In my early 30s, I was single with no children and spent most of my free time working on my female friendships. Everyone was busy with graduate school, leaning in at work, having babies, writing books or all of the above. I was physically present for small and big moments in my friends' lives.
Fast forward a few years later and my life telescoped. I was no longer single and had two small children. My friends, while still important, were no longer the center of my emotional world. They weren't exactly on the back burner, but they weren't on the main one either.
I accepted that I was a person to whom even her closest friends sometimes said, "I haven't talked to you in ages! Where've you been?" The truth was that I now preferred solitude. Where previously I used a walk from the office to the gym as a chance to catch up with a friend, I now wanted to enjoy the calm.
Since November 9, 2016, however, everything has changed.
The morning after the election, I woke up after three fitful hours of sleep, dazed and terrified about the future. Of course, I wasn't alone. My phone lit up with texts from friends—some were checking on me, others were responding to my "Are you OK?" texts from the middle of the night.
Through the next week, we held each other as we had through other crises, including the death of beloved parents, the loss of dream jobs, and crippling financial insecurity. Our pain was more than shock and disappointment. It was real fear for our babies whose healthcare was now in jeopardy, our husbands and sons whose skin color might provoke the use deadly force at a traffic stop, and our foreign-born or LGBT family members who might face unspeakable prejudice.
It was genuine terror, grief, and anguish.
And the only way to survive a marathon is to stay with your pack, drafting off stronger members when your legs are cramping, and surging to the front when your energy is restored.
And as the rest of the year played out, we realized it was worse than we thought. This was no sprint, this was going to be a marathon. And the only way to survive a marathon is to stay with your pack, drafting off stronger members when your legs are cramping, and surging to the front when your energy is restored.
As I head into the marathon of resistance and political activism, I no longer value solitude above all else, nor do I derive the same pleasure from quiet moments alone.
That kind of solitude is the ultimate privilege, and it's a luxury I can no longer afford. To see a friend calling and refuse her, put her off, or push the button to make the phone stop vibrating on my desk is worse than a missed opportunity to connect with a friend. It's a hostile act, one that rends the bonds of a relationship by saying, "I see you, but I'm simply not available to you." It feels unconscionable when every single one of my friends is gravely worried about basic civil liberties, healthcare, and safety.
And, no, my friends don't call exclusively in moments of crisis. Sometimes they call to talk through whether they should invite the whole kindergarten class to their son's birthday party. Plenty of the moments we've shared since November have been light-hearted, punctuated by belly laughs, and have nothing to do with politics.
The thing is, you just don't know why someone is calling you until you pick up the phone. Maybe your friend is calling about the spelling bee results or with news that she's pregnant, but then again, maybe she's curled up in a ball after watching the confirmation hearing for the new Secretary of Education and terrified for her autistic son.
And because there's no way to know, I want to be someone whose reliability rate is greater than 50/50. I want to be the friend who picks up the phone, shows up for coffee, and can be counted on to for the big and small stuff. We are going to need each other in the months and years ahead for inspiration, support, levity, and fortitude, which means it's time to let go of guarding my precious alone time like it's the Hope Diamond.
After the election, President Obama told his daughters Sasha and Malia that their job "as a citizen and as a decent human being is to constantly affirm and lift up and fight for treating people with kindness and respect and understanding." I'm taking up that charge, starting with my circle friends who are preparing for the daunting work of resistance. They deserve to be on my front burner, where there is plenty of heat and room for all.
The solitude can wait. There is work to do. And the first step is taking care of each other.