Reconnected

Until yesterday, I hadn’t seen or spoken with my dad in seven years.

I used those seven (or more accurately, 7+) years to build an emotional protective fort to guard myself from any additional hurt. Simultaneously, I tried to make sense of the heartbreak, anger, and abandonment I felt in the direction of my father, only to come up empty with no answers, a void I couldn’t fill, and a growing list of counterproductive behaviors that were ultimately hurting me, anyway.

Before we reconnected just 24 hours ago, I struggled to assign words to the emotions I felt; my sense of partial identity, 50% of “me” who I didn’t understand or know.

I’m so glad that I took a leap of faith yesterday; that I finally put my words into actions, got into my car with my always-supportive mother by my side, and drove three hours to a mysterious part of Upstate New York, where I honestly didn’t know if I’d actually find my dad, and if I did find him, what shape he’d be in.

I’ll take it a step back for a minute. For more context, when family or friends would ask me about seeing my dad again, I’d often refer to the movie Riding in Cars with Boys. More specifically, I’d refer to one of the later scenes where Bev (Drew Barrymore) and her now-adult son, Jason (Adam Garcia), visit Jason’s father, Ray (Steve Zahn), in the trailer park in which he now resides.

When I’d rewatch this movie, I’d see my mom in Bev and myself in Jason. Two individuals who feel the same uneasiness, even if for different reasons. A general fear of the unknown; an immeasurable amount of uncertainty plus a hurricane of conflicting emotions; a hatred for someone who has caused so much pain and destruction due to his struggle with addiction, but a love for that person at the same time.

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(Image borrowed from Girls Do Film)

I’m not really sure what clicked inside of me and told me to go through with this trip. Maybe it was the advice of my grandmother, the buildup of emotions as we count down the days to my brother’s wedding, my grandpa sending me some sort of message, a combination of all three, or just an overnight spiritual growth spurt that confirmed that it was time. Whatever the reason, I’m forever grateful that something (or someone) led me to follow through with it.

When I pulled up to my dad’s apartment at the Rescue Mission in Upstate New York, I had a moment of panic. The fact that I had no idea how my dad ended up here – or even an inkling of what he’d been doing over the past seven years – was enough for me to almost back the car out and gun it home. But with the support of my mom and a newfound strength that I didn’t know I had, I stayed, and I’m so glad I did.

It’s hard for me to describe my initial interaction with my dad after all these years. I wouldn’t say that it was like coming in contact with a stranger, because it was so much more than that. I suppose it was more like coming in contact with a ghost. A creature from your nightmares. I had built him into such a monster over the years, finding that the only way for me to make sense of our strained relationship was to pretend he wasn’t real. But he was real, and he was standing right in front of me.

Once both of our nerves subsided, we did our best to squeeze seven years of catching up into six (ish) hours. He gave me a full timeline of what he had been through since 2010, which included everything from living in multiple states, to various detox and rehabilitation centers, to periods of homelessness, to his 2.5 years (and counting) years of sobriety. It was the most open, honest, and vulnerable I had ever seen my dad, which allowed me to be open, honest and vulnerable with him in return. It’s crazy how something can be so heartbreaking and healing at the same time.

And then something truly remarkable happened. After emotional walls started to crumble down, my dad that I had known as a child started to come through. The guy to whom I attribute my quirkiness, hazel eyes, crooked elbows, and strange hairline. The guy who did make me laugh and feel loved when I was a little girl; the times I forced myself to forget over the 7+ years that I spent hating and resenting him.

My dad’s storytelling abilities are truly unmatchable. A personal favorite from yesterday was his recollection of his days in Arizona (one of the states in which he lived during our separation period), where he was a rattlesnake exterminator at the Rio Loco Ranch aboard his trusty horse, Master Blue. I swear, not even my dad (a master of making up stories) can make this $%&# up. And with each new ridiculous story, our feelings of distance and pain turned into familiarity and hilarity.

Sometime during our meet-up yesterday, the solar eclipse happened… and we completely missed it. It’s funny how things work out sometimes. While everyone else was witnessing a once-in-a-lifetime natural phenomenon, I was experiencing one of the most important moments of my life reconnecting with my dad. Had I made the decision to get in my car and drive to Upstate New York at any other moment – one minute, one month, one year earlier or later – the outcome could have been totally different.

I’m not saying that all wounds are fully healed, because without a doubt, my dad and I have a long road ahead of us. Our relationship is in need of a lot of repair.

But that’s just it – we have some sort of a relationship. Until yesterday, I wasn’t sure I’d ever see my dad again. And today, not only did I wake up feeling 10 pounds lighter (I’m not sure how since my mom and I hit up a Krispy Kreme factory on our way home), but I also feel hopeful. Hopeful that we can build our father-daughter relationship into a normal one, whatever “normal” ends up meaning for us.

And although I’m sure there are plenty of tears and hardships ahead of us, I’m eager to start this new chapter with my dad. To figure out how we can balance one another; not only how to provide support when it’s needed, but also how to reach out and ask for that support. To re-learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses. To understand and take a true interest in what’s happening in each other’s lives, even if we’re hours apart from each other. To take everything a day at a time.

Still overwhelmed by the events of yesterday, I find it difficult to close this post. I think it’s because my key takeaway from yesterday’s reconnection with my dad is that it’s not the end of something; it’s the start of something. So instead of finding a few words to land on, much like how I plan to move forward with my dad, I’d like to leave this post open-ended…

 

Birthdays

If asked as a little girl to describe my birthday in one word, I’d most definitely say “magical.” Growing up, August 2nd was the greatest day of the year, even more awesome than Christmas (and for those of you who know me, you know that’s a bold statement). From sunrise to sundown, my birthday was all about me (though my mom would argue that every day of the year was all about me, and quite honestly, she’d be right).

My memories of birthdays as a kid are nothing short of truly magical. I still remember waking up in my Barney jammies, thumb in mouth, blondish waves a tousled mess, to colorful streamers outlining my bedroom door at my grandparents’ house. Downstairs, waiting for me was a perfect, colorful display of balloons, confetti, countless presents, and a flawless, extravagant, homemade (by my mom) cake to match that year’s birthday “theme,” which of course, was selected by me. A summer baby, the rest of the day was spent outside; playing in the pool, running through sprinklers, chasing down my brother and friends with Super Soakers, and eating my body weight in ice cream and cupcakes.

Truth be told, I still love my birthday. But as I plunge deeper and deeper into my late-twenties (and can no longer consume my body weight in ice cream and cupcakes without feelings of regret and self-loathing), I’d probably change my one-word description of my birthday from “magical” to “refreshing.” Because the more birthdays I have, the more I realize that the beauty of my birthday isn’t in Barbie-themed balloons and pool parties (though I’m still a fan of both); but instead, it’s in the prospect of a new beginning; a fresh start, a clean slate.

Like with any new beginning, I’m excited to go into 27 with my eyes open; using lessons learned over the past 12 months to make smarter, more informed decisions and avoid making the same mistakes twice (or three or five times, as I’ve admittedly done in the past). For me, 26 was a year of exponential personal growth; a year spent getting in touch with myself; simultaneously remembering who I am and discovering who I am.

And to create a point of reference for myself as I enter a new year, I’d like to share my “26 in 26”; my 26 top life lessons, realizations, reflections, pieces of self-advice, etc. resulting from this past year, listed in absolutely no particular order:

  1. Olives and mushrooms aren’t the Devil’s food. This might seem trivial, but for most of my life, I was convinced that these vegetables (are olives fruits or vegetables?) were straight up poison. Turns out, especially when accompanied by goat cheese, they’re not so toxic.
  2. For the love of God, stop with the “if only’s.” Stop playing the victim card. If only I didn’t have student loans. If only my hair would curl again. If only, if only. Open your eyes to what’s in front of you, Sammi. A loving and supportive family. Loyal friends. A perfect little puppy / mouse / kangaroo-like creature. Health. A career. You’re very blessed.
  3. The grass isn’t always greener. This ties into #2. It might seem like “if only I had XYZ,” you’d reach self-actualization. That’s just not the case. Stop with the comparisons, and enjoy your own personal life journey.
  4. Nobody’s in charge of your happiness but you. If you’re unhappy with something, make a change. Shift your mindset. Switch up your circle of friends. This ties into #2-3 about not playing the victim card.
  5. Recognize when your anxiety is elevating. Take a time out or two during the day to do a check-in with yourself. How am I feeling today?
  6. And if you recognize a high level of anxiety, find a positive outlet for it. Because let me tell you this: happy hour vodka clubs + high levels of stress = recipe for disaster. Instead, try reading, writing, going for a walk, snuggling with Dixie, or baking some brownies.
  7. And in order to exercise that positive outlet, take a day off. Sick days aren’t just for the times when you’re deathly ill. Take a day off and focus on your mental health. You’ll be glad you did when you consequently see your productivity skyrocket and your mental clarity…well, become clearer.
  8. There’s beauty in the world beyond what’s on your phone screen. Seriously, put the phone down for a hot second. Watch the sun go down, really listen to what someone’s saying to you. Be present. These are moments you won’t get back.
  9. A cold glass of rosé, a beach chair, an ocean view, and Bruce Springsteen are cures for everything. Friendship fall-outs, romantic heartbreak, any kind of hurt in general. The ocean has incredible healing powers. And so does Bruce.
  10. Exercise is necessary for good health, but don’t overdo it. I attribute a lot of my overdoing of everything to my “overachiever” personality, but that’s no excuse to continue overdoing everything. So, Sammi, hit a spin class when you can, and don’t feel guilty if you can only make it once this week.
  11. Listen to your body. Aches? Pains? Trouble sleeping? This sounds like a pharmaceutical commercial. But in all seriousness, your body is telling you something. Find a yoga class. Stretch out. Go to sleep a few hours earlier tonight. Give yourself a break.
  12. Coffee is delicious, but it is not life. And you probably shouldn’t drink it at night. Even though you’re convinced you’re caffeine-immune, it really does affect your sleep pattern. When you can’t sleep, you worry about not sleeping. Cue the anxiety elevation. Avoid this. But if it does happen, reread #5-7 on this list. You’re human; hate to say it, but you’ll likely slip up.
  13. Don’t waste time on crappy friendships. Surround yourself with friends who help you grow. And these friends come from all different places. Work, exercise classes, college, high school, etc. Friendships shouldn’t require so much work and maintenance. And by no means should friendships add pressure.
  14. …or on romantic relationships that just aren’t right. This is self-explanatory. If you have doubts, they’re probably valid. Just. Walk. Away. When it’s right, it’s right. You’ll know it. Trust your gut.
  15. You can’t change people. This closely relates to #13-14. Never go into a situation with the mindset that you can change someone. Take people for who they are, and make a sound decision on whether or not you’d like them in your life based on that information.
  16. Stop thinking you’re so behind. You’re doing just fine, Sammi. Cherish the time you have being roomies with Mom. Realize how lucky you are to live down the street from your grandma. Other people would kill to have more time with (and be closer in proximity to) their loved ones.
  17. Don’t allow your living space to become a royal heap. Physical order results in mental order. It’s unhealthy to wake up to a pile of clothes or still-packed bags from the weekend. Make your bed every morning. Stay organized. It’ll help you start each day on the right foot; organized and calm.
  18. Make a bucket list, and make a conscious effort to tackle things on said bucket list. I often refer to my “bucket list,” but full transparency, I don’t technically have one. Everything I say is “on my bucket list” is really just something I suppose would be on my bucket list if I had one. So, Sammi, in Year 27, write down the things you’d like to accomplish. Places you’d like to see. And go for it.
  19. Limit yourself to one or two hits of the snooze button. You’re not getting any additional rest by hitting “snooze” five, six, seven times. All you’re doing is making yourself frazzled and late for wherever it is that you’re supposed to be.
  20. Don’t focus so much on “you.” A great thing happens when you stop worrying so much about yourself. When you put others’ needs ahead of your own, you shift a lot of energy that would otherwise manifest itself in self-pressure, over-thinking, and anxiety.
  21. Verbalize your life experiences, frustrations, and learnings. Basically the reason I started this blog. It’s therapeutic and mind-freeing as hell, and you never know, you might just help someone.
  22. If at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again (RIP, Aaliyah). Don’t be so hard on yourself every time you make a mistake or don’t perform as well as you’d hoped. Life’s all about trial and error. Keep on moving.
  23. Make doctor’s appointments…and actually keep them. Your health needs to be your main priority. Just like your mental health is crucial to high productivity (see #7), so is your physical health.
  24. Invest in things that make you a better “you.” I’m all about saving money wherever possible, but some expenditures deserve a “pass.” Is a Massage Envy annual membership absolutely necessary? Probably not, but it does help me to not only relax, but also to relieve neck and back pain from my horrific posture. Note to self: Add “correct your horrific posture” to that bucket list you’re going to make.
  25. Balance, balance, balance. There’s only so much energy you can exert in one day. Stop trying to be “perfect” at everything all the time. If you have a crazy work day, give up the gym (refer back to #10). If you have a million errands to run at night, leave work at a reasonable time. Life’s all about balance.
  26. Be grateful that this past year has allowed you the chance to refocus and rediscover who you are. You’re about to enter 27 as a refreshed, more self-aware than ever woman. Go you!

Stop Trying To Solve A Puzzle That Can’t Be Solved

I’ve always been a “boyfriend-type” girl. With the exception of a few short periods here and there, starting at age 14 (which is starting to sound super young as I quickly approach my 27th birthday), I’ve pretty much always been in a relationship. Until about a year ago.

When I entered this “single period” in which I currently find myself, I was naive as hell. For so long, I had lived in a relationship bubble. I didn’t know the first thing about modern dating; standard protocol, generally accepted tendencies, etc.

But I figured that was OK. I always thought of myself as a socially aware person; an intuitive woman who’s decent at reading social cues. A young lady who has a lot to offer; drive, love, loyalty. Which is why I honestly thought that it’d be easy-peasy to meet a nice, smart, motivated, genuine guy who shared my values and life goals, and was upfront about his intentions.

This is the point where you can feel free to laugh at me, because as we all know, the word “easy” doesn’t necessarily go with the word “dating” (well, it does…but come on, ladies, we’re better than that crap). What I’ve learned over the past 12 or so months into my current single life is that the dating scene is more like a free-for-all guessing game made up of mixed signals and narcissistic “I don’t want to settle down and miss out on life’s offerings” behaviors.

Dating is kind of like that team building game you play with new co-workers or classmates. You know, the one where one person is blindfolded and tasked with creating a color-coded structure out of building blocks based on the other person’s verbal direction. What typically results from that game? A lot of pissed off people who couldn’t accomplish the task at hand within the allotted amount of time due to crappy communication.

I feel like that’s how a lot of us ladies feel when it comes to dating. We feel like our biological clocks are ticking, and we can’t get on the same wavelength as our male counterparts; therefore, we can’t successfully accomplish our “task” of marrying and procreating within the allotted time. It’s kind of sick when you think about it like that, but am I really that far off?

But I will say —  I feel like our approach is all wrong.

A woman of answers, I’ve done quite a bit of research on females’ reactions to the current dating landscape. And when I say research, I mean that I’ve read a lot of real, raw, “Millennial dating is bull$hit” articles by twenty- or thirty-something women via various publishers. Some common headlines I’ve come across include things like, “Stay Single Until You Meet A Guy Who…,” “He’s Not Your Forever Person Unless…,” “Date A Guy Who Does [This]…,” etc.

And while many of these pieces are extremely well-written and loaded with great female-empowering advice, they’re still hypotheses about the type of guy who will perfectly fill the romantic companionship void we all feel.

By definition, a hypothesis is “a supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation” (thank you, Google Dictionary). In other words, it’s a huge &@#$ing guess.

There’s no guarantee that a guy who holds the door for you, or asks about your nightmare co-worker every night, or lines your apartment hallway with rose petals on your anniversary, or takes a strong interest in your family dynamics, is your soulmate. And I’m not downplaying those things, because they’re absolutely important.

And all of those things do sound amazing; like the qualities we’d like our future life partner to possess. But even if a particular guy meets some preconceived criteria and allows us to “check off” all of our figurative life partner “boxes,” there’s still no guarantee that this person is truly right for us.

Think about it. We “match” with guys on dating apps (a territory into which I have yet to venture), so in theory, they should be our perfect counterparts. Or we meet guys through mutual friends and family who insist that we’d be great together, but for one reason or another, it’s just not a match made in Heaven. Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason, and it just doesn’t work out the way you thought it would.

What it all boils down to: It’s time we stop going into every male interaction with a “might-be relationship” mentality. It’s honestly an addiction that we need to overcome. And contrary to popular belief, we really do have plenty of time to stumble upon our Mr. Right. We can’t solve the dating puzzle right now, and we need to stop trying to solve it. All we’re doing is making ourselves feel on-edge, anxious, frustrated, and confused.

We constantly make fun of guys for being so lackadaisical when it comes to dating, and I can’t believe I’m saying it, but maybe they have it right. When’s the last time one of your guy friends spent hours, days, WEEKS telling the same old story about a potential love interest or his overall dating struggles? I mean, I’ve actually gotten to the point of anger, saying things like, “What do guys think is going to happen; that they’ll just decide they want to settle down one day and it’ll magically happen?” For all we know, maybe that’s exactly what will happen.

In the meantime, let’s try something different. Take it down a notch (or five, or ten). The next Hinge date you go on, or the next Instagram DM you receive, don’t read so damn much into it. Not every male is a potential boyfriend. Great things happen when we least expect it. Let things happen the way they’re supposed to, when they’re supposed to.

Living Up To The Hype

I was born into a very loving family. Starting at the earliest age I can remember, I was reminded of how much I was loved. On a regular basis, I heard things like, “You’re so smart,” “You’re so pretty,” “You’re so nice,” “You’re so special,” and “You’re going to be so successful one day.” I rarely needed to be disciplined because I was such an easy kid (you’re welcome, Mom!).

When I was old enough to start school, the praise only continued. If kids weren’t arguing to sit next to me in class, they were fighting to be in my arts and crafts group. I was the first girl picked in gym class. Teachers always gave me special jobs, and I was always selected to be a kindergarten helper. I was in the High Enrichment Program all throughout grade school. I always had special out-of-class assignments to keep me occupied because I was “gifted and talented.” I received all the “good student” awards at the end of the school year.

The purpose of this post is not to toot my own horn.

In fact, it’s the opposite.

What I’d really like to share in this post is my own personal anecdote of how consistent praise can actually have the opposite effect on the person receiving it.

How even when done non-maliciously and with good intentions, being made into “the girl who has it all” can actually instill an immense amount of pressure on that girl to live up to a picture of “perfect” that has been painted of her. A need (not even a desire) to maintain a role of the smartest, prettiest, fittest, nicest, most well-liked, etc…when in probability, none of those things were true in the first place.

After my almost-27 years of life, I’ve learned that there will always be someone smarter, prettier, nicer, more well-liked, etc. But back at 14, 19 or even 24, I couldn’t come to terms with that. I still felt an obligation to be the “best” because I truly felt that that’s what people expected of me. That my worth was defined by how “perfect” I could be in all aspects of my life: school, my social life, my career, my financial situation, my level of intelligence; name it.

Today, I can admit that I’m a perfectionist, but TBH, I’m still not comfortable with the fact that I can’t be perfect. Over the course of my life, I’ve trained myself to constantly strive to be better and better, and to think that anything less than the “best” is just a result of me being lazy, or even worse, failing. I’ve had to drill into my head that I can’t control people or situations; that I can only do the best I can with tools currently at hand. It’s still an internal battle I fight on an almost daily basis.

The inspiration for me sharing this was a recent comment by one of my very closest girlfriends since…well, forever. I was explaining to her some of my struggles over the years, and after I was done ranting, she said to me, “Wow, I never thought you had any hardships at all. Everything always came so easy for you. You always had your $hit together.”

Not only are there are discrepancies between how others perceive us and how we perceive ourselves, but there are also discrepancies between how we intend for words to come out and how they’re heard. What’s showing on the outside doesn’t necessarily match what’s happening on the inside. Be aware of this, and recognize that you can never be totally sure of how your actions and words may affect others. Be gentle, be kind, and always seek to understand.

One Month Reflections

It’s been about a month since I launched my blog. My initial purpose was to find an outlet to express my creativity; a platform to get out my thoughts and feelings; thoughts and feelings that I would otherwise keep bottled up inside.

And for the past four or so weeks, I’ve felt a huge weight lifted, a whole new sense of clarity. But I was naive in that I assumed I had my life – well, me – figured out. But today, at the one month (ish) mark, I’ve realized that I still have so much learning to do, and so much progress to make.

Earlier today, I was skimming through social media, and came across a bunch of articles about Jay-Z’s new album; not just about Jay-Z’s lyrical and musical artistry, but also about his ability to come clean about past actions in order to move forward.

My favorite line: “You can’t heal what you never reveal.” This hit home for me more than you can imagine, as I’m the type of person who tries to pretend past events didn’t happen in an effort to protect myself; a self-defense mechanism which rarely proves effective.

Instead, this type of “coping” forces me to push things that have caused me to feel ashamed, scared, embarrassed, etc. to a way-way back section of my mind so that I don’t have to think about them or face them. And it works for a little while. I continue with life and hope that my past demons don’t resurface.

But there’s an interesting thing about the human mind (or maybe just my mind; caveat: I’m in no way a trained professional in this area) – the feelings and thoughts we block out or repress almost always end up coming back to haunt us in other ways.

I know everyone’s different, but for me, these thoughts and feelings manifest themselves in self-detrimental and destructive ways; think the occasional emotional outburst, panic attack, or excessive drinking episode.

And for me, the scary part is that I can’t predict when it’s going to happen; when I’m going to break. But when I do, those haunting thoughts are so far repressed that they become difficult to identify; difficult to address and heal in order to prevent future incidents. And so my “healing” process is a much more complicated (and longer) one than it ever needs to be.

But I’m finally ready to change that.

And so, I’d like to share my key takeaways from today’s one month self-reflection:

#1. Just like Jay-Z said, you can’t heal what you never reveal. If there’s something bothering you, or a mistake you made, understand that this is part of being human. We all do dumb $hit sometimes. Own it, recover gracefully, and move forward. Talk about it. Don’t push it to some unknown section of your head because, I can guarantee you, it will inevitably creep back up on you. And most likely, when it does creep back up on you, it’ll be amplified.

#2. Understand that you’re a constant work in progress, and no matter how much progress you’ve made, there’s still room for improvement. Because we are all human, and we’re bound to &$@! up sometimes. Again, own it and move forward. Use it as a life lesson, and truly learn from it. Make a conscious effort to not repeat past poor behaviors, and when you wake up the next morning, tell yourself, “I’m going to be a better ‘me’ today.”

Having A “Best Friend” Is Overrated

I’ll say it: we totally overuse the word “best” in relation to our friends. Just think about how frequently we hashtag “besties” when we post photos from a night out with friends. More times than not?

We forget that the word “best” is a superlative, and it’s virtually impossible to have more than one “best” of anything. It’s similar to how we overuse (and incorrectly use) the word “literally.” If we were “literally dying” every time we saw a hilarious meme or Instagram post that was all too relatable, we’d have a pretty serious situation on our hands. #RapidPopulationDecline

I know this seems technical, but hear me out. The title “best friend” implies that there’s one person we consider to be superior to our other friends. Someone we can turn to in every situation; happy, sad, or somewhere in the middle. That there’s one person out there who can fulfill our emotional and physical needs at any given point in time, at any stage of our lives.

And if you can honestly say that there’s one person who fits this mold, then that’s cool, but consider yourself the exception. I think that the majority of us, myself included, find that we diversify our friends. We have a few great friends rather than one best friend. Different friends for different reasons and different situations. Or else, we would truly only be hashtagging “besties” on photos shared with one other person, and I’ve found that to rarely be the case.

Back to these “few great friends.” They come in all forms; all shapes and sizes. Some are from childhood, some are from college. Some are from a shared hobby like a book club, some are from work. Some are like family, some are family. Some are in our lives forever, and some are only around for a short time. And it’s all good, because of each of these friends serves a certain purpose; some for a snapshot in time, some for a lifetime.

Where “Great Friend A” may be your go-to for a wild night of dancing and vodka sodas, “Great Friend B” may be your go-to for a therapeutic vent sesh. “Great Friend C” may be the “outgoing” to your “shy and reserved” in group situations, so he’s the dude you immediately call after you awkwardly RSVP “yes” to a party where you know you won’t know anyone. “Great Friend D” may be better in one-on-one situations, and you have her on speed dial (I just dated myself…who even makes phone calls anymore?) when you need some serious girl advice. “Great Friend E” might be your cousin, and she’s the girl you turn to when you just need to b!tch about your family without the hassle of providing context, because she just gets it. “Great Friend F” is your co-worker, and sometimes you just need to rant to him about the fact that you can’t get a damn cold glass of water anywhere in the office. And so on…

We’re constantly growing and changing, meeting new people, creating new connections, and seeking (and needing) new types of support, encouragement and fulfillment as we enter different phases of our lives. It’s normal for us to not put all our eggs in one proverbial “best friend” basket.

Because in order for us to further develop ourselves intellectually, we need to constantly meet new people, expand our horizons, gain new perspectives, and step out of our comfort zone. Our friendship needs and desires grow and change as we do. At some points in our lives, we find ourselves surrounded by seven close friends; at others, we only find ourselves surrounded by two. And that’s completely normal…and completely OK.

But then it gets tricky. Much like modern culture pressures us to find the perfect significant other, it also pressures us to have a “best friend.” The girl (or guy) who you’ve known your entire life, who’s your partner-in-crime, and there for you at the drop of a hat. Who’s obviously going to be your Maid (or Man) of Honor, because, duh, who else would it be?! And similar to our search to find a perfect boyfriend or girlfriend, we sometimes find ourselves in search of the perfect #bestie. Your go-to for weekend selfies, brunch dates, shopping trips, whathaveyou. And, also similar to dating, we unfortunately end up settling for a less-than-perfect friend just to say that we have that “best friend.”

And then there’s the whole issue of offending every other friend by singling out one “best friend.” Assigning one of our friends “best friend” status can even create rifts between people on both sides of said “best friendship.” People get hurt, feel left out, feel like they aren’t valued, etc. I mean, is the whole “best friend” status really even worth it? When you think about it, it’s actually very exclusive rather than inclusive.

What I’m saying here is that the title “best friend” is a confusing one. On one hand, we consider every friend to be a “best friend,” but on the other, we often feel the need to find one “best friend.” In all honesty, it’d probably be easier to toss the title of “best friend” out the window. Because what we’re really trying to do is assign a name for the people closest to us; people who have a positive impact on our lives. Who we just like being around. Who elevate us. Who we can relate to in certain (or a lot of) situations. Who we trust.

So the next time you find yourself struggling with the whole concept of a “best friend” – who is my best friend? Do I have more than one best friend? Is it even possible to have more than one best friend? Etc. (note: these are all thoughts that I’ve had at one point or another) – please remember: having a best friend is overrated. Just surround yourself with people who make you feel good. If you can do that, then you’re golden.

To My “Like A Dads” In Time For Father’s Day

We sometimes get hung up on the things we don’t have rather than appreciate the things we do have. 

For most of my teenage years and young adulthood, this was especially true for me whenever Father’s Day rolled around. While my friends were trying to figure out which cool gadget they’d get their dads to celebrate the occasion, I found myself feeling lost.

At the time, I didn’t openly talk about my issues with my dad, or our lack of anything resembling a “normal” father-daughter relationship. I avoided the subject altogether, and developed a deep resentment toward my dad for not being the person I wanted him to be. I hardly acknowledged the other dads in my life because I was so focused on the dad I didn’t have.

But at 26, I’ve come to realize that what I do have in father figures outweighs what I feel I don’t have in my biological father. 

Sure, one day I probably won’t have the traditional father-daughter dance at my wedding, but that’s OK. Because I WILL share that special moment with one of the incredible men in my life who continues to show me love and support through the happiest and toughest of times.

One of the men who helped raise me as a confident, fearless, independent woman who knows who she is and what she’s capable of…but who also taught me the power of humility.

Who allowed me to understand (and truly believe) how I deserve to be treated, and that I should never settle for anything less than that.

Who challenges me to ask questions, and to not just accept things as known truths.

Who inspires me to identify my passions, and to continue to explore and exercise those passions.

Who showed me the importance of kindness, and how something as simple as a smile at a random stranger can change a person’s entire life.

Who taught me that just because someone is flawed doesn’t automatically mean that he or she is a bad person.

Who calls me out when I veer off course, but always helps me get back on track with only minor injuries.

Who has given me the tools necessary to tackle this crazy thing called life, and continues to stand by my side through its many trials and tribulations.

This year, I won’t feel disappointed, sad, or ashamed when I’m in Hallmark and realize that my Father’s Day card selection will likely always be from the “Like A Father” section. Because instead of having just one dad, I have a whole bunch of “like a dads” who each play a unique, yet equally important, role in my life.

To my Grandpa, who I miss more and more each day, as well as my uncles and brother (though he’s not a father quite yet): Just in time for Father’s Day, I’d like to thank you for your continuous love, friendship and mentorship, and for all that you do on a daily basis to make me feel special and empowered. I love you more.

Happy Father’s Day!