So, picking up where I left off, picture this: I’ve just made it to NYC to begin my long-awaited birthday weekend. A group of my dearest, bestest, most loved girlfriends is waiting for me. And after multiple delayed/cancelled/whatever flights, I’m finally on my way to cocktails. Finally.
After a while in the taxi spent winding our way through New York’s famed traffic pile ups, the driver pulled up at Beauty & Essex, our dinner destination of choice. Finally.
And then this:
Holy s***t. Well, there you go. I breathed a sigh of… something. I’d realised that despite my marathon efforts, I was going to miss dinner anyway. I couldn’t help but laugh. I jumped back in the cab and directed the driver to our Airbnb.
Arriving, I gathered all remaining strength and dragged my bags to the front door. I drew a breath. I couldn’t believe how close I was to seeing my beautiful friends. Before I could even exhale, the door swung open to reveal three, smiling, giggling humans who immediately thew their arms around me. Tears and hugs all ‘round.
Needless to say, after a few hours of complete hell, everything felt exactly the same. It felt perfect. It felt like home.
You know, last week’s International Women’s Day really hammered home for me that life just wouldn’t be the same without the strong, capable, inspiring women in my life. As well as being a recount of our epic, adventurous, heart-warming weekend away, this post is also a shout-out to my girlfriends the world over. Ladies, you’ve given me courage and strength where I lacked it. You have supported me and accepted me exactly as I am.
This post is for you, and may it inspire your very own girlfriend-filled getaways!
With the aim of disclosing full and juicy details, I’m going to give code-names to the friends who joined me in NYC.
You know what? Let’s call them Summer, Winter, and Spring.
Welcome to our world.
Summer was one of the first friends I met in London in early 2007. We worked together, and she sat at the desk behind me. Summer is American and her accent was more-than-noticeable in an office full of Brits. Whenever she’d spell out her then-surname, which contained a ‘z’, her concentration regarding pronunciation of the letter ‘z’ (/zed/ not /zee/) was palpable.
Everything about this was endearing. I can’t quite remember just how things evolved, but we became firm friends for the entire time I lived in London, and have remained that way ever since.
Ah, Winter. She’s a tall, intelligent, and driven Amazonian woman. At first I wasn’t sure what to make of her. She was quite standoffish and toeing that awkward line between confidence and rudeness. Or was she? Perhaps I was intimidated. Anyway, as can often be the case with some of the most complex and important friends, these first impressions seemed to fall by the wayside, and Winter and I – slowly but surely – became close friends. We lived together in a palatial Brick Lane penthouse (ah, those were the days), travelled the world together, cried together, shared heartbreak together, and more. She’s still one of my closest friends and great supports and even though she now lives in South Africa, distance doesn’t diminish the friendship.
Also, Winter came to NYC despite having a three-year-old and twin five-month-olds. Superhero effort.
It was Winter who introduced me to Spring. I was looking for a flat mate and, as it turned out, Spring had a spare room in Battersea. I moved in. Spring… what a woman! Vivacious is an understatement. Other understatements include: unpredictable, adventurous, confident. Life was a constant party living with this one. I can’t think of anything that didn’t happen under our roof. If there were hidden cameras, it would have made for brilliant reality TV. Eventually we moved from Battersea to Brick Lane, this time with Winter. The three of us became like sisters having lived together for so long, celebrating Christmas and special occasions together. And just like Summer and Winter, Spring travelled and laughed and cried with me over the course of subsequent years.
But back to NYC, and to the time of my life.
We got up early and headed to Chelsea Market for brunch (OMG, I’m in a city which does food well. Palo Alto could learn a bit from you, NYC) and drank bloody marys. We walked The High Line. We went to the Whitney Museum of Modern Art. We bought fresh oysters and champagne to enjoy at home. We sat in a wine bar. We talked. We gossiped. We did what good girlfriends do.
An incredible feeling crept over me. I was feeling so much more like ‘Clare’. I know I’m a city girl at heart. I love the hustle and bustle. The craziness. The chaos. The lifestyle!
This is the United States that I signed up for. I texted Cam: can we move here, please?
The weekend continued. Next up was dinner and drinks with the girls, and with my old friend and boss from London, too. She’s another magnificently fierce woman who’s made bold moves in her personal and professional lives. Committed to making the world a better and more liveable place, especially for women, she was an absolute hoot to catch up with. We talked feminism, career, #metoo, and drank and drank and drank. We sat at our table at Dirty French, singing at the tops of our voices, conversing with strangers, having a bucket load of good, old fashioned, incredibly rowdy fun.
We went home. We drank more. And finally, I was ready for bed.
As if the girls were going to let that happen. They told me to ‘sleep when you’re dead’ and guilted me into staying up even later. I may have had a momentary 2.30am breakdown, lamenting through tears that I hadn’t slept for over four years, but I stayed up and we slayed it until the very early hours of Sunday morning.
Ah, Sunday. The ungodly day of hangovers. We sat in spas, sipping champagne, trying to feel human again. But the upside? Around our beautiful mutual friends, it felt amazing to be not at all worried about cellulite or fat or dark circles under our eyes. The rest of the weekend passed in much the same way as it had started: talking, drinking, and celebrating friendship.
I honestly couldn’t have asked for a more nurturing weekend away.
My flight home was on time, and uneventful. I’m not even joking. And though I missed my beautiful family immensely, I feel stronger and more whole for the experience.
I do, in fact, feel more like Clare. And what a magical feeling that is indeed.