Ohana means family.

Last week I was talking to a friend into the wee hours of the night. It started off with just the usual “how’s life going” questions.  Pretty soon we were talking about our families, friendships, and faith, and before I knew it, it was already two in the morning.  Ever have that happen to you? You get so engrossed in a conversation that you lose all track of time and you forget about all the rotten stuff going on in your life? I was telling this friend how I was so jealous of how much extended family he had around him and how close they all were. Even though I have 20+ first cousins, only 3 of them live in the US, and none of them live here in Michigan.  We get together once in a while when there’s a family function and while those times are great, I really wish I had them around all the time. But he helped me to discover something I had that he said he wished he had; friends that turned into family.

As you get older, you begin to discover the type of person you want to be. You explore different parts of yourself and find your voice. Consequently, it’s a time where some friendships are made, and others are broken. It’s easy to focus on the broken friendships because they’re what cause you the most pain. But if you step away for just a minute, you’ll see that maybe those relationships were meant to be broken, because it paved the way for you to discover what true friendship means. I was lucky enough to find this type of friendship in several strong, beautiful women.

We all met because our families moved here after immigrating to America.  Individually we couldn’t be more different if we tried.  If I were to document individually how each of us met, we’d be here for days.  I’ll just sum it up and say we had the BEST childhood.  We all lived within walking distance of each other, and never went a day without seeing one another.  By the time we reached high school, one by one we each started to move away.  But we were adamant that our friendships stay strong, so we kept in touch and tried to meet up as much as possible.  As time went on, we met up less often, and soon got carried away in the busyness of our own lives.  All 5 of us went to different colleges and pursued various things.  One of us went to East Lansing for college, another Kalamazoo, there was one in nursing school, one all the way to India, and the last member didn’t move to America until 2008. We weren’t just separated by city lines, but by oceans. So it’s no surprise that during this time, we lost sight of one another.  We, who were inseparable in our childhood, were starting to become content with acquaintance-like friendship.  This went on for a few years.  We let our immaturity and our naiveté cloud our judgment, and ultimately our friendship. We were close to each other independently, but not as a group. It wasn’t until several years ago that a shift occurred. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment it happened…it just did! It was like everything fell into place. And I’ve been grateful everyday since.

These women are strong, beautiful, opinionated, sarcastic, honest, and have the biggest hearts. They remind me of the person I want to be. The person I truly am on the inside. We don’t always agree…but that’s the best part. Friendship isn’t built on finding someone who is exactly like you in thought, personality, and belief. It’s built on the foundation that despite your differences, you love one another. You accept one another. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have stuff in common, cause we do. For example we love to eat…so much so that we’re pretty sure it’s what brought us together. Ironically, a member of our group created the philosophy that the point of life is to “live life and eat chocolate.” I mean, look out Aristotle!

Over the years each of us has faced devastation and hardships, and this group has been there to pick up the pieces.  While I was very familiar with the concept of sympathy, it was just recently I understood empathy.  For example, when one of us has an exam or interview, we all feel the anxiety from it. We count down each passing hour and with bated breath we wait until we’ve received word that it’s over. Likewise, when something incredible happens for one, we all feel that same joy.

As supportive as we are of one another, we don’t shy away from calling each other out.  Every decision goes through a careful screening process and comes out having been brutally scrutinized. It’s often the words you need to hear but not necessarily what you want to.  You can be sure it’s never hollow advice from these ladies because they want what’s best for you.  

These women have taught me that it’s okay to make mistakes and do immature things. Granted, they’ll never let you live it down…they’ll even make it into a punch line and use it every chance they get. But not once, do they treat you like you’re less than a human being. Not once do they make you feel like your choices and beliefs make you any less part of their family. They don’t hold grudges or get mad about the little things. They don’t shame or guilt you. Not once, since our friendship truly began have I ever felt anything less than a strong, beautiful, intellectual, person. And that’s how I know what true friendship is. Because true friends bring out your best qualities and accept your worst. They let you explore and discover who you want to be, without shaming or criticizing your decisions. They’re honest with you, even if it’s not what you want to hear. They’ll voice their opinions, but they won’t try to convince you to change yours. They aren’t the ones causing you pain…they’re the ones that are the kicking the butt of the person who is.

That’s how I know that these women will be by my side for the rest of my life, no matter what or where we go. No city, state, or ocean can ever change that.

I’m getting misty-eyed just writing this because this week is reunion week! After weeks of talking, planning, and waiting, we’re all going to be reunited for Thanksgiving!  We have many stories to exchange, venting sessions to be had, and lots and lots of food to be eaten.  This year for Thanksgiving, we are truly thankful for these wonderful girls in our lives.  Thank you for keeping us sane, grounded, and hopeful.  In a world where all we see is the evidence of shattered humanity, you are a reminder for us that there is still good in the world, and that love and friendship are two of our most important weapons to fight the hate.

friends

What are you most thankful for this year? Comment and let us know!

 

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