Tien and I met in college when we were both 18. I’ve written about our friendship before because it is one of the most important relationships in my life, as I think female friendships are for many women. And I’ve written about it because maintaining long-term friendships isn’t easy - like in any close relationship, you see the person when they are hungry, giving you the best hug, crying, throwing tantrums, making you laugh - and you have to treat your imperfect self and their imperfect self with kindness. And maybe over the years you realize that you love people because of their imperfections - not in spite of them. It is a rare and beautiful thing to have someone who truly KNOWS you, and so you’ve got to take care of those people, to love them even when they don’t love themselves (which is often the root of mean behavior, us not loving ourselves).
Tien has lived in Myanmar for over a decade, so we text and talk when my day is beginning and hers is ending or vice versa. This morning, she texted that she was working on an assignment with a few people in her life: A) “What shows up when I do (when I am being my most ‘present’)?” B) What positive qualities do I bring to a room?” I had just woken up and wrote her, still half asleep: “A) A burst of energy, the strongest hugs, creative observations in conversation B) Joy, enthusiasm, a sense of playfulness, intelligence, creativity”
I woke up with pink eye and wasn’t feeling the greatest. And then Tien texted back: “You dearest Alice are A) Truth see-er, unswerving principles, loyalty, creative radiance B) complexity, infectious laughter, the most beautiful soul”
Her response to me was unexpected and it made me feel seen and loved. We all need that, because I know that if I struggle with negativity, with feeling that I am not doing enough and Tien, who has done incredible work with the United Nations in Myanmar, feels that she is not productive and has not done enough - then we all struggle with those feelings. Over the years, I have learned to be kinder to myself and others. I wish I had been kinder to myself in my 20s, but I am glad I have friends who have grown up with me, who see me even when I can’t see myself. Reach out and tell your friends what you love about them.