Tag Archives: BlackList

With A Little Help From My Friends

Friendship is a wonderful gift. I have great friends … specifically I have great girlfriends. It seems that my college girlfriends are the closest type of friendships – we became the people we are today because of those friendships. We grew together and became sisters, if I can get away with that much Southern gooey sweetness. We are blunt with each other, brutally honest at times, but never hurtful. We are honest and direct with each other, but they are the first to call me on my crazy. And I do the same. We love each other unconditionally but not blindly.

We often compare other friendships to the ones we share together, the one we all keep on a pedestal. We often tease that we feel bad for women who don’t have real friendships (read here about frenemies) like ours. And we are only half kidding, we are seriously unapologetic about our own awesomeness. Make no mistake my friends and I are not without our flaws. I think the key to our enduring relationship is that we don’t expect perfection, we don’t run at the first sign of discourse. We hold each other up during the hard times and laugh through the good times.

The bizarre part of this wonderfully perfect friendship? It was developed through forced “togetherness” of several young women who I, at the time, felt that we were all different from one another.

As a kid my family moved several times to accommodate my father’s employer which meant I ended up attending elementary, middle and high school in different states. All that moving really got in the way of long-term friendships.

Making friends was particularly difficult for me as I was shy and awkward around new people. Seriously, I threw up on my shoes my first day of middle school. I had a tendency to talk too much or laugh too loud when I was nervous and then chastise myself later for not acting appropriately. Like most wallflowers, I spent most of my time just trying to blend in. I became so good at blending in that I eventually became invisible. Or at least that’s how I felt.

I was eager to move on to college where I had this notion that I would finally get to be myself, finally be free of cliques and the insatiable loneliness that I had come to know. I would finally become visible.

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And in 1999 it happened. I was invited to become a part of a legendary club called The BlackList. There is no rush or recruitment for honorary clubs, no bid day or membership tea, invitations are extended only to the 13 best juniors on campus. I was thrilled that my school’s coolest and baddest bee-otches wanted me.

I vaguely remember those first meetings with my new “sisters,” I was still as awkward as I was that first day of middle school except with less vomit, which I counted as a win. They, however, all seemed like rare, exotic and graceful animals. I was smitten with the idea that these girls would be my long-lost forever friends. But, as we know, friendships don’t just happen because you are placed in a group together and encouraged to bond. There were many times when we couldn’t hold our group together because we didn’t know how to hold each other up. There were times when we couldn’t see past our own ambition. I won’t lie – we had our growing pains. We had our cliques. We had our catty moments. They were certainly some cat-fighting and tears.

But slowly and surely there was a shift. It was so subtle at first we hardly noticed it but there was a change in our perspective. Somewhere along the way we became less interested in reaching the end of a goal and more interested in encouraging each other and enjoying the ride. We began to bolster our strengths and smooth out our rough spots. We became each other’s cheerleaders, counselors and best friends.

And as for me, I’m no longer the wallflower trying to fit in and just get by. I laugh loudly and proudly whenever I get the chance and don’t apologize for who I am. These women helped me SEE myself when they began to SEE me. I’m no longer invisible.

This last week, I’ve spent a lot of time “liking” and “commenting” on Facebook photos with abandon. Seriously it’s been a problem, but a good problem that I have enjoyed immensely. This weekend many generations of women will celebrate 100 years of the BlackList Honorary Social Club, the club that brought them all together, just it did me and my friends. This once in a lifetime celebration has spurred a sort of countdown to the homecoming festivities this weekend, and alumni far and wide have been posting pictures from their college days. I have loved pouring over the baby faces and teased hair of women I knew only as grown-ups when I, myself, was a baby-faced college kid. Even as a 19-year-old naive kid, I knew that by joining this club I was becoming part of something bigger than myself, something that would change my life. And boy was I right.

In addition to the 100th birthday of our club, the women who joined this club with me celebrate a milestone of our own. This is our 15-year anniversary. 15 years, that’s longer than I’ve known my husband.

To close out our acknowledgement of Women’s History Month here at Am I Being Catty, I would like to honor the women, the friends, the sisters that have changed me for the better (and sometimes for the worse, but that’s a blog that has yet to be written!).

I noticed something today in those pictures from the club’s past and the friendships chronicled in them. These were not just pictures of college days and shenanigans, although those are fabulous. These were pictures that told stories of relationships that crossed ages and miles. They were pictures of friends dressed as bridesmaids, friends holding newborns, friends comforting in grief, friends visiting after significant illness, friends’ children playing together. They were pictures of women loving each other as true friends. They were pictures that showed the power of girlfriends.

I won’t lie. We still gossip, get our feelings hurt, have miscommunications … and yes, we can be catty with each other. But there’s something to be said for a friendship that survives through the good times and bad times. It may not be that our friendship is particularly more special than others, it may just be that we know how to survive the hard times better and can move on from them faster.

Hug your friends tight. Here’s to another 15 years, ladies. And another 50 after that.

Ashley

 

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My Personal Celebration of Women’s History

Celebrating the Women Who Made Me

It’s March.  It’s Women’s History Month.  And when we began discussing fabulous historical females here at #AIBC, I kept hitting walls.  I was never that great at historical timelines and dates… I cannot tell you who the 17th President of the United States (or any of the others for that matter) was.  I’m better at recognizing the voice of a singer about 10 seconds into a song.  But I CAN remember the women who have made a difference in my history so far, and today I would like to thank them.

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It is cliche to start with my mother, so I won’t go into great detail, but she is obviously where I began.  She is the source of my kindness, my compassion, my deep rooted desire to give back and help others, my sense of family, and an amazing example of being the glue that holds everything together.  It goes without saying that she should be mentioned, but she deserves an eternity of recognition and celebration all her own.  So I will move on for now.

The single event that will forever shape my life?  As a child, I had cancer.

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Dr. Judy Ochs was my pediatric oncologist when I was a patient at St. Jude.  She is the reason I wanted to enter health care, from a very young age.  She gave me the stethoscope off her neck and told me I could be a doctor when I grew up.  She was brilliant, kind, and loving.  If I could reach out and connect with her today, I would not even begin to know how to thank her.  She was part of the team that fought to give me a future.  You can’t make much more of an investment in someone.  I owe her a great deal.

 

The most formative years for a person are their school years.  The list of amazing females I encountered along the way is long.  Miss Lyle was was the first teacher I ever had.  Kindergarten.  I could read, say the ABC’s – she loved me and I was officially enamoured with being the teacher’s pet.  I may not remember why, or what made me stand out to her, but she always supported me, and throughout my life she would brag about how fantastic I was.  That does wonders for a girl’s self esteem.  Especially when said girl has zero self confidence, and gets picked on quite frequently.  For seeing something great in me, I would like to thank her.

Mrs. Linda Arant kindled my love for music and to this day that carries over into every aspect of my life.  Mrs. Sarah Love encouraged me to excell at everything I could get my hands on.  I still try to do it all.  Sometimes that is hard, but I thrive under pressure and I truly thank her for showing me I could do anything.  Mrs. Pam Shelton taught me how to type fast and blessed me with the invaluable etiquette skills I still reference to this very day.  In addition, she was strong-willed and never took no for an answer.  When she believed in something, by damn it was going to be a success.  Ms. Carrie Boykin was the popular teacher in our high school.  I could never really tell if she liked me, but that kept me on my toes.  She dealt out the tough love with directness.  I definitely wasn’t teacher’s pet, and she helped me develop a thick skin and a sense of independence while somehow influencing my future career path. Carrie taught me to fight for the things I wanted to achieve because they sure as hell were not going to be handed to me.  For that, I am grateful.

Mississippi University for Women.  There were so many influential encounters with fantastic women in college.  I cannot list them all or I would be writing for days.  Classmates, professors, friends…but heads and shoulders above most are the women of the Highlander and BlackList Social Clubs.  These are the sisters I never had, the friends that last the rest of your lifetime, the people that rush to your side when you are in need and when you are celebrating life’s successes, these women are my family.   The connections with all of the incredible women I met along the way are literally still a part of my life every single day – I truly am the person I am today because I was a W Girl.

Female Scientists in the Laboratory.  Lynn Ingram, Jackie Li, and Donna Patterson…  These women have shaped me more than they will ever know.  Tough love, directness, honesty, compassion, and true friendship are the commonalities among the three, but each of them are special to me in very different ways.  Lynn took me under her wing and gave me every opportunity for professional growth and development I could have ever imagined while also becoming like a mother to me.  I can rely on her to call me out when I am getting out of line.  Jackie Li is brilliant, a very hard worker, dedicated to being a good steward and providing quality patient care while also maintaining a very high level of professionalism.  The day she told me that I reminded her of herself, I knew she was invested in helping me be the best I could be, and she has pushed me more than any manager or supervisor ever has before.  I have learned so much from her.  Donna Patterson amazes me daily, and I am so lucky to have the opportunity to learn from her and grow as a leader in my profession.  She balances work and life better than anyone I have ever known, but she does not miss a beat in the process.  She knows everything going on in our department every minute while still being willing to take the time to give me advice and answer the smallest quetions.  I can only hope to be like Donna when I grow up.

I have missed many women in this post because there is no way to mention them all.  However, I would like to challenge you to think about the women that have played a role in your life.  How did they each shape you?  How did they help you to succeed?  Did they make you the person you are today?

Happy Women’s History Month!  Try to celebrate the women that are important to you everyday — you don’t need anyone’s permission to do so!

ZenKitty
#ThankYou
#WomensHistory