Good friends are like fuel for the soul. We all value friendships differently, so this post may or may not resonate with you! I have found myself in quite a predicament regarding friendships for most of my adult life. I look at the world around me, and I'm envious and curious about how so many people can maintain these lifelong #friendships. I see the 30-person ski trips and the family trips to the lake with friends from high school and college. I've only been to a handful of weddings in my adult life. I began to question why those #momentous occasions were so important to me, yet I've surrounded myself with people and friendships that don't celebrate these occasions similarly. How? Why? It's a lonely feeling. Boundaries, yes, I know. I've also found some common threads with my career choices and how I love the connection in a friendship. But it's also where I acknowledged when the lines became blurry. I remember the advice given to me in the #police academy to keep friends outside of the "industry," It soon became apparent that I became the friend with the good stories at a party and less of the person to share secrets and plan family vacations with. I often wonder if my career choice impacted my ability to form these friendships. No one wants to admit to their "cop" friend they smoked weed at a party or got pulled over for DUI. While I know my ability to friend others was never intended to cast judgment, I'm not sure others felt the same. In all honesty, I prefer #friends who are #driven, #passionate, and go-getters.
I turned to friendships who valued these aspects, but then they happened to be friends in the "industry." And don't read this the wrong way; some of these memories and friendships are ones I will value forever. It later became apparent why we were given that advice in the academy. The outside world offers different perspectives we don't see when we're "inside." I thank my husband for constantly reminding me of this.
The culture in law enforcement is inclusive and mysterious. I built bonds that would last a lifetime. What's so confusing is the simultaneous thought of the last time I spoke to some of these people. The #culture demanded late nights and profound debates; it would prompt deep discussions on little sleep. And while you're forced to make life-altering decisions in a split second, the same is not valid in our everyday lives. I don't have to decide on dinner in a split second and then live with the decision-making or break my life. The deep discussions would prompt and feed the formation of (what I believed to be) meaningful friendships. But, being a woman complicated this situation even further by introducing conversations I didn't hear present in the lives of my friends on the outside. Having worked around mostly men for most of my life, coordinating #socialization outside of work was always an issue. My husband often felt better talking with the wives instead of the men, and I found the conversations more captivating with the men I worked with than with the women. It was all about familiarity. I couldn't relate to the stay-at-home mom, and my husband didn't want to fight the ego battle.
As the years wore on and my values and priorities changed. I felt myself longing more and more for those female friendships. I felt the #social settings wearing on my husband; by this time, I'd lost contact with so many of those "friendships." It became so much about "what's in it for them" and "how can I get ahead" instead of how to foster a friendship. I didn't want to be a friend of convenience. I wanted to go on weekend getaways, have neighborhood block parties, and not stress about inviting the wrong people to the party. I would ask questions like, "wow, they say they'd die for me, but we can't chat on the phone this weekend," or, "how come my fondest memories are from people who can't send a happy holiday text"? Some of these questions have plagued me and probably always will. I've learned to digest and press on, take the lessons, respect what I've learned, and keep moving forward. Over time, I became tired of being the person who poured her soul into building deeper bonds, #friendships, and connections with other people and not having it reciprocated.
One thing I know for sure is I get my energy from and through others. I love large holiday gatherings, last-minute family gatherings with neighbors, and weekly phone call catch-ups. Soon, I realized the time I gave others needed to be more sustainable and balanced. I had to cut ties with friendships that demanded an unhealthy amount of my time. I had to stop the phone calls and text messages that took me away from my family and create my own set of healthy #boundaries. This was so uncomfortable. As I mentioned earlier, I get my energy from others, so cutting people out was HARD!! REALLY HARD! I had to create boundaries for myself. I had to visualize what I wanted. Then, I had to go for it. I wish it had been this way years ago, but I've also learned it's probably best I learned the hard way on this one. I #value my #time and my relationships more now than I ever have.
The longer I stayed in my career, the deeper the questions came. Then confusion. I felt myself needing and craving my girlfriends but falling short of expressing my needs, concerns, and confusion. I found myself becoming angry and distant. The distance bled into my work, and my #frustration with work bled into my #family. I would meet people, start to #connect, and then be frustrated and disappointed by the unbalanced friendship wheel I've created.
For example, I made one of the closest #friends in the world, and we were inseparable for years...birthday parties, holidays, sports, you name it...and then she moved. I struggled so hard not to resent this. I allowed myself to open up, build a healthy friendship, and engage in a place that wasn't related to work and then the rug was pulled out from under me. I clearly don't handle #change well, hahaha. I also panic when time enters the equation. Living in an already tight, demanding schedule made me even sadder when I knew I couldn't maintain the friendships I wanted. In another example, I held on to a company that felt wonderful for so long. I held on so hard it almost cost me my family. All the hours spent laughing on the phone or #listening to them cry...while I felt like a wonderful friend then, I should have been reading bedtime stories and giving the kids baths.
The unfortunate problem is that my soul also needed to vent. You can't vent to your toddler and infant about the horrible stories you've experienced. And it's not that I couldn't share with my husband, but part of me wanted to keep my family and their minds pure from the evil I had seen. At this time, what these events do to a person's heart and mind became more evident. I often wondered how so many other people in my #profession could keep doing this?!?! Eventually, this became so clear to me.
What I felt I needed in my friendships became blurred. What I needed from my family left me feeling hopeful. Although my tone is disparaging, my family drove me to find answers. I would start to pay attention to conversations "normal" people would have with their spouses and kids, and friends. Meanwhile, I found my discussions full of anger, and I found myself being resentful and mean. I couldn't understand why my professional #relationships couldn't evolve into friendships (this is a gross exaggeration as I formed some incredible friendships) or if this was acceptable. I liked to be liked. I think we all do. And being the sounding board for so many people over the years has led me to this next chapter. Having little or no control over who I worked around became a mind game for me. We all must live with our choices, and I did have the power, to a degree, where I could go and work. My final assignment (being physically separated from people) cemented my decision to change. I saw too much, learned too much, and didn't want to be a part of it anymore. If I could not control what was happening around me, I needed to change what I could control. Even if that means doing something drastic!
I think back to squads where we all would've killed for (lawfully) each other... We would bullshit for hours, eat shitty diner food and laugh for hours. Ask me the last time some of those folks reached out. I would try to stay in touch and maintain relationships because it's who I am. And it never hurts to have good connections all over. It wasn't necessarily this that led to my #confusion. Although the fonder moments definitely played a role, I would later learn the devastating effects of how the highs and lows would have long-term consequences on my #mind, my body, and my family. I was so resistant for so long to beat the #stereotypes and the odds. Early on, no one left the career unless you were killed or fired. Now... it's just a different story. The toxicity around me began tearing me limb from limb.
I forced myself to go on lunch dates with #friends and stay up late at night to have one more minute that wasn't in a place where I felt miserable and alone. I found myself rundown, heavier than I'd ever been, and out of steam. I had aches and pains (still working through this), which led to my lack of desire to work out. It was a downward spiral. I found myself trying to create the person I wanted to be, but I realized I was the person I had to be. I was a mom who turned irritable, stressed, tired, and not fun to be around. I was upset when friendship priorities didn't align. I wanted to wear yoga pants to pick up the kids, talk about the latest Netflix series, and plan my Martha Stewart dinner for the family. But, I couldn't do it all... Or could I? My thoughts led to self-doubt and the need to be guarded. I love doing #thoughtful things...but then I wouldn't understand why others were too busy to return a call, ask about the horrendous incidents that occurred in the news and how they affected me or even set up a coffee date. Then, I slowly felt myself doing this to others too!
This wasn't the answer. This wasn't me. This isn't what I wanted for my life. I began to look around for role models and mentors, and guidance. Very slowly, my wants and desire to change started to come into focus. When I looked around at work, there were fewer and fewer people I wanted to model after. I didn't want to end up alone. I didn't want to end up divorced and bouncing from marriage to marriage or relationship to relationship. I didn't want to be hurt after wearing a gun belt for 14 hours. I didn't want to neglect my personal needs or forget about Spirit Week for my kids. I didn't want to sit through another case of wrongdoing by my peers to only have it #justified by higher-ranking officials. I didn't want to be married to my job (I'm already married). My husband needs me more than my job does. I didn't want to be managed by people who held rank but fundamentally disagreed with the deepest part of my moral fiber. And let's be honest, my #moral compass is more like play-doh than cement. This is what worried me even more. I'm a #Libra! I see all sides, beauty and people, and I am pretty damn open-minded. Circumstance after circumstance, coincidence after coincidence, and a little bit of elbow grease began to bring me answers. I did this with no sleep, nothing left to give, and very little #motivation. But I had to...
I had to leave, I had to go...I needed a #plan. I needed my family, my friends, and a way to make it all work. I had to overcome multiple hurdles to make this all come together. First and foremost, it was securing our family's financial #stability. I had to find a way to pay off our debts. We needed a way to survive and #support our lifestyle without the burden of my decision impacting our future. And, while yes, my decisions weren't the popular opinion...my desire to grow, reignite my love for my family, build healthy friendships, and share all of it with the world quickly outweighed the need to stay in a place where I was so unhappy and unfulfilled. And, so I walked away...no, I didn't walk away, I RAN!!