There have certainly been times in my adult life I felt isolated. There have been seasons when, outside of my marriage, I felt like I was going it alone. I longed for connection with certain peer groups and through certain life experiences.

I’ve had friendships that were short term or surface level, and at times, those connections felt lacking and sometimes frustrating. I’ve also mourned the loss of friendships that were deep and beloved but evolved into different things as people and lives changed.

I know now those people and relationships were pivotal in my journey of finding me and my people.

I have grieved some of those connections and the beautiful people I’ve known in my life, but I give thanks for them. What I know now is the path we each take and the people we meet along the way lead us to the place we are meant to be. I have been surprised to find the women I cherish most don’t fit any one mold. I wish I had known what a gift friendship among women would be.

I wish I had known that women of my grandmothers’ generation would teach me about tradition, service, commitment, and the power of food and fellowship, all while pshhing my generation’s Weight Watchers points and obsession with social media.

I wish I had known that women with an extra 15 years of life would become my lifeline—that their wisdom and perspective would save my life and their love and guidance would give me hope.

I wish I had known that my peers would choose directions all their own and that in our differences we would find bravery, strength, and inspiration.

I wish I had known that the girls I cared for when they were young children would grow into amazing women who would inspire me with their grit and moxie.

I wish I had known that my people would come from all walks of life and different generations—that we would each have our own histories, personalities, and preferences.

I wish I had known, but I’m so happy to be uncovering this truth in my own time.

It has been the slow opening of a gift. I’m grateful to be discovering the treasure that is true friendship among women of all ages and life experiences. I am grateful for the leadership, camaraderie, and sisterhood in this band of women I call my own. I am grateful for the differences that set us all apart while somehow bonding us all together.

What a blessing it is to realize that my people don’t all need to like or even know each other. We don’t need to all sit together in one room and live in perfect harmony. There is not a membership quota or limit. I claim my people as my own, not in ownership or possession, but in love and respect. They have friends that are not my own, and vice versa. Healthy adult relationships in no way resemble the cliques from my childhood. Honest friendships in adulthood are forgiving, pliable, and understanding. Ah, what an honor it is to be a part of this band.

These women motivate and encourage me. Somehow, as we each live the lives we’ve been given, we are gifted with the opportunity to help each other along the way. We share the blessings of life with food, fellowship, prayer, loyalty, laughter, grief, honesty, confession, encouragement, support, and mentorship.

My own daughter has the privilege of witnessing this beautiful tapestry of women supporting women in my life. She sees us making time for each other. She sees us praying, laughing, and loving. She sees our differences and our similarities. I pray she sees there are seasons when there is more take than give and as the tides change our roles change with them.

As she grows and matures, I pray my daughter seeks the counsel of those who have gone before her and reaches out to encourage those around her. When she broaches adulthood and seeks mentorship and support from other women, I hope she finds it. With each season of life, my desire is that she will know there is strength in our similarities and in our differences.

I hope she understands not every person along the way is meant to be in our lives forever, but sometimes, the most beautiful friendships come from those in different stages of life. When she is someday charting a career or navigating marriage or embracing motherhood, I hope she puts herself out there and finds herself amid generations of women who know the power we all hold when we band together and let each other in. When the day comes that she stops to consider her people, I hope she looks back at my example and says, “I wish Mom had told me how amazing this would be, but I’m so grateful she showed me instead.”

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Mandy McCarty Harris

Mandy McCarty Harris lives happily in Northwest Arkansas with her husband, toddler daughter, two old dogs, and seven backyard chickens. She loves camping, hiking, gardening, reading, and writing about it all. She can be found on Facebook, Instagram, and at HappyLikeThis.com