In celebration of National Best Friend Day, BELONG staffer Chris McSwain invites Imani to the blog today. They’re sharing a bit about their friendship and a few things they’ve learned about making it the ‘best.’

Somewhere between the playground and sandbox, this whole friendship thing happens. It’s the ‘I see you, you seem normal (or not), let’s do things together’ kind of deal. Best friendships as kids are easy because life is simple and feelings are less complex than they sometimes get when we grow up, way before we learn to be guarded. But then adulthood and life happen and it becomes harder to connect and be honest and trust with the same openness.

But adult friend-ing was different for us. It actually happened. And it’s lasted.

We weren’t looking for each other. We were in our oh-so-wise 20’s. We each had best friends. We didn’t necessarily need another one…or so we thought. But seven years ago, as two single-in-the-city, unsuspecting, well-on-our-way adults, we connected. We were both Brooklyn ‘church girls’ who loved music and fashion, so we’d run into each other at the same events. Neither of us can pinpoint when it happened exactly, but we each recall seeing and acknowledging the other with the knowing nod of a fellow fashionista. Eventually, a conversation became a connection, daily chats became weekend hangouts, and our shared love of fashion and faith found it’s way to a budding business. And now, we’re basically stuck like glue.

Our seven years doesn’t seem like a long time. But when you’ve experienced as much brokenness and beauty as we have together, it feels like the best kind of forever. We’ve laughed and cried, we pray and argue, and through it all, we stay committed to being present. Our high ‘highs’ and low ‘lows’ have bonded us. Our vulnerability has given us room to be the most honest versions of ourselves. We’ve grown, and we’ve learned some things about ourselves, each other, and friendship in general.

And with that, here are our top eight tips on how to be the best, best friend.

  1. Celebrate your bff’s gifts and goodness without trying to make them your own
    Chris: I wish I was good at all things. I AM NOT. As friends, you will discover gifts in each other that may be enviable. Example: Imani is a brilliant creative visionary and can, with extravagant detail, create whole events with designs and colors and shapes and beauty using her imagination. That is not my gift. I am linear and need charts to even figure out my grocery list. I used to wish I could do that kind of imagining, but I cannot. And that’s perfectly okay.Imani: She’s not kidding about the charts. I’ll never forget the infamous Excel spreadsheet for Christmas gifts a few years ago. But it is this careful, methodical approach to every aspect of life that is one of her many strengths. Her way is: process until the big idea comes into focus while mine is usually: Boom! Big idea, now let’s develop a process for it. The latter is exhausting and can be frustrating to creativity at times. She’s helped me realize that there are several ways to arrive at a desired destination, an idea that my all too often regimented mind won’t allow.
  2.  Carve out intentional time to feed the friendship…and each other.
    Over these last seven years, we’ve lived blocks away from each other, 1500 miles apart, and together in the same house. In each situation, we’ve had to make intentional effort to be present for each other. Whether it’s once a week or once a month, it is valuable and important to spend time.
    Chris: Even if it’s nothing more than scrolling through your phones and laughing at internet nonsense in the same room. Not that we know about that or anything.
    Imani: And there should always be food. ALWAYS.
  3.  Experience the world together
    We’ve traipsed around the country and around the world together and there is nothing as connecting and memory-making as experiencing new cultures and foreign experiences together. Also, you REALLY learn patience and compromise when you have to do activities that one loves and the other does not.
  4.  Have a code language
    Because how else can you alert the other of a cute guy who is WAY too close within earshot without letting him know that you’re plotting on admiring him?
  5.  Give space…and grace.
    Sustaining healthy friendships demands that you give the people who are in relationship with you grace to grow. They are becoming, as are you; the pains that emerge need to be given room. This is not always a good feeling, but a necessary step in the process. We’ve discovered that responsibilities and priorities will forever change and there will be ebbs and flows to our place in one another’s lives, but, the commitment we have to be all of  who God intended for each other never will.
  6.  Have the hard conversations. Then have them again.
    Disagreements aren’t fun. Conflict is never on the list of top five things you want to do in a day. But our truest, most honest and connecting moments have come when we’ve talked through offense and met in the middle. Hard conversations are hard. But they are also sanctifying. Keep having them.
  7.  Out-give each other, sacrifice and share.
    Chris: There was that one time when I moved halfway across the country and Imani split the 24-hour drive with me. Admittedly, any longer than three hours in a car makes her itch and decay a little bit, but she did it JUST FOR ME. I’ll cherish that forever.
    Imani: And then the time, a year prior when I packed up enough clothes to survive in a new state but left an entire one-bedroom apartment fully furnished. My intention was to return in a few months to pack and collect my belongings after landing a full-time job and housing but…life. So instead of letting me spend money (I didn’t have) to fly back, Chris  went to my old apartment every day after work for three days straight and boxed up every single thing. And trust me, I had a lot of things. I didn’t ask her to, she just did. That is her way.
  8. Learn all their beauty angles.
    Because who else will take 74 versions of the same picture for your next Instagram post without throwing your phone to the ground in defiance? ONLY BEST FRIENDS.

‘BEST’ friendship is invaluable and refining and ferociously beautiful.  It’s the safest space for your crazy ideas and quirky moments. It is challenges and selfies; hatching plans, prayers, pruning and pizza at 1 a.m. It is acceptance and encouragement. It is being both fully known and fully loved…and belly-laughing in the process.

It’s just…the very best thing.  Happy National Best Friend Day.

Photo by: Alex Stone photography, 2016