thank u, bri

In my last blog post, I wrote about a friendship ending with distance. In this one, I write about a friendship that with distance has only grown stronger. Friendships are hard to form in a patriarchal society that celebrates the heteronormative nuclear family above all else adulthood, so I want to celebrate my friendships on this blog, especially this one, which helped motivate me to take care of myself in a time of darkness.

I met my best friend Bri in my freshman year of undergrad at William & Mary. We worked at the Writing Center, but before that, we got dinner at the Crust, a pizza place with iconic skillet cookies, in a large group sometime in the cold winter season. At that dinner, I do not think we talked much, other than briefly mutually stanning Jojo Moyes’s Me Before You, which one of us had been reading at the time.

As John Green wrote in The Fault in Our Stars, I fell in friendship love with Bri as you fall asleep: slowly, then all at once (I think Bri and I would both roll our eyes at anyone who would quote a straight white man unironically, but, whatever.) Though we knew each other since freshman year, we really started talking in our junior year, especially leading up to our senior year. Our conversations started with fun, safe enough topics: pop music, men being trash, crying over A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. Soon enough, somehow, our conversations progressed into the realm of true vulnerability: the trauma we experienced at the hands of our family, surviving and somehow thriving as POC in the white supremacist patriarchy, our experiences in therapy. And when we graduated from William & Mary, and Bri moved to Seattle while I stayed near the DC area, our bond has only grown stronger, through both silly and serious conversations alike.

a little life floor pic

Selfie of me and Bri literally on the floor of the W&M Writing Center celebrating/crying over A Little Life. Taken February 2016.

One of the first things that Bri taught me, more so by modeling than by direct guidance, was how to assert myself and speak up about issues I care about. Before meeting Bri, I had been a more reticent person (hence this blog being called the ~ quiet ~ voice). I had been scared of speaking up, because I thought that if I spoke up, I was being mean or hurtful or at worst abusive, similar to certain members of my biological family. But through reading Bri’s iconic Facebook statuses and tweets and seeing how she carried herself in person, I learned from her – in conjunction with going to therapy – that I could speak up and get angry about issues I care about and still be a compassionate, kind person. Soon into my junior and senior years of college, I started cursing more liberally, angrily advocating against the patriarchy and white supremacy, drawing boundaries with men who wasted my time, etc. Bri helped me develop an unapologetic social justice praxis that I continue to incorporate into my teaching, research, and clinical work.

I could write at least five pages containing more reasons I love Bri, but a paragraph will do: she has put in and continues to put in tremendous amounts of energy into knowing and healing herself, through therapy and other means of self-care. She has published a book of poetry and is dedicated to her writing craft. She is funny and kind and a wonderful active listener. She advocates for social justice in several ways and perhaps most importantly, invests energy into educating herself and understanding and using her own privilege for good. She has excellent taste in music and books.

Hanya Yanagihara once wrote, “wasn’t friendship its own miracle, the finding of another person who made the entire lonely world seem somehow less lonely?” I feel so lucky to have a friend who makes the world seem so less lonely, who gets me on so many levels. I feel so lucky to have a friend who I can rant to and talk about people who prioritize romantic partners over friendship, about family trauma and mediocre male love interests, about finding joy in art and self-care and celebrating our voices in a society that devalues queer POC. I feel so lucky to have a friend who, perhaps beyond any of my other friends, understands the sheer beauty of loving yourself and loving your friends, society’s expectations that you dislike yourself and prioritize romance be damned.

The other day, I had been feeling misunderstood and isolated because of other things that had been happening in my personal life. Though I hadn’t done this in a while, I had been coping by not eating. In the car on my way home from a job of mine, I remembered a recent conversation I had with Bri, in which I disclosed something vulnerable about friendship that she immediately validated and affirmed, instead of judging or not comprehending. When I thought about that conversation, I felt so understood, and so appreciative toward Bri, and so lucky that my queen Ariana Grande the universe had positioned us in each other’s lives. I texted Bri about my gratitude toward her – and then, I walked into my apartment, and I ate.

thomas and bri friendship pic

Gotta include a recent pic of us to capture my red hair and floral shorts, and her glory of course. Taken July 2018.

What have your closest friendships meant to you? How have you overcome – or not overcome – difficulties and conflicts within friendships? What are tips to maintain healthy friendships beyond simply accepting people for who they are (though that can play a part). I have so many things to write about so hopefully I will find time to do it, hope everyone is well! Also, yes, this post’s title is an allusion to Ariana Grande’s masterpiece “thank u, next” which I also must find time to write about soon.

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4 Comments

Filed under Personal, Society

4 responses to “thank u, bri

  1. e

    this was such a cute post, and your friendship seems very healthy and rewarding and sweet. have you ever thought about soul families? how some people are meant to be in your life, not just as lovers but as friends, mentors, etc. and other people that inspire and help you grow? it’s more rewarding than just the idea of soulmates, i think, and more accurate — and not in a religious sense, either. just like, chosen family but more spacey and sublime.

    your odes to friendship are always good reminders to look around and appreciate the people there, so thank you for that. or thank u, boo. may we get rid of all the p*te d*vidsons of our life as gracefully as miss grande.

    much love.

  2. Someone as authentic as your friend Bri, is equal parts a gift and a keeper! She sounds amazingly grounded in her beliefs, her values, and her commitments to your friendship. How fortunate you are to have each other in your lives.

    To your closing questions, a couple of thoughts. I once read (and shared in a post) statistical research that evidences we may have hundreds of friends (think social media type) over a lifetime. Of those, 36 will be considered good friends – who drift into and out of our lives, some for considerable time. But… in the end (think having lived a full life) we will only have six people who we can claim are genuine, lasting friends. Perhaps Bri is one of your six!

    With friendships and relationships I believe it’s important to distinguish between connections and attachments. It is those attachments that I can choose to keep or step away from. I don’t find myself to be particularly needy so I can acquire and step out of friendships based on how aligned I find friends to be with qualities such as integrity, self-belief and character. If they possess and practice these, I am going to invest much of me into them and us. If they (and I, reciprocally) are honest and open (to being highly sensitive and vulnerable), then I believe we have ingredients for a potentially good ‘fit.’ This takes time to evolve and unfold so patience is key as well.

    Personal connections can grow into even deeper relationships. For this growth to manifest I believe open and constant communication is essential. As is fun! and a willingness to understand and appreciate another’s strengths and weaknesses. It’s often a delicate dance and what I’ve shared (more like rambled) here is simply the tip of a meaningful iceberg.

    Sorry to have, perhaps, gone off topic. You’re invitation to comment is appreciated.

  3. I love you, love you, love you. I’m so humbled and utterly moved by your words. I swear, every day I find a new way to appreciate our friendship and the cosmic fortune that allowed us to meet at that outing at the Crust our freshman year ❤

  4. What a beautiful post, I love this! I like you have had to create my own family, and these friendships have forged close bonds. I wrote about my dear Em on your last post, heading for 25 years of friendship next year (and some kind of a celebration for that, of course!). A newer friend is Jen, fierce, proud mum to a son with autism and now also diabetes, who never wavers in supporting her husband and son but also has room to support her friends, and the honesty to ask for our support when she needs it. She’s another brilliant example, like your Bri, of someone who speaks out when she needs to, and does that even when it helps someone to grow in a way that gives her more difficulty in her own life. She always ALWAYS knows the right words to say and will listen to you try to work out your right words. She doesn’t judge. She’s naughty and giggles about pompous people when it’s appropriate to, and you can tell her anything at all. I’m glad for the people she will treat (like I am for the people you will) that she’s taking a path into being a therapist. She’s helped me be bolder and braver and to listen more actively. I go running with her to help her into her journey back to fitness, and try to copy her serene yoga face with very little effect.

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