7 Mar 2018
There was only one year that I came close to being part of an “in-crowd”. It was in eighth grade. I had plenty of girlfriends and remember having the biggest birthday sleepover party that year. By ninth grade though, I had changed schools and left my popularity behind.
As I began high school, I was very aware of the popular kids, because my own friendships were sparse. Mostly, I just wanted more friends, good friends – never really thinking I wanted to be part of the in-crowd. It always seemed like too many smiles and a lot of pressure. I came to know some of the cool kids in gym class and they turned out to be nice and fun. No doubt my judgments and assumptions got in my way.
In college, I tended to prefer people who were off beat. They were not the star athletes or the prettiest, but they were fun, we laughed together, they had a passion that was contagious. By the time I graduated, I learned a lot about myself by understanding who I sought out as friends. Being cool or a member of a crowd didn’t really matter to me.
As a working mom, I often felt a bit exiled in my own community. There seemed to be a divide between working moms and the stay-at-home moms. I felt like an outsider. Forget being part of a home-town crowd. I would scroll the school directory before back-to-school nights – busily seeking the names of the parents of my children’s friends. Maybe back then I also let labels get in the way- albeit different ones.
After my children left the nest, I headed to Florida in my fifties. I let go of my relentless ambition and the 9-to-5 world. As a freelancer, I no longer had a cache of work friends. Instead, I began meeting “stay-at-home” women everywhere and managed to pick up and cultivate some close friendships along the way. Being together at work was no longer the focus of my friendships.
I was also especially lucky in Florida. My new best friend lived only a few blocks away. I hadn’t had that since elementary school – some place I could just stop by. It was wonderful to walk a block or two and know that a gentle knock and open door were all that was needed to sit with my friend. No Starbucks or appointment needed. Remember those days? Having a friend that close by, as an adult, was a dream come true.
In hindsight that lucky location was a harbinger of the many wonderful women I would meet when I returned to New York. I was starting a new business, and had to tap into the more outgoing part of myself. I shed my “loner” label and began joining networking groups, book clubs and political activist groups.
That’s how I stumbled upon this whole wonderful world of gal pals – like I’ve never known before. Some of my friends are in their eighties and nineties, and some are in their thirties and forties. I love hearing people’s stories and these women have a lot to share. We bond over all kinds of stories. Things have changed in my inner landscape.
That whole nurturing side of me that seemed to go underground after my children were grown has re-blossomed. I care for my gal pals in a way I never did with friends before. I love them, I care about them, I want to help them make their dreams come true, And I am so grateful for the encouragement, support and love they show me.
I’m glad my heart has finally opened to this blessing in my life. I hid behind my work armor for so many years and now see I missed out on a lot of down to earth wonderful women. I created mental divides where maybe none even existed. While it’s a political time and so many things seem to be coming apart, it’s also been a great time for coming together – thanks to my gal pals.