“We need to remember what’s important in life: friends, waffles*, work. Or waffles, friends, work. Doesn’t matter, but work is third.” —Leslie Knope, fictional icon of our time.
Whether or not you share Leslie Knope’s love of breakfast food, I hope her priorities ring true to you. From navigating the woes of high school to surviving a pandemic, my friends (and our shared breakfasts) have not only helped me through every stage and season of life thus far, but they’ve made each moment infinitely better. As a result, I am a strong believer that female friendships are essential to survival.
Growing up, my grandma often shared stories about traveling with her girlfriends. Her girl gang played wildly competitive card games until 3 a.m., attended shows in New York City, and fell in love with the dumplings in China. They planned regular trips, left their husbands behind, and explored the world together. To this day, those travels and friendships are some of her most treasured memories.
Obviously, I haven’t always been able to jet off to foreign countries with my gals, so we had to start small. In high school, we meticulously planned anti-Valentine’s Day evenings (we were not dramatic at all). We would go to P.F. Changs and order The Great Wall of Chocolate dessert and talk about how we “totally don’t need boys, we are thriving and we have each other” but also I “have a crush on so-and-so…” We’ve since put a positive spin on our Valentine weekends—thank you, Parks & Rec for the Galentine’s Day inspiration—because celebrating friendship feels necessary and significant.
In college, our group of gals regularly escaped to small Michigan towns up north to camp on the weekends, marveling at how the weight of life lifted as soon as we left the city and were surrounded by trees. We sat around the crackling fire with hobo pies at night and lattes in the morning, soaking in the quiet of the woods and the comfort of each other’s company.
Now we are all scattered across the country and usually have to discuss our dreams over Zoom calls rather than around a warming campfire. But regardless of distance, our friendships have kept us all sane, especially in a year like this one. My friends know where I’ve been and can see—usually better than I can—where I’m going. Most days, they have more faith that my story is laced with beauty than I do. And their reminders continually bring me back to the truth.
So, here’s to my Galentines: Thank you for every early morning breakfast date and every night spent watching Gilmore Girls with a pizza all to ourselves. Every car ride singing at the top of our lungs with the windows down, every swim in our beloved Lake Michigan, every pep-talk phone call and every trip to Trader Joe’s and every daily reminder that while life is never easy, it can be full of laughter and hope and joy.
I have written in countless birthday cards, “I don’t know where I would be without you,” but to you, my Galentines, that sentiment is always genuine and true. Without your encouragement and belief and stories and companionship, there’s no telling where I would be.
“It could mean something.
It could mean everything.” —Mary Oliver
My friends, you mean everything to me.
*insert your favorite breakfast food here
Olivia graduated from Calvin in May 2018 with a double major in business and writing. She now works as an editor in Nashville, Tennessee and is eating her way through the restaurants of her new town. She enjoys weekend trips with friends, petting other people’s dogs, and drinking coffee like a Gilmore Girl.