The Inconvenient Friend

As millennials go, my life is pretty unorthodox. I don’t live in a gentrified neighborhood with a rescue dog. I don’t have a yoga body or belong to an adult kickball league. I live at home. Actually, I live in my aunt and uncle’s home. With my parents. My mother, a victim of dementia. My father, a survivor of two strokes and a heart attack.

If that weren’t wacky enough, I am also a quasi-employed, unlicensed non-driver. I suffer from social anxiety disorder and depression, and the next of 40+ surgeries is just around the corner.

As you can imagine, all of these things make me very popular with my peers. Sure, people think I’m nice. They just wish my life weren’t so… complicated.

In a nutshell, I am the inconvenient friend. That friend who is really nice and well-intentioned, but ultimately unable to contribute her fair share to the relationship. I am the girl who would be so great if only she made a series of changes to better accommodate her hip “friends.”

Every weekend I mourn a little for the life BuzzFeed tells me I should have.

Source: Google Books

I shed a tear or two for the failed social interactions and never-had dates, all casualties of my inconvenient life. “It’s not fair,” I say aloud to no one in particular. “I don’t ask for that much. All I want to do is wear some fringe while wandering aimlessly around a festival every now again. I know my ‘friends’ are attending these things, but no one is inviting me. It’s my own personal interpretation of Mindy Kaling’s book.”

One lonesome Friday evening, there was a listening ear to my weekly wonderings. My father asked me what was wrong, amid my frustrated listing of reasons my friends have effectively ghosted me. I whined that the lack of inclusion makes me feel devalued but that I refuse to beg anyone to spend time with me, especially not full-grownish adults. He stopped me mid-rant and asked “what about your closest friends? How do they make you feel?”

Subtle spin on a stock psychological question? Perhaps. But I entertained an answer nonetheless.

After giving his question some sincere thought, I rendered a response. “Well, I guess, they make me feel loved… without judgment.”

The last week or so, I’ve repeatedly found myself on the receiving end of some really sound advice:

Let go.

Three of my girlfriends, my mother, and a book all told me to let go. But let go of what exactly? Relationships? Expectations? Society’s definition of success?

Source: Disney

As millennials, we are accused of arrested development. Spoiled, entitled brats with various strains of Peter Pan Syndrome. But this millennial is ready to grow up. This woman is ready to let go of conditional relationships and society’s prescribed expectations of who she should be. She is ready to navigate life in ways that may not always be popular, or hip, but that will ultimately equip her with everything she needs to change the world!

As I navigate this thing we now call “adulting,” I realize that my path will be unorthodox. It won’t look like the path of my peers. It may not include a gig at a trendy tech startup. There may be no mid-week, underground dance parties at ultra-exclusive speakeasies.

Fernbank edit TRL.jpg
Aisha at Fernbank Museum of Natural History

I may never get to deliver any awe-inspiring TED Talks.

Or maybe all of these things will happen and my life will be the quintessential millennial dream come true. But I refuse to allow the quality of my life to be defined by some ethereal counsel of cool.

I think my life will be a good one. It will be disappointingly normal and uneventful. It won’t be insta-worthy. But it will be filled with love and good intentions.

I will get my driver’s license. My role will shift from caregiver to employee. Or entrepreneur. I will own my own home and open it to friends and family in need of refuge from the messiness of life. Maybe I’ll get married and we’ll have some kids. Maybe I’ll fly solo. Perhaps I’ll get a dog.

I will let go of relationships that have ultimately run their course, and I will pour into anyone willing to put up with my lack of cool. I will sharpen my skills and hone my crafts and use them whenever and wherever I can to brighten at least one little corner of this place called Earth. I will make some mistakes, of course. But my mind will be open, my heart will be happy, and my life will be… good.


Worth the Drive


Yesterday, I rode with one of my best friends to a major college town to hear one of my favorite bands play a gig. We’ve been friends more than half our lives and I’ve loved this band almost as long. The drive to the venue was a bit longer than our last trek to musical awesome, but we were hopeful that watching them splay their hearts wide open on the elevated stage would more than make up for the ride.

The show, while peppered with the occasional imperfection, did not disappoint. The bass pumped excitement through my veins and the melodies caused my soul to fly above the young, hip, rabid crowd.

After 4 hours of dancing until our legs wobbled and feet became numb, flirting with cute college boys, and chatting with charming college girls, we floated toward the rear parking lot. I was on Cloud 9 and feeling fine. The night could not get any better. But then, it did.

For weeks of anticipation I had a gut feeling that on this, my third visit to this frenetic funkytown, I would have the opportunity to meet the members of this musical foursome. My gut was right. As we rounded the corner beside the concert hall, I spotted the band’s drummer. A crowd was beginning to gather. I didn’t want to be a groupie, but darn it — YOLO!


As I wait in queue for my turn to introduce myself and describe how much I enjoyed their show and appreciate their music, I see the band’s lead strolling toward the tour bus, roadie with keytar case in tow!

I smile and calmly inform him that I really enjoyed the show. “Thank you,” he said, half laughing and half cringing. “Might I have two seconds of your time?” I am sure my voice was laced with the dreaded tones of begging at this point, but I wanted to communicate that I indeed respect both his time and privacy, and that my goal was not to be a bother.

“Give me a minute. Let me go towel off first,” he said, grinning rather uncomfortably. “Oh yeah, of course. Not a problem!” I returned to my spot on the pavement where I waited to speak with the passionate percussionist.

The bearded man in the elephant-printed shirt extended his hand and thanked me for coming. He asked me my name and wanted to know where I was from. We chatted about my stay in Barbados and about how he once saw Rihanna in the studio and it made him nervous. I asked if he minded taking a picture. He warned me he was sweaty. We both smiled for the camera, then I thanked him for his time, and took a seat on the curb beside my friend. (She was so wonderful, patiently waiting for my dreams to materialize in the brisk night air.) The lead singer said he would be just a few minutes. I figured we would give him just a few minutes more.

We sat (thrilled to finally be off our feet) and listened to other fans tell of their travels and the distances from which they came to see their favorite musical artists perform live and in person. Everyone’s story was a little different, but our goals were all the same: to meet the band whose music had so greatly impacted our lives.40 Watt b&w

Perhaps 20 minutes eventually pass, and the post-midnight sky only continues to cool. Now very tired, my friend suffering from a headache, I assure her that if the frontman does not show up within the next five minutes, we can head out. Shortly after this announcement the drummer returns, hands pressed together in praying posture, and thanks us once again for coming. He bows slightly at the waist, suggesting salutations, and bids us all a safe farewell.

Alright. Point taken. The lead singer would not be returning to mingle amid even the most loyal of his fans. “That’s fine. I’m sure he’s tired. He is human after all,” I reasoned. “Yeah, I mean, maybe he had to call his wife and kid,” my friend mused. Yes, all of this makes sense. I’m not disappointed. We’re good.

Awhile back, another of my best friends did her best to help me sort through the confusing and cryptic social media communications between myself and I young man I’ve fancied on and off for… well, far too long, frankly. The latest barrier to our love was distance. Or so he claimed. He explained that his job would not allow him to travel outside a certain radius, and I halfheartedly accepted this flawed reasoning as a valid excuse for his unwillingness to put forth the necessary effort to make a 30 minute trip for a two-hour long coffee work.

Finally, my friend said something that yanked me out of the haze of infatuation, returning me to Earth completely aware.

You are worth the drive.

If someone had told me that my encounter with a singer whom I admire would be underwhelming and disappointing, would I have dragged my friend an hour each way to stand in the cold for that experience? If I was told that I would have the privilege of having a really great conversation with someone who isn’t necessarily the star but more fully invested at the particular moment, would I have passed, taking the opportunity for granted? In either scenario, was it worth the drive?

As many of my friends enter into various types of romantic relationships, some of them for the first time, I watch them calculate the value and effort of their potential mate. Some describe strong, protective spirits. Others describe unconditional love and unfettered attraction. The common thread? These people are willing to meet them where they are. Whether figuratively or literally, anyone worth your spiritual, mental, emotional, or physical energy must be worth the drive.

I don’t assume I’ll get married someday. A lifelong commitment is not automatic. But I do contemplate my future and wonder what a mate for me would look like. As I grow into myself as a woman, I am beginning to realize that I am worth it. What’s more, I want someone who’s worth it. I want both of us to work equally as hard to show up for each other, making sure the other person knows that yes, they are important and indeed worth the time, effort, energy, inconvenience, money, sacrifice.

I am worth the drive and I hope to meet someone equally as deserving and willing to meet me halfway.