Why I’m So Grateful for My Band
One of the most powerful human experiences is having someone see you, know you, and love you. When the #metoo movement broke, I was struck by how the world rallied around women. A community of people who said, “I see you and the pain you carry, and I am here” formed instantly.
I will never forget where I was when I heard about the #metoo movement. A few months earlier, I had moved to France and had just gone through what felt like a world-shattering break-up. That morning, I found myself on Twitter, mindlessly scrolling, until the hashtag caught my eye. Reading through the tweets, I felt an instant connection. These women were tweeting pieces of my own story. It was as if I was viewing my own life, but through the words of someone else. I felt seen and overwhelmed all at the same time.
I called a friend, the one I had called first when my recent relationship ended.
Slowly, I let the words come, “I think that he was manipulative, maybe abusive.” I didn’t need to say anything else.
I heard my friend on the other end of the phone let out a long sigh.
She explained that she had tried to tell me, but that I had been in no condition to actually listen to her. Instead, I had been idolizing the relationship, still convinced deep down that we were going to get back together. Admitting this new realization out loud, I realized that would never be the case now. I had seen the light and the truth and I couldn’t turn back. But having someone confirm my deepest fear gave me the power to move forward. I was not alone.
What followed were months of tears and heartbreak, trying to find the truth in a history I thought I understood. It was one of the most challenging seasons of my life, but that experience has shaped me into the person I am today.
Having this space to process was only possible because I had taken pains to surround myself with some of the world’s best friends, seeking them out intentionally over the course of a lifetime. Friendship has always been one of my highest values. Because I live a continent away from my actual family, my friends feel more like my family (I am keenly aware of how cheesy this sounds, but, seriously, my friends are the best).
When I was twelve, my mom died of cancer. Very few twelve-year-olds have an awareness of what to do when a tragedy of that caliber strikes, and they most certainly don’t know what to do when it hits one of their friends. I can say this confidently, not only because this is what I experienced first hand at twelve, but also because I now mentor and work with middle schoolers.
In this season, although a lot of people reached out to me, they were almost like ambulance chasers. They wanted to be close enough to see the drama unfolding, but far enough away to sigh loudly in relief that this did not happen to them.
Of all the people who contacted me, only one friend stands out. Her name was Audrey. One evening, at a sleepover, she asked me about the day my mom died. I could tell that she had been working herself up to ask. She quickly qualified that I didn’t have to answer if it would make me too sad.
Instead, I ended up pouring out my soul. She was the only person, the only friend who had actually asked me about my experience. And it was clear that she wanted to know.
That interaction has been something I have held onto my whole life. I have sought to be someone who asks hard questions and sits next to friends on the couch, eating gallons of ice cream with them as they shed tears. In her book Ghosts, Dolly Alderton writes, “Friendship is being the guardian of another person’s hope. Leave it with me to look after for a while if it feels too heavy for you now.” When I think about my #metoo experience almost five years ago, I can’t help but think of the people who carried me through. I have known people who were willing to carry hope for me when it felt too heavy – I would not have made it through that experience if not for them.
I am so grateful for my people: my friends who listen to me, who believe me, and who are willing to walk alongside me. And I am so grateful that these same people allow me to do the same for them. It is because of this band of friends that I am who I am today.
This guest post was authored by Olivia Swinder
Olivia Swinder is the Communication Coordinator for Young Life in Europe and the author of debut novel, Cynthia Starts a Band (October 2021, Morgan James Fiction). Find more about her and her book here at oliviaswindler.com.