Image from Dallas News.
During these quarantine times, I’ve become painfully aware of just how important my friends are in maintaining my mental health. While I can now say the people I love are supportive and uplifting, that wasn’t always the case. I’d like to give you, reader, a bit of background on my friendship ventures, something to contextualize my belief in expressing your positive feelings:
Growing up, I was always (and still am, to be honest) a massive overachiever. Top of the class, straight As, teacher’s pet, I was well-versed in academics, but not so much socially. Kids would tease; some even bullied, and while I had friends, most would quickly move on to “cooler” peeps. At some point, I got settled, found a group of equally smart and dedicated girls (some of whom are still good friends of mine today), and all was well for about a year.
Then came “the big move” from my homeland, Mexico, to the U.S., right in time for high school. This was probably the hardest time in my life. I lost the comfort of familiarity and was thrust into a different world, with kids who inherently saw me as an “other,” be it “the new kid,” “the Mexican,” “the quiet girl,” or all of the above. My awkwardness and social anxiety skyrocketed, and I found myself aimlessly wandering from friend group to friend group, never quite feeling at home. Not all the friends I made during this time were “bad,” but some would point out my weirdness, comment on it not as something that made me special, but as something to be put up with and occasionally a source of entertainment.
Not to contribute to the idealization of college as a time of positive self-discovery, but I did truly find “my people”—those who see me, know me, get me—after entering college. I now have friends whose weirdness complements mine in a beautiful, uplifting collision of worlds. I have friends who listen, friends who care, friends who make it easy and natural to be a good friend and expect the same. When I realized that I had finally found people who felt like home, I also realized the deep appreciation I have for each and every one of them. How lost I was before them, and how found I feel now.
Now you know, my journey to true friends wasn’t easy or straightforward. It took years of feeling misunderstood and alone, years of feeling like the odd one out, to find the people I’d been yearning for. Chances are you’ve experienced something similar. Maybe it took you less time or more time, maybe you haven’t found your people yet. Regardless of where on the path you are, one day you’ll find them, and when you do, you should tell them you love them. Telling your friends you love them isn’t a particularly popular practice, but I truly don’t get why. If you’re lucky enough to have people in your life you appreciate, people you enjoy being around, people who make you feel accepted and loved and safe, isn’t it worth making them know that?
Tell your friends you love them. Tell them they make you feel validated, and significant, and meaningful. Tell the people you care about that they’re wonderful and they make you feel full. Tell the person you like that they mean something to you, that you think they’re exceptional. Tell your family, chosen or blood-related, that they are your home. Let people know they’re important, because who doesn’t want to hear that? You exist at the same time, in the same place as someone who makes you happy, and that’s a beautiful thing.
Do you express your love for people?