When I was a little girl, I initially struggled with friendships. In the sixth grade, my class started the “I Hate Summer” club. Even a couple of girls who had been my friends were a part of the club that made talking to me or sitting with me at lunch a horrible thing.
Eventually, the bullying stopped, and I made friends. Chinitra became my friend in the 3rd grade, and we survived her joining the “I Hate Summer” club. Bilicia and Destiny became my friends in the 8th grade. In May, Destiny, Chinitra, and I turned 40 years old, and next week Bilicia will celebrate her 40th birthday. In the 9th grade we took the photo on the left. For our 40th birthday, we were all reunited for the first time in a very long time and recreated our photo…as 40 year old women.
Our photographer was Erania, the amazing college suite mate Chinitra and I had our freshman year of college…22 years ago.
Moving apart, starting careers, building families, going through divorces and other life challenges and circumstances greatly changed the amount of time we spent together and even the time we had to talk. At 40 years old, those same life circumstances and especially the challenges have made us all stronger and wiser.
And still friends. Through the ups and downs and even disagreements.
One of the topics I speak about is friendship. And my main focus is always resilience.
Celebrating 40 years of life with 4 fabulous friends who have been with me over half of the journey (some almost all 40 years) in Los Cabos has taught me a lot about both friendship and life and the resilience it takes to maintain both.
I’ll share four factors that I feel got me to a healthy 40 years of life and healthy (loooong) friendships with these fellow 40 year-olds (and a bunch of other great women).
1. Love Yourself and Love Your Friends
As little girls, each of us had our challenges. From crazy family dynamics to low self-esteem, we had our own journeys as we learned to love ourselves. We’re all still on those journeys but definitely far along. As kids, we showed each other love by spending time together and helping each other out. And each of these friends specifically helped me as a babysitter at some point in our childhood (crazy, I know). As we grew up and away from each other, especially after college, the time we spent together became less and less and our ways of showing love did too. But our need to became even more important. Just like our love got us through tough times as little girls, our love got us through tough times as grown women.
2. Forgive Yourself and Forgive Your Friends
In over two decades of friendship, there will most certainly be disagreements. And we had our share of ours. Big and small arguments and some that kept some of us from speaking for years. Then there were also just the periods of time that we were just busy living life and didn’t make time for each other. One friend ended up in a marriage of just over a decade, and when it was over she apologized for not being a good friend. No one needed an apology because everyone understood. And she had to forgive herself, like each of us had to do over the years of our friendships.
3. Enjoy Yourself and Enjoy Your Friends
Life is serious, and that is something we all learned more and more each year. And, for the most part, we were there for each other during the tough times (and will be more intentional about it now). We’ll also be more intentional about enjoying each other. Through the years, we’ve gone out together, taken trips together, and just got together at each others’ homes from time to time. But not enough. Busy with families, careers, and life in general, we didn’t make a lot of time to just enjoy each other’s company, our love, our accomplishments, our greatness, and ourselves!
4. Stay Connected to Your Source and Stay Connected to Your Friends
Many of the best things in life happen when intentional effort is made. Maintaining amazing friendships is no different. One of my best friends lives across the county, one lives hours away, and two of these friends live in the same city. I see the ones in the same city only a few times more than the ones miles away. But we stay connected intentionally.
And, for me, when times get rough, I do need and call on my friends. But they aren’t always available and don’t always know how to help. That’s why staying connected to my source and engaging my faith is so important…especially when I feel hurt and hopeless.
So even when we feel alone or actually are alone, friends are important to have in our lives. And I’m grateful for my 40 year old friends and the 40+ year old women who make my life special and fun and help me survive this thing called life.
What are things that you do to maintain and grow your friendships and yourself?
I’m Summer Owens, and my passion is helping youth and young adults realize success no matter what obstacles they face. As an international resilience and leadership keynote speaker, author, S.O. What! Success Coach, and creator of the S.O. What! Literacy, Life Skills, and Character Education curriculum, I empower people to say, “So what!” to even their greatest challenges. provide a framework to help people see past their challenges and focus on solutions using the S.O. What! Success System (Overcome Obstacles + Eliminate Excuses + Calculate Choices = S.O. What! Success). Through keynotes, workshops, books, online courses, and workbooks, I use life’s challenges and my own story of resilience as a rape survivor and teen mom success story to help others confidently pursue their dreams.
Looking for an inspiring college motivational speaker? A high school literacy curriculum? A middle school life skills workbook? A great example for teen mothers? A women’s empowerment or single mother’s conference speaker? I’m your girl and will help any audience say, “S.O. What!”.