A Life-Affirming Bachelorette Weekend

When I think “bachelorette party,” I think tequila shots, Bride sashes, bikinis, and phallic-shaped accessories – probably not amazing epiphanies and healing revelations. I had my bachelorette this past weekend, though, and I had all of the above (minus the tequila, thank God). If you follow me on social media, you know we checked off every cliché in the book: the tiara, the sash, the matching swimsuits, the posed group photos. It was a fun weekend for everyone. For ME, it was something I really, really, really needed.

This post is going to be pretty vulnerable, and it’s honestly been something I’ve been a little embarrassed to talk about until now. Basically, since I left college and entered the “real world,” I’ve felt really inadequate in the friend-making realm. I’ve discussed my circle getting smaller, but I’ve never really touched on how much self-doubt that has given me. Fortunately, I’ve never felt completely alone, but there have been so many times when I’ve questioned if I was going to be one of those women whose only friend is her significant other.

I tried really hard to make girlfriends in Chicago, but it was hard… especially when I stopped drinking and wanting to spend my time at the bars. For my 26th birthday, Jeremy tried really hard to plan a birthday brunch for me. He sent out an email weeks in advance and included everyone I considered a friend. Only two of them showed up to celebrate (shout-out to you, Anna and Ally!). I tried not to let it get to me, but I shed tears that evening and was so happy to move to California the following month.

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Scrolling through social media, I constantly see people post pictures of their birthday parties, bridal showers, or even just casual Sunday brunches with all 20 of their closest friends. I’ve regularly questioned if there’s something wrong with me for not rolling with a #squad everywhere I go. I’ve repeatedly told myself (and Jeremy, and anyone who will listen) that I DO have amazing, loyal, ride-or-die friends. They just happen to live all over the damn country.

When my beautiful, wonderful, generous Maid of Honor, Sloan, started planning a bachelorette, I had a big mix of emotions. 90% of me was overjoyed that I would get the chance to reunite with everyone again – that seriously never happens. 10% of me was scared that the weekend would be a flop because I’m not the same girl that most of the invitees once knew. I’m very different from “College Caroline,” and three years of being a semi-loner had started to make me think that maybe my life changes were incompatible with friendship. That sounds crazy, right? I’ve had friends this whole time, but mostly long-distance ones. I’m no longer the center-of-attention, vodka-pouring, partying Caroline, and I’ve genuinely been petrified that once my college friends saw the “new me” in person, I would bore them.

On the way home from Palm Springs, I literally could not stop crying – and it was not because the weekend was a bust. Quite the opposite. The weekend was 100 times better than I ever could have imagined, and ultimately ended up reaffirming that I’ve made the right choices in my life. No one missed Old Caroline. They embraced New Caroline with big, loving arms, and planned a weekend for her. One of my friends even said the exact thing I needed to hear: Our friendship is not summed up by that cliché, “When we see each other, it’s like nothing has changed!” because a lot has changed and that’s obvious. It’s just that our friendship is better because of these changes.

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Everyone who came on this trip put their unique touch on the weekend, and it was the most personal, thoughtful, compassionate three days. They planned vegan meals, stocked the fridge with pink lemonade, and even involved Jeremy in aspects. They collected video messages from friends who couldn’t make it, showered me with sweet gifts, and did all the sappy stuff they knew I’d love. Most amazingly, they laughed with me, hugged me, loved me, and talked with me just like they did with Old Caroline. My farewell tears were thanks to the unconditional love I felt for three days. They were also for the relief I felt knowing that I AM capable of healthy, unshakeable friendships.

You won’t find me having dinner with 15 friends this Friday night, and I’ll never be able to fill up a restaurant for my birthday party. My circle will always be small, and it took this weekend for me to become totally okay with that. I’m a quality friend, I have quality friends, and worrying about the quantity is not going to shake me again.

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