“Where are all my friends?” I’ve heard that line sung countless times in the last couple years, every time I close my eyes and wait for the goosebumps, soak in the energy in the room, the applauding and cheering that comes immediately after. I’m usually standing in the middle of a group of friends when I hear it, some of them my closest friends, I talk to daily, others that I only really see when we’re all there to see the same band.
It took me a long time to find my friends, even longer to admit that I deserved them, was worthy of friendship. In the last three years, it’s become my normal. Jetting off to a city for a weekend or even a day, meeting my friends. They’re scattered all over, different states and countries, but once a month of so we’d meet at a hotel.
The very first convention my husband had to all but push me out the door. I went with one of my whole two friends at the time, guilt ridden about leaving the children and if I’m honest, downright panicky about all of it, being away from my husband, being around strangers and crowds, so many unknowns. I was terrified.
One year later, I was on a plane by myself, going to a city I’d never been to, to work the table and share a room with someone I didn’t know, I couldn’t imagine my life without her now.
I overcame fear and anxiety and a crazy amount of self-doubt. Over the last three years I have pieced together a life that I love. I have found friends that truly get me and all my crazy, they know I’m a lot and they still love me. I can acknowledge that now without qualifying it, without wondering or worrying if they all secretly hate me. I can leave now, for a weekend, sometimes longer, without guilt or anxiety. I’ve learned to navigate airports and public transportation in new cities.
I have found my home on a rooftop bar in Austin, a Hilton in Minnesota, an Air BnB in Columbus, my friends’ basement in Chicago, a venue in Atlanta, countless hotels from Seattle to Jacksonville, New York to Texas.
The pandemic put a quick halt to my travels. I miss those places desperately; I miss those people even more. In the three years since I stumbled onto this path, I haven’t gone this long without seeing them, at least one. At first, I was concerned that this would be the end of it. Unaccustomed to having friends, I worried that the lack of travel, conventions, concerts, combined with the end of the show that brought us together might be enough to end the friendships, with nothing to plan, we would all just drift apart.
Fortunately, that’s not what happened. We’ve spent the past seven months lifting each other and at times wallowing together. There have been daily messages, virtual cocktail hours, phone calls, we’re trying. It’s different now, and it might stay that way, we all know that. The show ending will change things too. We are planning for trips and events we know are unlikely, as a distraction from the chaos around us. We don’t know for certain when we will see each other again, or if the gatherings we love will return, and if they do what they will look like. Like everyone we keep pressing on, uncertain, and with wavering hope.
I’ve realilzed lately that it’s not really just the places I miss or even what we do. I miss the conventions, and ops and seeing the cast, I really miss live music and my friends, but I also miss who I am when I’m with them, the good they bring out in me.
When I left my first convention it was with the intent that I wanted to be the person I found I could be there in my everyday life. I’ve taken steps in that direction and continue to do so, I barely recognize the person I was before. The influence of these amazing women has continued to encourage growth and change, and I miss that.
I miss being ok without a routine, without predictability, having no plan for meals or sleep. I miss the spontaneity of wandering a new city, conversations about civic duty and social justice, sprinkled with sarcasm and bad jokes, and the energy that’s found in a group of like-minded people. Of course, I miss the fun, the silliness, the questionable choices. For someone who colored in the lines for so long, was so scared of anything out of my control, these adventures have been exhilarating and fueled much of the change I’ve experienced. I’ve flown across the country to stay with a stranger, I hired her not too long after, I’ve taken road trips with people I’d only met in person twice, I’m missing people I’ve never rarely seen outside of a Hilton.
I miss them, and our adventures, and who they have helped me become. I’m finding it a little harder after months at home to hang onto to some of those aspects that were still new to me. Quarantine hasn’t been good for anyone’s mental health, and I’m finding it easy to fall back into old patterns, predictability, controlling what I can, I’m trying to fall back too far.
They are still here, a text, a Skype, a call away. We can still talk and cry and laugh and complain, turns out we don’t even need to be together in person to make questionable choices. We’re still planning and hoping, helping each other through trying and terrifying times. Yes, I know where my friends are, here where they have always been waiting with me for the next chance to break the monotony.
***If you’re unfamiliar with the song I’m referencing, check out Louden Swain’s Rock Song here***