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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I’ve wanted to write this blog for a long time. A really, really long time. I’ve been putting it off for a couple of reasons. First, there aren’t words that can do this man justice. I want to honor him properly, and I know I’m not a talented enough writer to do that. Second, I don’t even know what to say. Truthfully, I struggle with a lot shame that I wasn’t the best friend I could’ve or should’ve been, and when I write about my relationship with Justin I know I can’t sugarcoat that emotion. Regardless, I decided it’s time that I at least try to write about this guy. After all, his friendship and his death altered the course of my life, and it seems insane that I haven’t touched on it yet.

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How I Started Loving my Bod

When my middle school cross-country team gave out awards at the end of the season, I received the “Bottomless Pit” award for my impressive appetite. One summer in high school, I dominated a challenge called “The Dynamite Dozen” that consisted of eating 12 bowls of ice cream. In college, an entire fraternity knew me as “Butters.” I won’t go into specifics, but let’s just say I didn’t not drunkenly eat plain butter. For as long as I can remember, I’ve liked to eat and I like to eat a lot.

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8 Things I Learned Since Shacking Up with a BOY (!)

When Jeremy and I moved to California in June, it was a monumental moment for me in several ways. It was my first cross-country move, it was the official start of my freelance writing career, and it was my first time living with a boy! Big changes, right? It’s funny ­– if you had asked 15-year-old Caroline if I would ever cohabit with a boyfriend, I would have emphatically said NO. In my mind, that was off limits until I was married, “or at least engaged.” Two things I’d point out to 15-year-old Caroline… 1) Rent ain’t cheap, especially if you’re spending all your time in one place anyways and 2) You’ll know a ring is coming long before it actually does, so don’t try to be cute and coy by signing a year-long solo lease.

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The Art of Getting “Called Out”

A couple of weeks ago, I got a bit of… feedback from a friend. I don’t want to get into details, but basically they called me out on something I had done. It was incredibly polite, it was honest, and it was clearly heartfelt. Naturally, I took it terribly.

“Can you believe this? Can you even believe how passive aggressive this is? Plus, she’s wrong. That wasn’t even the situation,” I fumed to Jeremy, pacing in the kitchen and pointing at my phone like a cartoon.

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Relationship Advice I Wish Someone Had Given Me

On my last blog, I wrote about my sobriety experience. I touched a bit on my relationship with my fiancé, and a few people had mentioned they’d be interested in hearing more about that. My experience finding Jeremy was a bit unique. I hadn’t had a serious boyfriend in a long while, and I hadn’t had a healthy relationship in much longer than that. For a while, I put the idea of a romantic relationship on the back burner while I focused on getting healthy and trying to figure out who I was. When I re-emerged, I decided I was going to do it my way. If it worked, fantastic! If not, that would be fine too.

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1,000 Days of Sober

2.74 years, 1,000 days, 1,440,000 minutes. That’s how long it’s been since I made the decision to quit drinking permanently.

Okay, yeah, “made the decision” is a bit disingenuous. After all, there was an intervention with friends and family and they outright asked me to stop drinking. I definitely didn’t wake up one day and decide it was go-time, so I can’t pat myself on the back for that one. However, no one remains sober unless they decide to do it for themselves. I have endless gratitude for the people in my life who helped me start this journey, but make no mistake, I made the decision to get here.

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