Girl Gangs Raised Me
Like Mowgli (in attitude and haircut alike), I grew up in a Wolf Pack.
Surrounded by strong, fascinating women from a young age, my Mom always brought her 3 best friends around. They’d been tighter-than-ever since college, and I always expected that I would turn out the same. Other girls didn’t mention their many fairy godmothers, but I always had mine. My grandmothers were the opposite of one another – the hoarder, the cleaner, the fighter, the traditionalist. Both creative and strong in their opinions, I watched them both truly flourish living on their own, when their men were gone.
Perhaps that was why all my friends as a kid were girls – or maybe it was that I still thought they had cooties – most likely the reason was my beatles-esque haircut, which made me look like an actual boy… but I digress.
Later my passion shifted to dance, where I learned that it’s ok not to be the best one in the room. I also learned you could push yourself to get pretty damn close. I gained a tribe with passion, one that thrived on a shared love of expressing ourselves without having to speak or sing in front of the crowds. I saw similar groups forming in my music and photography circles. We were running on the same waves of energy – entering tired but ready to go, leaving exhausted and sometimes frustrated but hungry for more. My mom jokingly called it a “cult” because of our always matching outfits and insane practice hours (did I ever really get up at 5am every day?! This does not seem possible). Looking back, I miss dance more than I could ever love the snooze button.
The coaches I had along the way reminded us to soak it all in, and enjoy the ride. They also ensured that we wouldn’t crash – but isn’t that what all our coaches are for? We looked up to the older girls, who looked up to them – we set aside characteristics to save for later, watched their worlds grow, and let them into ours.
When I graduated, I was afraid I’d never be that close with a group of girls again. I went into greek life with major doubts, my mom and grandmothers’ best friends from those worlds were the only convincing I had. It was hard at first, I’d grown up going to school with people I’d known for 13 years. These ladies were brand new.
They were different from me, they came from different places, different backgrounds, different experiences (some of their parents let them have cable, ugh). Unlike my dancing friends, these girls helped me explore new loves, different fields of study, expressions of creativity, languages, and in some cases – food (Thank you Lauren, for Sushi).
I’d never lived with anyone but my parents (and one tragically horrific pot-luck roommate, not all girls are awesome), and these girls took me in, let me sleep on their assortment of foutons, edited my papers, listened to my stories of a haphazard love life, drove me across the country, and saved my ass on more than one occasion. I’ve now lived with all girls, all guys, a mix – and they all have their drawbacks (assorted types of hair in the bathroom included), but as crazy as it sounds: I would live with those 75 girls again today.
I also somehow forced the girls at Sellards, a scholarship hall on campus – to let me join their exclusive parties and summer shenanigans. We were our very own lioness pride, always on the hunt for something new – always providing (beer and pizza) for the boys. They are some of the most brilliant women I’ve ever met and I’m honored they let me squeeze in.
I never considered studying or living abroad until I watched multiple girls from KU do it. They came back with stories and more than that, a glow about them. They had a new light ready to beam all over the world (some in a strobe pattern – I’m looking at you, Raging Rachel). It was my inspiring girlfriends who explored and lived in places like Nicaragua, Argentina, Ireland, England and more – who inspired me to try a new hemisphere.
My down under women took a little longer to assemble. Meeting new chicks in a new city is hard, especially when you’re not living with 75 of them. However, I can confidently say that the garlic-loving, man-protesting, business smashing group out here is well worth the wait. We stand up for each other when we’re far from home, we travel the world together, and we teach each other things every day.
I love all my girl gangs for different reasons, and they’re all full of brave, incredible women. They’ve pushed and pulled and hugged me into the woman I am today. So here’s to you, Girl Gangs- may we always be a part of each other.