“I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.” ~ Maya Angelou

Several years ago, I entered into an intimate relationship with a boy I absolutely adored and, in the process, sort of inadvertently abandoned every other relationship I’d cultivated in my life up to that point.

This boy and I moved fast and furiously into a relationship of exclusivity and deep commitment, spending almost every night together after only about a month of dating, intricately intertwining our lives and rarely spending any significant amount of time apart.

Except that our life became his life. Because I stopped socializing with my own friends in favor of being with this boy and his friends, sacrificing my relationships – especially those with other women – in order to spend as much time as possible with this boy I dearly loved.

When this relationship ultimately ended after two years, I remember feeling SO LONELY, coming face-to-face with the reality that I’d essentially given up my social circle and support network by directing so much of my energy and attention toward my partner and our relationship, neglecting about a million other things – and people – along the way.

This was not a good feeling.

Amazingly, in the aftermath of this break-up, I was greeted with unexpected amounts of love and encouragement and whole-hearted acceptance by a multitude of women eager to connect with and support and lift me up in spite of how absent I’d been in their lives – both physically and emotionally – for many months prior.

This was such a gift, and one of which I felt utterly undeserving.

And yet, I ate it up. Voraciously. Because I was starved for the kind of intimacy and unspoken understanding and pure joy that exists in truly loving female friendships.

Those waters run deep, you guys. Really deep. And there’s a world of beauty and imagination and strength and fearlessness and hilarity and insight and profound spiritual awakening contained within them.

And the potential for some pretty intense and powerful personal transformations.

I spent a few years scratching the surface of this potential. And it was lovely. But over the past two years, I have seen just how influential and radically life-changing these female friendships can be.

And I am grateful every day for the women who have been brought into my life to teach me that we are, indeed, much much stronger together than we might ever be on our own.

Women who teach me about the power of collaboration, about the need to build each other up, combine forces, and celebrate one another’s successes because competing against each other kind of defeats our purpose for even being here.

Women who teach me to expect good things, to ditch the scarcity mentality and embrace the idea of enough-ness, to love myself as the first step towards everything else I desire in this life.

Women who assure me I’m amazing exactly the way I am, but always encourage me to grow and seek and become a better, more evolved version of myself.

Women who are equally dedicated to their own evolution as well, and inspire me daily to challenge myself and be honest with myself and scare the crap out of myself by taking risks and being bold and pursuing my dreams even when they feel wildly unrealistic.

I am surrounded by incredible women every day, whose friendships have carried me countless times through heartbreak and setbacks and hopelessness. Women who have laughed with me and cried with me and schemed with me and believed in me when I couldn’t quite believe in myself.

And now, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to address a few of these women directly.

To the friend several states away who’s seen me at my best and seen me at my worst over and over again for the past ten years:

I love you so damn much. And I certainly would not have survived this long without you. Thank you for accepting me fully and completely and without judgment, even when I make questionable decisions or lose my way entirely. Your journey over the past decade has been an absolute pleasure to witness and I am so very proud of the incredible, strong, independent, authentic woman you have become. And this is just the beginning. Believe me. There are undoubtedly many amazing moments yet to come. Thank you for allowing me to assume a small role in the brilliant play that is your life.

To the friend who feeds me food and encouragement and love so often I can’t possibly ever go hungry:

Your presence in my life has been of profound influence this past year. Thank you for believing in me without wavering, for seeing my dreams come true and never ever doubting my ability to manifest them eventually. The transformation you have undergone in the short time that you and I have been friends has been mesmerizing and inspiring and beautiful. You turned heartbreak into spiritual fuel for the soul and emerged stronger and softer and more radiant than ever. I cannot wait to see what you imagine and create next. I love you to pieces. Forever and always.

To the friend who has been on a seemingly parallel path throughout the past year:

I feel so lucky and blessed to have you in my life, to share experiences and stories and know I’m not alone on this leg of my journey. Thank you for helping me find my own strength, especially when it comes to matters of the heart, and for never letting me settle for less than I know I deserve. You are one of the bravest women I have ever met, radiating grace and femininity and the kind of vulnerability that makes you just so effing powerful. Thank you for imparting so much wisdom on me and for helping me find that same voice inside of myself. I love you dearly and admire you immensely.

To all of these women, and so many more:  THANK YOU.

I wrote this post to celebrate the women who have made a profound impact on my life and have helped me become the woman I am today – a woman I actually, for the first time in my life, truly and sincerely like.

And I wrote it to celebrate female friendships in general, especially in light of recent tragedies and a certain #YesAllWomen hashtag making its way around the internet.

I know the discussion taking place is complicated and emotionally charged and taps into some very deep wounds, but I also know that if we want to affect change on any level, we are much more powerful united than we are in opposition or even standing on our own.

Because the more we, as women, build each other up and celebrate each other and realize there’s enough – love, success, money, joy – to go around, the more the world benefits from the unique perspective and talents that we bring to the table, and the stronger we become as individuals and as a whole.

And I happen to think the world could benefit from a little more feminine energy, and that the cultivation of deeply intimate and spiritually transformative female friendships is an excellent place to start.

So, if you’re a woman reading this post, go out and tell your female friends how much you love them.

Seriously. Go do it.