I just celebrated my 46th turn around the sun and feel truly blessed.
My birthday is a personal holiday, and I celebrate accordingly. It doesn’t always have to be over-the-top, but I do mark the occasion; I have done so for the last 45 years!
This year, I knew, would be a lowkey affair, but for a brief moment, I was transported back to my 16-year-old self and began to wonder who I could invite to this soirée. When I should have been deciding what dress to wear to my sweet 16, I was anxiously trying to determine if I should have a party at all! Unknowingly, I had become the girl everyone loved to hate at my high school. Of course, I wanted to have a big fancy party, but deep down, I was terrified that no one would show up. I dreaded getting all dolled up and standing alone in my party finery. I didn’t think I would ever be able to overcome that type of embarrassment. Ultimately, I celebrated my 16th birthday by having dinner with my mom (my best friend) at TGI Fridays.
Yes, I let fear win. It sucks.
Thankfully, all that teen angst has passed, and the question was no longer if I was going to have a party but with whom I wanted to celebrate. It’s 30 years later, but still, I don’t have many friends. And I am okay with that. If I have learned anything at all after 46 years of being on this planet, it is that when it comes to friendships, quality over quantity is the way to go.
Trust me; I had to learn this lesson the hard way, not once but twice! The latest rendition of this particular life lesson was served up seven years ago when I was going through one of life’s most challenging moments: divorce. The moment I needed my friends was when they deserted me. As an only child, my friends have always felt more like my chosen family. So, I admit their abandonment stung like hell.
Losing these friendships felt like an unnecessarily bitter cherry on top of the sh*t cake my life was becoming. Not only was I losing the person I married, a little of my children’s innocence, my lifestyle, and of course, pieces of me. Now I had lost my community. These women were there for the birth of my children and vice versa. We traveled together and celebrated countless holidays and birthdays together. We bonded over our shared experience as African American women living abroad in Switzerland.
Since this was my second time on the friendship merry-go-round, I handled it with more grace than my teenage self did. But it still hurt. I thought that these women were here for the long haul, part of my tribe, my family. However hard it may be when people are determined to leave your life, let them. Holding onto something with force is much more painful than opening your hand and letting it go freely. Our friendships hold a mirror up to us and allow us to see our reflection. I couldn’t help but wonder what it said about me when I found myself suddenly friendless.
So, I did what only children know how to do: be my own best friend.
Having always been fiercely loyal and protective of my friends, I decided it was time to do the same for myself. I started giving the love and support I so freely gave to others to my damn self! Another lesson I have learned over the years is that your relationship with yourself is the most important one you will have in your entire life. You teach others how to treat you by how you treat yourself.
The last few years have been lonely, I will not lie, but they were crucial for my evolution. I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason and that life is not happening to you; it is happening for you. So what felt like being stripped of everything I had come to know was necessary. The people I knew and called friends were no longer a part of my life’s trajectory, and I had to be okay with that.
Fast forward to 2023. My guest list might have been small this year, but it was mighty. As the smoke from the birthday candles settles, I think about the women who were there, loved, and celebrated my 46th trip around the sun. One of them I met 19 years ago in a French lesson—she came to my wedding. We lost contact but were reunited two years ago. One I met on a trip to Colombia, two others I met through the internet, and the last two I met three months ago at a fashion show! After all, it doesn’t matter how you met or for how long you have known someone. True friendship isn’t about whom you’ve known the longest. It’s about who walked into your life and said, “I’m here for you,” and proved it.
I know that I attracted each one of these ladies into my life because I took the time to rediscover myself and the type of woman and friend I wanted to be. We cannot get what we do not give. We cannot have what we are not. As I look into the mirror that these ladies are holding up, I can only smile because I love what I see.