Alicia Mulkey #empoweredWritten

In the summer of 2014, my work friend Laura invited me out for dinner with her friends Alicia and Jess.* The four of us met up on a beautiful patio, sipped wine, shared appetizers, and it was one of those lovely evenings when the conversation flows and laughter comes easily and often. I walked away at the end of the night feeling giddy, like I’d had a dreamy first date after a long dry spell. 

And in a way, I had. 

It’s day 17 of the #empoweredWritten project, I’ve been spilling my heart out on the internet for 2.5 weeks and I’m writing this late at night, so let’s just go ahead and get vulnerable: at that time in my life, I didn't have a single local girlfriend. I had a bunch of friendly coworkers, but most were men, and we were mostly just compatible as drinking buddies. Since moving to Columbus in 2010, I’d had dozens of false starts and unrequited girl crushes. I had two platonic heartbreaks in 2013, within weeks of each other. But I had zero friends. 

Anyone who knows me well (or has been following this blog…#queenoftheovershare) knows that I've always been an introvert with some social anxiety — but I also deeply value my female friendships (see literally any post). But after four years of trying and failing to make girlfriends, I was a mess. I was a borderline hermit with some seriously negative self-talk, and it felt like a goddamn MIRACLE to have spent an evening with three smart, fun women who seemed to enjoy my company. 

And so, I mustered up my courage, did my best to play it cool, and started courting Alicia. First another group hang with Laura and her friends, where I was able to confirm our friend chemistry. Then, an appropriately timed friend request. My cautious texts were received warmly. I joined the same gym as her, and we became workout buddies. As the months passed, a beautiful friendship grew, and I was like a freaking butterfly fresh out of my cocoon of loneliness. 

Because, as it turns out, female friendship isn’t just fun, it’s a total necessity for my mental health. Once I felt confident that a woman I liked and admired also liked me, there was a ripple effect in every part of my life. My relationship with my significant other improved — partially because I wasn’t whining all the time about my loneliness, but also because I didn’t feel the need to cling to him like he was my life raft in unfriendly seas. I was able to rein in all the excessive drinking with my work buddies, because I no longer felt that getting drunk was the only activity that people wanted to engage in with me. You better believe that I only started thinking about forging my own path as an entrepreneur once I felt confident that the things I had to say would be appreciated by others. Obviously my health improved, because I was working out with Alicia instead of drinking with coworkers. And here’s the most magical thing: I started making more friends. I guess confidence is attractive?

Alicia has become my Columbestie, and life is way better with her in it. She’s hilarious and fun, she’s someone I can talk to for hours or text about the most random things, and she’s incredibly supportive of Written Paper Goods. But until now, I’ve never told her just how lonely I was before she came along, for fear that it would change how she saw me, and make me less desirable as a friend. 

But I think I finally understand that the key to making and sustaining friendships is trusting that you are worthy — that you, too, are bestie material. 

*I have a hunch that Laura knew all along that I didn't have friends, and was secretly playing platonic matchmaker. <3