The older I get, the harder it feels to find genuine friends in this bustling world. People who want to sit down over cups of coffee and skip all the small talk to say, “I’m excited about this. I’m anxious about that. And how are you, though? How are you really?”
Life can be terribly lonely like that. Even in the middle of handshakes and cocktails, text messages and missed calls, it can feel like you’re standing outside it all and watching. It can feel like night after night of conversations about things that wash away like the weather.
It feels a bit like a dream sometimes. Like waking up after months and months of memories and catching your breath. You find yourself standing on the outside of all these beautiful lives—these amazing fresh starts and growth moments, these tight embraces and happy tears—and wonder what passcode to use when you knock on the door and ask to come in.
When I met my husband, one of favorite things about him was his joy for life. We dove right in to being our honest, silly selves. We fell in love because we never tried to be small talkers. We acted stupid together, went on adventures, shared our hearts, and continued to reciprocate that day in and day out.
Tonight, I drove nineteen miles on a mostly empty road and thought about how nice it is to sit inside a good conversation for a while. How it feels to exchange real stories and struggles and feel the weight shake itself off your shoulders with each step forward. How it feels to find common ground in a world filled with perfect Snapchat stories and Instagram filters.
I’m searching for more of that. More people who want to come right out and say, “I enjoyed this. I feel like I can breathe again. Let’s do it again soon.”
We all need somebody like that, who asks, “How are you, though? How are you really?”
Next Sunday, I’ll be waking up next to my husband. We’ll rise out of bed before the sun, shimmy into shorts, toss on tees and slip on flip flops. We’ll haul our belongings over our shoulders, roll carry on suitcases across a quiet parking lot, and shuffle into the backseat of my mother’s car. We’ll get on a plane and slide into our row and fall asleep on each other’s shoulders.
I think about that moment. How friends and family and neighbors say, “You’re flying out the morning after your wedding at what time?” How they worry we’ll be tired. How they wonder why we wouldn’t want to fly later, in the afternoon, when the world starts to stir.
There’s a quote from When Harry Met Sally that goes a little something like this: “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
That’s how I feel. I’m marrying my best friend. The person who makes me laugh every day. Who holds me when I’ve had a bad day. Who wipes away my tears and kisses my forehead. He’s the first person I want to see in the morning and the last person at night. He calms me, challenges me, and energizes me.
It doesn’t matter if we don’t sleep much. I have never been a sleeper.
In the last few weeks, I have stopped myself midway through filing and recycling papers in my office at midnight. Putting gifts into bags and twisting up tissue paper. Considering the hard water stains on my faucets, and how long it might take to wipe all the surfaces in the bathroom.
I know there isn’t much different about marriage when you’ve been living with the man already in a house you bought months ago. But it feels fresh. It feels new. It feels like a chance to stop and say, “Let me make sure I always listen to you and ask you questions and check in. Let me fold the laundry this time. Let me wash your car.”
It feels like a good reason to scrub every surface of my house, to sweep the floors, to beat the rugs against my wrought iron railings.
We don’t need cobwebs. We don’t need dust. We don’t need dirt. We need clarity—about our hopes, our dreams, our goals, our love, our daily wants and needs. We need to declutter externally before we can feel free and fresh inside.
So my floors are swept. My counters are clean. My heart is open.
Her Instagram feed is dotted with squares of ice cream. Every six or eight or ten posts, you see it. Vanilla in a cup with rainbow sprinkles. Twist on a cake cone. Chocolate in a cup with whipped cream and a cherry on top.
With her, I always read the caption. Because it’s never about the ice cream. It’s about the person she’s with, the day they were having, their struggles and trials and tribulations, their hopes and dreams and wipeouts. It’s about all the little moments between the last time they laid eyes on each other, as friends, and swapped stories over this gloriously sweet dairy dessert.
I told J the other week, after one such post, that all I really want is to go on ice cream dates with people. Just line up the friends I haven’t seen in months, and the ones whose names occasionally pop up on my phone’s lock screen, and stick a recurrence on my Outlook calendar for dessert with someone I haven’t shared a booth with in a while.
We forget to stop and see people in our lives. We see the clothes they wear and the work they produce. We see the food they cook and the car they drive. We see the shows they watch and the articles they post online. But we don’t see them – all the pieces that make them human, that make them want to run a marathon or master two-tier cakes or finish a middle grade novel.
We overlook the time it took to whip, whip, whip the cream and spread it coolly over the top of the ice cream layer, nudging leftovers and half-empty milk cartons out of the way to sit it inside the fridge and settle for a bit.
That unpaid bill sitting on their counter? We overlook that too. We don’t bother acknowledging that in the time it took to get from Point A to Point B, they had to make a pit stop at the auto mechanic, and sat on the side of the road in tears for an hour before the tow company came.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my life, and how I operate differently, and how I want to see the nuances stuck in every action, every thought, every spoken word. I want to know those people in my life deeply, in a way that will make my heart hurt the day God takes them away. Because honestly, I believe that’s the only way to live. And if it means ice cream on Wednesday nights, swapping stories and laughing deep in our guts, then that’s the kind of friendship and life I want to show up for.
Because I’m the girl who believes friendship starts and ends with real, meaningful conversations over chocolate chips and whipped cream.
The girl who laces up her shoes to go for a run, even if it’s barely a mile, because at least she went at all. The girl who pushes just a bit farther the next day.
The girl who looks high and low for friends who believe in connection the way she does, whose definition of success has nothing to do with 401(k) statements or six-figure salaries.
Friends to fill her up, to cheer on her progress, to share their baby steps, too. To revel in the joy of a job well done, a day conquered, a week mastered, a year of ups and downs, but mostly, mostly good people to share it with.
I’ll get there. We’ll get there. Progress is a joyful thing.
Jake Owen and I emptied the dishwasher last night.
Yes, that is how I spend Friday nights at 25 – emptying my dishwasher and dancing to the beat of a song called Beachin’.
That’s how I measure my happiness – whether or not my Friday nights are spent dancing in the kitchen. Maybe it’s something in my bones, maybe it’s the way people used to dance around the fire while their food cooked, but something about my kitchen and a good feeling makes me want to dance and sing and laugh until the corners of my eyes hurt from squinting.
We all have that measurement. The one that, no matter what else is going on around us or in our heads, tells us everything we need to know about our own happiness. For you, maybe it’s whether or not you walk out of Target with a cart full of cleaning supplies and trash bags or a cart full of crop tops and cutoff jeans. Or maybe it’s whether or not you made it out for that weekly run at the hiking trails. Or the number of showers per day you averaged last week.
You know yours and I know mine, and it’s dancing barefoot in the kitchen, getting lost in the music.
I avoided my kitchen for years. Food was my enemy. Because all I wanted was to shrink small and away, back into some corner of the Earth, dancing in the kitchen just didn’t give me joy back then.
Yesterday, though, I walked around feeling the way you do after a boy kisses you goodnight for the first time, in the glow of the buzzing lights outside his house, with the clock itching to strike eleven.
Alive, they call it.
For months, I wrung myself dry with too much work and anxiety and stress. In the last few weeks, I have felt myself budding with more energy and hope and love and patience.
So Friday morning, the culmination of all that cleansing, the walking away from too many things that pulled me down, rose to the surface of me. It bubbled up and out.
And I started thinking about how if you had asked me, six months ago, whether all this was gonna be okay, I would’ve told you no, probably not, not for years. I felt stuck, drowned, waterlogged.
And now, taking life, like a toy, into my hands and twisting it back into position, I feel like breathing, and swimming, and floating.
That’s when my best friend’s text comes in.
“I feel like it’s a ‘you’ thing,” she writes.
She’s known me 12 years, so finding a ‘you’ thing in her days isn’t hard; I find ‘you’ things all the time.
In fact, on Thursday I found myself picturing her mother as I read a chapter in a book about a woman praying in the kitchen. Because when I crack open the front door to my best friend’s house, I always find her mother in the kitchen, and the cross on the wall, and she’s asking, “What can I pray about for you?”
To answer her mother would be to open the floodgates. I cannot answer straightforward questions, because they turn into marks about the life I am heading toward, and whether it’s right, and whether it will be whole and good and satisfying and feel true enough that I won’t wake up in years shaking in my sleep from anxiety that I did this thing all wrong.
So often, I shrug in response. But the text I cannot brush off, because it comes at the exact time I need it to.
“Tell me something good,” it reads.
Truthfully, it’s much longer, a screenshot from some strange girl’s Facebook status about how she and her friend have started each day by sending each other a good sentiment, no complaints.
Years ago, on those days when I avoided the kitchen, and country music, and calories, I wouldn’t have been able to find a good thing in my days. I was looking in all the wrong places.
But now, I know I can answer her. And so I say, “I’m no longer waiting to live the life I want. I’m not, like, waiting for it to start. I’m happy with my apartment and my job, my friends are all growing up doing big, exciting things, my sister is living closer so I can see her if I want to, I’m planning to invest more in friendships that I think got crazy because I was just burned out about life. So it all feels really positive. Even though bad things have happened and will always happen.”
It’s that last part that gets me, because even as I told her, it wasn’t until I said it that I knew it was true. And yet, I’m ready. I hope you find that you are too.