When my daughter was young, we formed a circle of friendship I thought we’d be with forever. We were so close. We met daily as we dropped our kids off at school. We did everything together. Potlucks on the weekends. Vacations together. We took care of each other’s kids in emergencies. Our kids thought of each and every one of us as “mom and dad.”

I made life decisions based on these friendships. Looking back, I know some of those decisions held me back. But they made sense at the time.

We were five couples, all raising our kids in similar ways. Today:

Couple one is divorced. We keep in touch through birthday and holiday cards.

Couple two is divorced. They each live in a different part of the United States, living out entirely new lives. I’ve seen each of them once in five years, we chat periodically on Facebook.

Couple three is divorced. I chatted with her a few years ago. Otherwise, we’ve lost touch.

Couple four … let’s just say they weren’t who we thought they were. It was a bad breakup between us.

What happened to my magical group? The one I thought I’d be with forever?

Help yourself, help others

Looking back, a lot of my close relationships were built based on my own insecurities. That friend group of mine? I loved them all so dearly. (I still do, because they made me into who I am today.)

But a couple of opportunities arose right in the middle of that friendship. I fought hard to turn them away because I didn’t want to give up all that I had. I was comfortable right where I was.

I said “no” to several life-changing ventures. Everything I did was for stability for my daughter. I thought stability equaled being in one house, one school, one location. I thought stability meant putting change on hold.

And because of that, I started “dying.” The real me.

My business fell. My relationships started waning. I was out of shape. I didn’t feel right.

I wasn’t me.

Until I did something about it.

It started with a quest to get into shape. I signed up for a triathlon – why I chose something as difficult as that, I’ll never know.

But I did it for my 40th birthday. Every morning, I worked on me. I’d swim at my local pool. Ran a few miles. Biked around my community. And I listened to tapes. (Yes, cassette tapes. I attached a big clunky tape player to my belt, with headphones and a floppy wire that bounced all around me while I ran and rode my bike.)

This was when my love for self-help grew. Tony Robbins became my personal guru for many months. I still owe him a lot – in fact, I signed up for another mastermind class with his team just recently.

I learned something from that time of my life: always keep an eye out for myself. I’m the only constant I’ll carry with me from birth to death. And if I “lose” myself at any point in that journey, it takes a hell of a lot to get “me” back.

When I’m my best me, I can give more to others. And that includes my friendships too.

Because friendships can be built at any point in your life. Friendships are like a mirror out to the world. They give their best to you, but they can only reflect what you give out.

Friendship … redefined

What does friendship look like?

Ask my teenage self, and it would be all about someone to hang with, who shares all the trials and tribulations of looking for a “life.”

Ask my adult self, newly married and growing my family, and it would have been about stability. Someone who could grow old with me, and give me all the comfort I needed.

But now? I subscribe to the “reason, season, lifetime” philosophy.

Yes, there are people that will be with me for a lifetime for one reason or another. My husband. My sister. My best friend from first grade.

Friends to be there for a season? Yep, I have many. That friend group I described earlier? They were there to help me through a crucial season.

It’s the “reason” friends that have become a lot clearer to me as I age.

I think it’s possible to have thousands – millions of friends. If someone influences you for even a moment, shouldn’t they be considered a friend?

My introverted self years ago told me that a friend had to be held close. It took a long time to form a friendship.

But today, the concept is all topsy-turvy. What if you chat regularly with someone on your Facebook or Instagram? What if you rely on them, read their thoughts for advice, or provide active conversations through comments? Is that any less real?

Especially as we’re redefining what life really looks like here in 2020?

I believe in energy, that’s what connects me to you.

You grow by living, experiencing, and you can’t do that alone.

By default, every single thing you do moves you to the next plane, the next adventure.

And you can never do that alone. Your body and mind need energy to move forward. Your influence comes from a friend.

What I need now

Opinions; they’re crazy, aren’t they?

Right now, everyone in the world is very opinionated with their desires and beliefs. We have many more ways to spew what we have to say. And that’s splitting more people apart.

In my twenties, thirties, and even forties, I hid who I was. I didn’t let the real me shine through. But she was growing. She was changing. And she held steadfast to her convictions.

Looking back, a lot of it stemmed from growing into an entirely different person than those around me. I still wonder how that happened.

I wasn’t free to say what I needed to say. I hid that side of her.

Until I couldn’t any longer.

And once I broke free, I lost a lot of relationships.

But something magical also happened. I started developing close relationships with those who started seeing the real me.

That switch, that turn, was a fantastic confidence booster. Because I no longer had that feeling in my gut that told me something was wrong.

It was my turning point.

It also allowed me to find what I needed deep in my soul. What completed me as a person.

I carefully evaluate everything in front of me. And I only dive in when I know I’ve found the right opportunities. As such, when I walk into most situations, I know instantly if I’m with my “peeps.” I feel it. Because I’ve found where I need to be.

This takes practice. Lots and lots of practice.

But once you find it, every friendship, every relationship, brings you full circle, right back where you’re supposed to be.