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Building Community: Fostering Friendships in Adulthood

In honor of Women’s Month, we discuss how Black Women can build, strengthen, and nurture their friendships as they navigate through life.

We’ve seen so many changes in our world in the past few years that have left us mentally fatigued and for some, mentally traumatized. It made sense that the conversations in the health and wellness arenas started to give us practical tools and language to care for ourselves. Now, the phrases “self-care” and “self-love” have taken a front seat in these conversations surrounding mental health and wellness. These buzzwords have ushered in a shift in our culture from the former popular catchphrases “grind till die”, “no sleep”, and “no days off” to “rest and restoration”, “go lay down”, and my favorite “uh uh, get someone else to do it”. This shift is important.

The culture is embracing healthy practices that reinforce the value of our lives and our existence as we are without attaching value to our work, our methods of work, or what we can produce and sell as an indicator of success. Particularly for Black women, this decentering of overwork and overwhelm gives space to allow us to enjoy and embrace ourselves in our fullness and complexity. Our friendships are a vital part of this space. Fostering our friendships is an essential part of self-care, and some argue, an act of self-love.

Jeanetta Garrison, a Charlotte, NC-based Licensed Clinical Social Worker who specializes in treating perfectionists with anxiety, has spent over 12 years working with many clients who have struggled with navigating the joys and challenges of friendships while adulting. She says, “Supportive and healthy relationships are one of the primary protective factors against mental illness and suicide for Black women. Although there is only one word, there are so many different types of friendships. You have a wide array of interests and needs, so it makes sense that you will also have a wide array of people in your life who align with each part of you.”

Although some of us still make moves and get to vacation with our childhood besties and college roommates, for others, those roommates in our very first adult apartments hold a special place for us. And still, for others, it was the upstairs neighbor turned friend in their first apartment after they moved in with their ex. Maybe this neighbor always needed to borrow something but was super sweet and loved their dog and is now someone we can’t go a week without calling. For some, the middle-aged woman that ran the corner store near their former office and always had time to chat has become a dear friend. These friends, and the other friends from our early adulthood, are the individuals that were by our sides as we stumbled and tumbled through life, watching each other learn to adult. Friendships that have stood the test of time not only provide nostalgia, but those individuals can play a key role in reminding you who you are and who you were before life changes came about.

“It’s natural for friendships to evolve over time.” – Jeanetta Garrison, LCSW

Friends can serve as channels to new opportunities and new experiences, and as we grow, what these people look like and how they show up will continually change. Remember these relationships do not just provide people to socialize or network, they provide love and support for you and give you the opportunity to reciprocate that energy back to them. Your new neighbor friends will offer first-hand information about the best schools for your children. Your work friends will bring you and your family food when you are sick, and your strong circle of girlfriends will hold you as you cry and help you clean your house when your parents and other family begin to pass away.

We all need to be reminded to take care of ourselves at times, and the same is true for keeping our friendships whole, healthy, and alive. Garrison offers a few additional tips:

  • It’s important to practice clear and direct communication with your friends. You can’t read their minds and they can’t read yours.

  • Be intentional. Cultivating friendships while adulting requires intentional effort.

    • Identify potential barriers up front and address them.

    • Create space on your calendar to connect. You can’t wait until you have free time because then it will never happen.

    • Find ways to connect with new friends and reconnect with old friends. Get creative and don’t be afraid to think outside the box.

Jeanetta Garrison is a Charlotte, NC-based LCSW. You can reach her by email at or at her website

Sonia McCallum is a writer and poet who resides in Charlotte, NC. An avid reader, a 200-hr registered yoga teacher, and art enthusiast, her writing centers healing, coming of age and young adulthood from the perspective of Black women and girls. Her poetry is published in volumes I and II of Sistories Literary Magazine. Sonia is the owner and CEO of The Word Yard, LLC, a professional writing boutique specializing in resumes and other career resources. You can visit her at her website and on social media - FB @SoniaKMcCallum and IG @pleasesaythekay.


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