, in fact. And I think G is probably one of the wisest people I know. She is definitely more a giver than a taker. She holds her cards close to her chest-- and I respect that. But she is so kind, so caring-- the kind of person who really understands what motivates the people around her, who really anticipates their needs, and then just takes proactive steps. G is the whole package. She gets that life needs balance, and she reminds me to strive for that balance all the time. And, of course, she listens to me gripe on a very regular basis. Lucky, lucky me. Seriously.

Last, but definitely not least, is K. I used to work with K. And truth be told (and I'm not sure she even knows this), I wasn't thrilled about hiring her. I sat in on the interviews, and though K was absolutely qualified, I had selected someone else as my first choice initially. Now, in my defense, I hadn't been working there that long, and I wasn't expecting to ever become friends with my co-workers. My life was so crazy, so busy. The last thing I was expecting was a friend at work. But boy am I glad we hired K. She has taught me so much about being a grown up. You see, K grew up in a totally different world than I did. She is the kind of person who won't go out in public without make-up on. Who wears designer, fitted clothing (and looks stellar in them), and who has a clear sense of appropriate customer service. Plus, K taught me what lunch should be (and it's not eating greasy grilled cheese at my desk). K and I became friends from going to lunch and chit-chatting. Well, that and her listening to me complain. G once described K as discriminating, and that is exactly the right word for her. She has such a keen sense of style-- and K is a researcher. Boy, if I haven't looked into something, K definitely has. If you want to know what baby gear to buy, or what car to get, I can assure you, K will have researched it. Thoroughly. It's pretty amazing. Plus K is so helpful! At Christmas this year, I needed to get gift cards to two stores, neither of which is anywhere in my neighborhood. And since I was meeting K for lunch later in the week (she's taken a leave from work), she said she'd do it for me! How nice is that-- kind of a personal shopper of sorts (hey, that would be a kick-butt job for her! I should mention it). K is a loyal friend-- and she's so good at it. She really keeps in touch with her girlfriends, and I find that pretty incredible.

Of course there is more to each of these four women than I've expressed in this far-too-lengthy post. I know I haven't done them justice. And what's crazy is that although each of the four of them knows all about the other three, and would probably love each other, I never hang out with all four at once-- either because of distance or timing or something. But I am one lucky girl to have the friends I have. The ones who have stuck it out with me during the past 3 1/2 years of law school and listened to all my complaining. I hope they know how grateful I am for their friendship, for their love. Most of all, though, I hope they each know that they inspire me to strive to be a better person and a better friend . . .

P.S. Thankfully, they don't seem to mind my prolific writing style!


Larry and Kyndra said...

You can count me as a friend too.. I complain a lot, seem to be sick about as much as you, and our girls knew each other before we did.

Julie said...

You know I've heard that if you don't vent your feelings it can make you sick. Doesn't work. I complain all the time too and I still get ill. :)

A said...

karen--thanks so much for writing this. i can't imagine you not being my friend--you give so much to me!