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Making Friends

So, I grew up with a lot of friends. We did move schools a few times, but mostly, I was able to find like-minded weirdos to hang with. In middle school I was a cheerleader, the lead in the school play, played the cello, took honors classes etc., I knew a lot of people. However, my best friend and I went to different High Schools and that was pretty hard. At first we got together a lot, but she lived on the North Side of town (Austin) and we were South. We'd moved to a new neighborhood to be closer to my Dad's restaurant and also a new High School district for my brother (special-needs, kind of...more on that another time) and me. We kept in touch for most of freshman year, but life got in the way, and we couldn't drive yet, so our parents were tired of carting us back and forth.

When I started my freshman year, I knew no one (other than my brother, a Senior, and a total nerd, they called him "the wolf" due to his abnormal ability to grow a massive beard). I think my first class was Orchestra (cello) and when I walked in all these people were gathered around the big, black, grand piano and were all laughing and whooping to a rousing rendition of the Peanuts theme song. I walked up behind a few people to get a peek at this demonstrably-loud show-off. Well, of course he was gorgeous, and he knew it too. I decided I hated him. I hated him for being everything I was not...confident, happy, outgoing, loud, beautiful, and funny (they all laughed a little too much...come on Karen, it wasn't that funny and you know it!).

The instructor came out of her office and asked us firmly to take a seat on the risers. I went to the top right, away from all the crowd and sat promptly to show her my obedience and to distance myself from the shenanigans (My orchestra teacher in middle school and I were tight, so I wanted to endear myself). After the other kids reluctantly made their way away from the piano, guess who bounds up the steps and plops down right next to me. Asshole-face...With the cheesiest grin he sticks out his hand and says, "I'm Zach." I grab his hand, but only slightly look his direction and say, "Lauren, hi," and turn away quickly back to the instructor. I had butterflies...shit...

Over the course of High School I made some girlfriends that I was really close to until after I got sober at 24. In my mind we are still close, but really I don't know what a meet-up would be like. The last time I saw my High School best friend was at her wedding. She was drunk and I told her I had to go home. I cried all the way because I knew it was over for us. More on my addiction and sober journey another time. Minus a small blip where he (Zach) thought maybe he was too cool for me at the beginning of Sophomore year, he and I were ride or die. We actually never dated although I lost my virginity to him and we went to prom together. He dated a girl named Emily and I dated a guy named Taylor, so we'd respectfully part ways when appropriate but always ended up back together. We laughed, and made out, listened to music and talked about our parents and our dreams. We loved each other. Not in the teenage, infatuation-laced, might slash his tires if he dumps me kind of way (what you weren't like this? pffft!). But, in a real way. I had his back, and he always had mine. Looking back, I don't know if I would have made it without his love. Maybe he knew that. I miss him a lot sometimes, but mostly I just feel a lot of gratitude and respect.

We met up once when I was about 26 (2 years sober at that point). He'd just gone through a bad break-up and so had I. We went to play disc-golf. It didn't go very well. I kept trying to talk about sobriety (with a hidden agenda to try to get him sober) and he was not amused (rightly so in retrospect). He was trying to be funny and shoot the shit like we used to and I was not amused (I can be unwaveringly staunch IRL oddly enough). We said we'd hang out again, that we'd call, but we didn't, and rightly so. We both are married to our partners today and they are the best for us. We both have daughters about the same age and I'm always so happy when I see his family on social media. I'm not a huge fan of nostalgia, I think life is meant to be lived forward, but it's funny how some things come back to you, sometimes in a new way, where they show you what real love is, and what was just infatuation and you can use those markers in the present day. I had a really hard time growing up. I felt like no one cared about me. I didn't have anyone to really talk to in my family, and the girlfriends I had were not really into deep conversation. I didn't understand this whole friend-thing the way others did. Why can't I talk about what's going on with my parents? Why can't I talk about how fucked-up my people pleasing is with my boyfriend, yes I know he's hot, but that does not negate anything? Why can't I talk about not knowing what I want to do with my life? I'm freaking the fuck out, but I'm just supposed to smile and go along? When I look back, there was really only one or two people who "got me". If you are my people, you get this. You may also enjoy things like awkwardness, star-wars or any star-related shows, reading, lots of quiet time, jokes that are a little wrong, and high-fives because what else are you supposed to do with your hands...

When I got sober (at 24) I went to therapy for years, and I'm so thankful for that therapist. He truly cared and loved me. He asked what my parents' friend relationships were like and I said they didn't really have any, well, my mom had a few. He pointed out that my blueprint wasn't super strong when it came to confidence or lasting connection. I agreed. Luckily I have 12 step fellowship (I do feel lucky today, strange as that may seem). I can go anywhere in the world and go to a meeting and not feel alone, it is the most beautiful thing. But as far as ride or die friends go, I'm still a work in progress, but I do have a few women who, no matter how much time has gone by, I know they'd welcome me back and love me as if no time had passed (Beth, Lauren, Elisabeth, Jen, I fucking love y'all forever, like it or not). I still tend to change friends every few years although a lot of transition has happened (moving home, getting sober, moving to FL, having children) so I'm going with it instead of judging too harshly (mostly, although I decided to write about it, so, um, whatevs). I was struggling for a while when we moved to FL with a group of girls who would sometimes invite me to things and sometimes not and the old, feeling like a third wheel, high-school out-crowd feelings started to come back and I was heartbroken. I thought, what is wrong with me that I can't make real friends!? My sponsor asked me a question that has changed my attitude toward this subject ever since. She said "Do you want to hang out with people who don't want to hang out with you?" "No, of course not," I said. "Good, are you OK, like socially, without them? Like just with your husband and work and the other activities you do?" I checked my mind and heart for a sec..."Yeah, totally OK!" "Cool, then there's your answer, stop trying to force something. Go be yourself and live your life and it'll work out when it's supposed to." Now, I'm lucky because my husband really is my best friend (...I threw-up a little too, its ok). And right now my social needs are low, and I'm mostly OK with the acquaintances I have. But, I am going to still work on my women friendships and learn how to be a friend. With the group I was trying to force my way into, I just stopped setting up brunch, and workouts and meeting for dinner for a few weeks just to see if they'd pick up and throw out some invites, and they didn't... I got a few "aww, miss you, lets hang out soon." and I'd reply "awesome, I'd love to!" and then no follow-through, no "cool, hows Thursday" or "Brunch Sat?"...nothing. So I let it go. And I was relieved. I meet up with a group of women every Sunday now who I love and need in my life in order to not murder anyone and I tell them the truth, not always confidently, but I tell them. I don't think they think of me in terms of "best friends" even though I do with them. But, that is totally OK. We have a pretty sweet little group text thread going and it's nice. The group is named "Crybabies" and I love it. We tell the honest truth about our kids, our parents, our husbands or partners, our work, our feelings and sometimes we cry but mostly we laugh and it is magic and its what I always wanted.

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