We stood in the hazy blue glow of the Kansas City Aquarium on an unseasonably warm February day. Our daughters swirled around our feet, darting from starfish to jellyfish to sea turtles.
“What are you guys up to this weekend?” she asked.
Her question was simple and innocent. A mainstay of casual conversation between family or friends. She didn’t realize that it made my heart ache with loneliness and longing. She didn’t know that I had no weekend plans. That I hadn’t had weekend plans I could recall for months. That I had no weekend plans in the foreseeable future. That I wouldn’t see my husband for at least five more days. I fought the urge to cry and frantically formulated an answer about our weekend that sounded less pitiful than it actually was.
“Oh, I don’t know … we will probably hit the park, do a little laundry, ya know. It’s mostly going to be a chill weekend at home.”
She didn’t know that every weekend, every weekday, was a chill day at home. Just me and Greer. Since moving to Kansas City eight months prior, I hadn’t found any new friends, and my husband was perpetually working.
Overcome with self-pity and sadness, the tears I fought back in public flowed once I got home. I missed Wichita so much it physically hurt. We left behind a predictable schedule, a community of friends we loved dearly, a beautiful life. Then we came here, to an unpredictable life, to a place lacking friendship and familiar faces, to a house that didn’t feel like home. My loneliness convinced me that I would never laugh with someone the way I laughed with my friend Holli. That I wouldn’t ever find someone with whom I could talk for hours without ceasing like I did with Danica. That I would never again sing dumb songs out of key like I did with Beth.
One month later, however, at a time when I needed her more than anything, I met Anna. I remember excitedly texting my Wichita group.
“I finally made a friend! Her name is Anna!”
I met Anna just when I needed a friendship like hers. At the time, I was lonely and frequently anxious, especially at work. She joined our team at the hospital, first as a student, then as a colleague, but immediately as a friend. Like me, she was also at a lonely juncture of life. Freshly out of graduate school, in a brand new city with no friends or family. We were instantaneously thick as thieves. We spent COUNTLESS evenings together on the couch in my little house. From muggy summer nights with the air conditioner blasting, to cool autumn evenings with the windows open, to frigid winter nights with the fire blazing, we laughed, we cried, we shared our hopes, our fears, our secrets, our mistakes. We talked until our eyelids were heavy and only stopped because Anna had to be awake enough to safely drive herself back downtown.
One of my fondest memories was on Christmas Day of 2017, almost a year after that painful interaction at the aquarium. Anna couldn’t make it home for the holiday because she was cruelly scheduled to work both the day before and the day after Christmas. I wasn’t working, but goodness knows Austin was, and I was dreading the idea of Christmas Day without him. When we realized we both had no plans for the day, our plans became obvious. We spent the day together in my little house, talking on the couch as we always did. We drank wine and snacked on charcuterie. We let Greer watch too much TV and laughed until we cried when we discovered her crunching pita crackers into Anna’s designer handbag. That day started out as a pitiful joke between us. Two pathetic losers with nothing better to do on Christmas than to drink cheap wine and eat cheap Trader Joe’s charcuterie while a toddler watched Daniel Tiger in the background. It has since transformed into one of my most cherished memories from this season of my life.
Anna became a reminder that friendship is as perennial as the grass. It is there if you are willing to look for it. And sometimes you have to look HARD. Contrary to what I had convinced myself, there isn’t a shortage of friendship. Sometimes friends fall right in our laps when we so desperately need them. Other times, we have to push ourselves out of our comfort zones and show up to do the hard work of getting to know someone. We have to reach out and extend an invite, even if it means rejection. We have to be brave and accept an invite, even if it means anxious sweating and awkward conversation gaps. We have to be vulnerable. We have to say yes.
In saying yes and showing up, I also met Liz and Caley. I reconnected with Chelsea. I got to know Star. These are the women who have come into my life during these last three years and sustained me in a time when I worried I would never again experience rich female friendship.
As I prepare for yet another move, this time from Kansas City to Lawrence, I hold these truths close. It is always a heavy feeling to drive away from friendships knowing that those drop-of-the-hat meet ups or late-into-the-night hangs won’t be possible the way they once were. Knowing that the growing pains of making a new home and finding a new community loom ahead. In the coming months, I will assuredly revisit that old familiar feeling of loneliness and question if new friendships can be formed. But having navigated several moves over the last decade has taught me otherwise.
Show up, say yes, keep trying, and be authentic. Friendship awaits. In the wise words of Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit in The Muppet Christmas Carol: “Life is made up of meetings and partings. That is the way of it.”