Jessica and I celebrated our third blogiversary last week! We are so thankful for all of our readers who have been with us throughout this experience. This milestone gave me a renewed opportunity to reflect on our journey. Three years of sharing our stories has given us the opportunity to strengthen our writing skills as well as provided a cathartic outlet for processing various emotions and different life seasons. It has also provided an opportunity to deepen our friendships with each other and also with those who read our posts and share their thoughts. Creating these connections has always been our biggest hope for The Unexpected Ever Afters blog.
The friendships deepened through this blog are not taken for granted; connection plays such an important role in our lives. Formed through a myriad of reasons and circumstances, and, almost always, developed in unexpected ways, I have found myself drawn into friendships through shared experiences, vulnerability, authenticity, respect, honesty, encouragement, comfort, and support of emotions, anxieties, and hopes. There’s so much complexity and nuance that goes into friendships.
Have you ever noticed how young children make friends? Almost always it begins with sharing some specific details that are seemingly random yet especially important to the child. For example, I have heard my own children attempt to make new friends by starting conversations with: “My favorite color is red,” “I have three mosquito bites on my leg,” or “We ate ice cream last night!” Following their expression of personal statements, they often add on the sweetest question, “Do you want to be friends?” Usually, before long, they’re playing together, enjoying the company of their new playmate.
Of course, life gets more complicated as we age, and adults sometimes struggle to establish new connections. The nuance of friendship evolves; I can’t imagine it would be very successful to walk up to a complete stranger and blurt out, “I love coffee!” or “I washed three loads of laundry this morning,” followed by “Let’s be friends!” Maybe that’s for the best, but, then again, maybe we are missing out on potential friendships by allowing our self-conscious tendencies to inhibit our interactions.
As good as kids are at forming new friendships, to be fair, they are also notorious for seemingly breaking off friendships. Friendships can be broken (even just temporarily) over petty disagreements. Statements such as, “If you don’t do it my way, I’m going to stop talking to you!” or “Argh! I don’t want to play with you ever again for the rest of my life!” are expressed freely.
I cringe every time I hear my kids talk in such a manner. But sometimes I wonder, are their reactions so very different from those that can occur between feuding adults? I know of more than one instance where someone was “unfriended” due to differences in adherence to certain ideologies. For kids, such agitated statements are usually followed with some form of a compromise, apology, or simply moving on with friendship renewed. Unfortunately, adults aren’t always as quick to mend friendships. Life gets more complicated, people grow into complex individuals, and disagreements and hurt are not so easily overcome. Unfortunately, sometimes we allow conflict, disagreement, and jealousy to get in the way of connection.
Jealousy almost got in the way of Jessica’s and my friendship. We shared many mutual friends, all of whom spoke very highly of her and enthused to me that we were very similar and would get along so well! I was skeptical, because I was jealous and, as it turned out, she felt the same way about me. It is fascinating to think that if we would have both given into these feelings of jealousy we may have never become friends. But, life had a different plan. Due to the overlapping nature of our friend circle, we ended up rooming in a quad apartment our senior year of college. I still remember a particular conversation when the roommates ran a shopping errand together; after hesitantly sharing various, innocuous details about ourselves, we both kept saying, “Really, me too!” Suddenly, my concern and jealousy melted away as I realized, “Wow, we really do have a lot in common, I think we will get along.”
Friendships might begin through those chance connections or shared experiences but they grow into so much more than that. They empower us because they require vulnerability and authenticity, acceptance and love. When we first began this blog, Jessica and I were drawn to starting this together because we both enjoyed writing and had perspectives we wanted to share but were too nervous to pursue anything on our own. Joining together meant we had a space to bounce ideas around as well as encouragement to take the plunge. Friendship is empowering and transformative.
A few weeks ago, I witnessed an example of the transformative power of friendship. My kids were nervous about trick-or-treating in our new neighborhood. Due to a variety of reasons, this was their first year going house-to-house on Halloween. They were, understandably, nervous and it almost prevented them from enjoying the new adventure until their friends joined them and together they literally ran to each house, sprinting to front doors and eagerly ringing doorbells. Friendship is so powerful it literally transforms anxiety into fearlessness.
Another powerful component of friendship is empathy. One of my favorite memories regarding empathy involves my son, who was about four at the time. Several years ago, I had been having a really difficult day that caused me to sit at my kitchen table and cry. My son came up to me and, having no idea what I was going through but sensing my sorrow, put his arms around me and in an effort to share empathy, started reminiscing about how he fell once and how it had really hurt. He started to tear up as he recounted his accident and soon he was crying along with me. I smile remembering the interaction and the comfort shared in that moment. And, I think about similar moments with friends over shared empathy through moments of anxiety, fear, heartbreak, and grief. Friendship is comfort, it’s about wanting to be present with someone, to understand what they are going through so that we can better walk alongside and support them.
As we mark our third blogiversary of The Unexpected Ever Afters, I’m reminded of our goal and mission for this blog: to establish connections, to share stories of everyday life, to support and encourage one another, to remind that we are not alone in our thoughts, anxieties, hopes, and dreams; that together, we can tear down isolating boundaries and build connections. In a way, our mission really is about friendship. Fostering connections which offer opportunities to understand others and also to be understood. And, reminding each other and, in an indirect way, reminding ourselves, to keep fear and frustration in perspective, to remember to encourage, support, and to pursue hope. For me, these are comforting reminders when I get lost in the hyper focused haze of differences and disagreements. Hopefully I can continue to learn to shift my focus, attention, and energy on connection as a way to usher in a little more light, a little more joy, a little more hope in my daily rhythm.
I hope this blog can continue to be a platform where life experiences are shared, nuanced perspectives and complex emotions are fleshed out, and comfort through connection is offered. If you have a story you’d like to post on our site, we’d love to hear from you! Please reach out to us at email@example.com.
Wendi is co-author of The Unexpected Ever Afters blog and enjoys sipping extra hot coffee, sharing a love of reading with her kids, and exploring bike trails.
photo credit: personal photo