When I was hired as a first year teacher in 1995, I was the youngest teacher in the school. The average age of the teachers in the school was 40. These women took me under their wing and it was very hard to do that. I had a lot of energy and passion. I once rode the overhead cart down the hall like a skateboard and almost hit one of the more experienced teachers with it. She was smashed up against the wall, eyes as big as saucers, and when I expected a dirty look and reprimand, she began to laugh. I wanted to be like these women.
Twenty three years have passed since then, but I learned so much from those ladies and so many women that were older and wiser. I learned about teaching, life, and friendship. I remember thinking, “I want to be like them when I grow up!” and I know that I have. Strong women and men have made an impact on my life. I celebrate my friendships with all kinds of people, but the common thread that always stands out is that these people are always strong. Strong can come in all kinds of ways, but dedication, grace, redemption, and courage always shine through our experiences and interactions.
I do not look at my friends as a tribe, but as a team. Sometimes, my friends are guys. Yes, I have always had a supportive “guy” group throughout my life. Guys can see things differently than women. We have a goal to not just survive life, but thrive throughout it no matter what situation we are in at the time. My teammates have different strengths, values, and play different roles, but we are all focused on the same thing…growing to be the best we can be.
Older women mentor younger women…naturally. Women need women of all ages in their lives to support them, encourage them, laugh with them, and grow them. I have been blessed with women that have gone before me to guide me. Recently, I have remembered one teacher in particular in that first school. Her husband had cancer and she was his caretaker. She had to walk through my room to get to her room, and every morning, she smiled, joked, laughed, and pushed through the realities of life. She would wear bright red Reeboks on Friday and she enjoyed the life she had been given by not majoring in the minors. I have drawn on her strength and example from 20 years ago these past months. I think of her often and I am blessed to have witnessed that strength and dignity. She had an impact.
Friendships with people of the same age are indispensable!!!! We are in the trenches together. Whether it is diapers, toddlerhood, adolescence, or rookie drivers….we need a strong support group that can laugh and mourn these moments with you. I am selective about these people because time is not something I have to spare, so these friendships must be authentic and fierce. When I think of this group of friends I have in my life, I do not just smile…I laugh out loud. Our conversations are brutal, honest, sarcastic, and blunt. We do not apologize for who we are and we do not hide behind any masks. They are truth tellers. Sometimes their honesty might surprise you, but when you walk away from them, you feel better than when you came. They make an impact.
I also love having friends younger than me. They keep me young. I see myself in them. I am glad I am not in my twenties or thirties anymore. I look at their lives and the brightness that their futures hold. I laugh with them. Sometimes, I lecture them. I like to listen to them! I celebrate where they are right now and give them a blessing of where they will be one day. I want them to enjoy the process, but they can not see that yet, just like I couldn’t. I love celebrating the chapters they are starting and I encourage them through the chapters they are closing. These friendships are important to me and I value these amazing young women that have so much in front of them. Their youth and energy leave an impact.
These friends do their thing and do not compete with one another. They are amazingly interesting and genuine. Their “thing” is what they are passionate about and as a team, we celebrate it! One friend is a bodybuilder. I have NO idea how she can do that, but she is determined and dedicated. I respect that. One friend picked up a mountain bike and can not be stopped. I would have to be shot if I was on a bike longer than a mile, but I celebrate her “thing”! She was willing to be a beginner and her passion has grown her in so many ways! I have other friends that scrapbook, cook, run marathons, play tennis, dance, knit….you name it, they do it! Our differences do not divide us, but draw us close, celebrating the accomplishments of one another.
I model these kind of friendships for my daughters. They see their importance. They are working on choosing their friends wisely. So much is caught than taught.
I would not have survived the last 2 years without my friendships. My friends have held me up more than they realize. Their prayers, time, hilarious texts, support, and acceptance saved me in so many ways. And just like the best teammates, when I was stranded on third base, someone would step up to the plate and knock one out of the park sending me home with a smile on my face. Every woman needs a team of friends to play this game we call “life”, skilled in grace, courage, perseverance, and humor. And every true friend becomes an “impact” player no matter what the timing or how they enter your life.