I remember going to get Chinese food after church every Sunday as a kid and I would obsess with the fact that my animal according to the Chinese calendar, was the dragon. As a little girl I remember thinking I was special because I was the most mystic of all the creatures! Anyone born in the year of 1988 was the year of the dragon, and so an animal represents each new year. The order of the animal signs is fixed, with the dragon being the fifth in the cycle, therefore the “Year of the Dragon” is 2024.

I am swooning over the title of this challenge. For multiple reasons. Not only because it’s MY YEAR, but it’s also the year of the most amazing, glamorous, wise, pretty woman I’ve met and that’s my best friend Dani, aka ‘girl’. Dani is also a dragon, born in the year of 1988.

Our journey goes back to the savory sweet teen years in the youth group of a southern Baptist church based out of Saint Petersburg, Fl. I think we were around sixteen when we met.

My family was well known in our church as my dad was the worship leader. I knew everyone pretty well except for this tall gorgeous blonde that waltzed into teen group pulling the force of energy in her favor. As a teen girl, I immediately felt a bit jealous, or invidious, resulting from insecurity. Her personality was, beyond bubbly, vivacious almost ‘seductive’, in a feminine attractiveness. Always responding back with a humorous gentle teasing, and anyone who knows her personally knows exactly what I’m talking about. She reminded me of a young Marylin Monroe, where all the girls envied her, and all the boys wanted her.

I hope by now your cracking up to my sixteen year old perception. I had to draw out the details so you can piece where the empowering begins. It begins here.

“Hey, Girl” she smirked at me, obviously knowing who I was. I cracked a smile back.

Looking back at who I embodied then, I was, reticent, caddy, and conceited, because that’s how I thought girls were supposed to be. I can attest to this behavior in churches, because wherever there are teenagers, there are flawed natures. It’s so important to know the difference of church and people. People are everywhere, not just in churches, and its a great reminder to not pardon the ideology of church based off of the people in it, because “people will be people” everywhere and anywhere, raising my hand up high.

Growing up on a cheerleading squad since eighth grade, earning a spot on the varsity squad my freshman year, later there-after achieving the status of Captain my Senior year, you learn a lot of things about girls. They want to be accepted, so they create clicks, they make fun of others, and they do this to appear robust or desirable, all while camouflaging their insecurities.

That’s who I was becoming, until Dani. Dani changed a lot of that perspective for me.

Dani, who was well ahead of my sheltered composition, taught me all kinds of things, mainly the secret to just being a good freaking person. And that was was why she was so likeable and the reason why people were drawn to her.

She initiated the conversation every time. If teenagers today would grasp this power, (and ADULTS ) it would make such difference in creating authentic friendships. Half the time the reason why we think another woman doesn’t like us is because they think you don’t first. This is the game women have played since the beginning of time.

As we grew into becoming our own identities through the journey of womanhood, we had many differences.

We have had our separated years, one in specific that I remember, sojourning on two different ‘lifestyle’ paths. This is usually where friendships pull out, or die off. Lifestyle change is a huge test to true friendships. I’ve had friendships that I thought were forever friendships dwindle into strangers because I stopped drinking.

She has always remained a light through all of my ugly including my parents public divorce. It wasn’t until her brother passed when I saw the most florescent person I knew, diminish to a frail disconsolate person. I owed it her to go after her. It didn’t take long for Dani to find the light again, and this time from a much footing source.

Through trials and tribulations, iron sharpeneth iron.

Dani was the dragon beside me who ignites truth into me when my fire goes out. Women are solar, vital sources of energy when fueled by another woman.

Today, Dani is married living in another state. She passes the test that friendships living two separate lives can still thrive in the same orbit of consistent connection. Dani is my biggest supporter in my writing, and creative passions. The things I think are whimsy or foolish ideas, she encourages and promotes them.

All because “hey girl” fast forwarding fifteen years of friendship, celebrating our “almost but not quite” 36th birthdays, we still only call each other, Girl.

Here’s, to our year! And another fifteen more.

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