If you lived your teens/early twenties in the 2010’s, chances are you’ve been in a group chat or two. You know, the ones you randomly made one day to plan something and then just never left? You don’t talk on it every day maybe, but you enjoy the memes and the stickers, and every now and then the excellent (or just plain ridiculous) banter reminds you why you’re there.
I have been in a dozen or more such group chats over the years, but there’s one that’s really close to my heart. It has five girls in it – me and four of my closest friends. We survived high school together and the last time the five of us were physically in the same room together might have been six years ago. We went on to live very different lives, spread across three continents. But this group chat somehow persisted through it all – university anxiety, family stress, heartbreak, first real jobs, crippling depression, a marriage and its dissolution, first car purchase, a car crash, the birth of a business – the five of us experienced all this and more, somehow in it together despite the distances separating us.
Each of us bring our distinct perspective and humor to the group – there’s A, always making us laugh with her ability to see the funny in any situation, N with her calm headed logic, perhaps the most sensible of us all. J is there to join me in feeling the feels whenever I have the whim. R flits in and out, but whenever she’s there, her booming laugh (somehow, I hear it through text too) and “keep it real” attitude makes us appreciate life in the moment, regardless of what’s going on in the background. I see myself as the one on an unstable boat, holding on to my rocks to keep myself from floating too far away. What we all have in common, however, is a whole lot of love for each other, a strict resolution to not settle for any less than what we want out of life, and some truly terrible jokes.
Society pits women against women regularly, telling us we can only win if the others lose. There’s supposedly secret envious thoughts behind every congratulations and feelings of relief when your friend fails at a chance to get ahead of you. This group chat is the evidence I hold up when I call bullshit on all that. I have cried tears of pride when N co-launched her own business, cried tears of sorrow when J lost something so precious, and most other emotions in between on behalf of these four, and I know they have too. A lot of girls proudly claim that they get along better with boys than girls and would much rather be friends with them. In high school, I took great pleasure in being treated like a “bro” by some boys (who are still my close friends to this day). But while there’s plenty of reasons to take pride in your individuality, being told “you’re not like the other girls” is not one of them. Because, guess what, most other women? Yeah, they’re pretty great.
Thankfully, the turbulent years of my late teens and early twenties taught me a few life lessons. I think most people crave the company of people they can relate to – venting about a problem is so much more satisfying when the other person understands the context of your life. Growing up as a girl, and more so a brown girl from a very brown family, living and studying and now working in spaces where white is the default, can be a very isolating experience without the right company. Today there’s online groups like Subtle Curry Girl Traits, where women from all over the world come together to hold each other up and lend sympathetic ears. It’s what my girls and I have been doing in our little group chat for the past six years, albeit at a more global stage.
The connection I feel to this group chat is like no other – I reach for it equally in times of distress and joy, knowing that they will both commiserate with me and celebrate with me genuinely. The five of us are very different people in our own ways, but we are united in that fact that we want the very best for each other. This leads to a lot of no-holds barred conversations and tough love. When I was at my lowest, these girls were there, ready to fight off the demons in my mind to the best of their abilities. To an extent, they got me where I am today (still somewhat a mess, but with more belief in myself than before and crying jags reduced to about once a month!).
This is a love letter to them, the group chat that endured it all.