“Keep Your Head Up, Keep Your Head Up. Whenever this life gets tough, you gotta fight with your homegirls standing your left and your right. True blue and tight like glue.”
Living Single is probably my favorite sitcom ever. If you’re unfamiliar with the iconic sitcom, it’s based around four black women and their two male housemates, living together in their Brooklyn brownstone. Successful, black and living in a non gentrified Brooklyn, the women were inspirational to me. They were black women who had fruitful careers, real conversations with each other and a friendship that could not be broken, no matter the circumstances the world threw at them. They were grown but they were still just figuring it all out with the help of their friends (albeit sometimes unwarranted). Just as their creator, Yvette Lee Bowser, had intended, the foursome’s interpersonal dynamics was real, intense, frank and funny. My sophomore year of college, I almost planned my entire schedule around its showings on TVOne. That’s how much I love Living Single.
But despite my exhaustive efforts, it seemed that I could not recreate those same relationships in real life. In terms of friends, I was mostly alone. I had friends but I found myself profoundly detached from them, no matter how close I believed they should be. I was infamous for falling out with best friends. Truth be told, I didn’t think I needed them when it was all said and done. I rationalized, “I came into this world alone and caskets don’t have bunk beds.” Their presence was never a given so I learned how to be alone. I supposed I wasn’t as invested as I thought but either way, it didn’t really matter to me. It wasn’t until I found myself truly alone that I changed my mind.
My last full year of college, I was going through it. A relationship had fallen through, my workload was ridiculous and my friend had been murdered. And to add to the stress, I was graduating with no clue what to do after graduation. I hadn’t really known what it was like to be thrown into a pit of uncertainty. Even now, I call that period– this period– my grey period. Like a fog, it settled in and clouded my life. I found myself unemployed, a college graduate with no “real world” job prospects and stuck in a place I had never truly been before. A place where I had to face the absolute uncertainty head on, no warm-up. The loneliness was stifling. It eventually swallowed me whole. There were days I would end up on the floor, crying in anger. When people called me, it was largely to ask for something or to shoulder their emotional burdens. I had a phone full of “friends” who somehow only texted me when they needed something. Deeper and deeper, I sunk into the debilitating fog. It silenced me, blinded me and cut me until I was too dazed to fight against it.
For the first time in my life, I couldn’t save myself.
My optimism had failed me. My resourcefulness was out of resources. My thoughts no longer worked to keep me afloat. Instead, they dragged me down. I was honestly drowning in sadness, desperately trying to reach the surface, to breathe again. I was so alone. Or so I thought.
The night I broke through, I was aware I was supposed to be working on something but my mind wasn’t there. Like Cranes in the Sky (which is, incidentally, what we were working on). The fog was all heavy and it clouded my mind. Shanté was texting me but I distinctly remember not being able to follow the conversation. I had watched a really funny episode of ATLANTA, I don’t quite remember what it was about. My body was on autopilot but inside, I was clearly malfunctioning. The dirge of my happy thoughts was the only thing I could follow. It made me angry. Angry enough to tweet about it.
In a series of tweets, I admitted I couldn’t maintain the happy facade everyone seemed to know, love and mooch from. I admitted I wasn’t happy. I admitted the loneliness contained me. I admitted I was stuck in the dark, no way out. I admitted it all. It felt good, like I was lashing out against the sadness but I didn’t think it would help in the long run. It was like the last distress flare, the last light in a fight against the dark. I got a sympathetic tweet from a stranger which I appreciated but I knew after, it would soon be time to succumb to the darkness.
But what happened after the admission of my state of weakness was something I never expected. Instead of the depraved indifference I had come to know, I found my sisters. Like fireflies, my friends, my real friends came through to light the darkness of the night, to lead me through the dark.
“Vent to me,” texted Jackie who had read my desperate tweets.
“You good? Something feels off,” texted Shanté.
A show of concern for me. I was a bit amazed. I told Jackie I was surprised anyone even cared.
I felt myself blossom a bit. For the first time in a long time, I felt like the relationships I had were watering me. That night, I talked about my problems, the way it was crushing me. They listened. Baring my vulnerabilities with nothing more to lose, they began to heal me. Bit by bit, they patched me up and encouraged me. With that patch up, I went to other close friends of mine and told them my dilemmas, my problems. I finally let myself crash within their circle of protection. But with their encouragement, it didn’t feel like crashing. It felt more like a demolition, leading to a new creation. I had a new direction. My prayers had been answered. I actually had friends who cared about me for me. Even stripped of anything I could give them, they were there for me, for my spirit.
Time told me I was right. When I felt like the darkness was eating a hole in my chest, their light healed me. With them, I felt I could shed my outward armor and reveal my vulnerabilities. Cloaked in their love, I feel divinely inspired and supported. I can only hope that I reciprocate the light they provide me with. The women I had known as friends slowly became sisters sent to me from the divine. My wings, my sisters, my saviors. They remind me of rose quartz as talking to them inspires love, light and a fierce protection from anything the world could cook up. Real friends had found me.
Khadijah, Maxine, Reginé and Sinclair were grown women who cared for each other, hyped and supported each other. But at the core of their friendship, there was a thread of genuine love and care. They were more than friends; on the show, they were often closer than some of their family. They had found what we call now “their tribe” in the middle of 90s Brooklyn. And that fateful November night, I found mine.
Queen Latifah was right. When this life gets tough, I found myself fighting with my friends, right on speed dial. It’s safe to say, in this 00’s kind of world, I’m so glad to have my girls.
Dedicated to my celestial sisters who encouraged me when I thought I had nothing left. Not by blood but by soul.