Tasnim is a young woman who immediately strikes you with her wisdom that takes others a lifetime to achieve. Her wisdom is inherent, but also learned, from the sisters she chooses to surround herself with. Below are a few choice lessons she’s learned from these sisters and I think everyone could learn something from Tasnim.
My mother and my grandmother had very different childhoods: born in a small village in Bangladesh, my grandmother ran free and climbed trees with her two other brothers; my mother grew up in small spaces in big cities with eight other siblings. What they both had in common was the care and compassion they reserved for their sisters, not those born of family bonds, but their chosen sisters, the women they could be their truest selves with. This is how I first learned of sisterhood.
Sisterhood transcends familial ties. It can be between two women or twenty. It is a reconciling and acceptance of differences, a ground for vulnerability and debate, empowering and equal parts humbling, a space of unconditional love and learning. Here are a few things I’ve learned.
1. The value of safe spaces.
Growing up, the dining room symbolized a space of love and community. My mother would have over her sisters and best friends, and around the dining table, over pakoras and cups of tea, they would laugh, cry, argue and heal, dance, sing and debate. In this space of nurture, they were free to express themselves in whatever way they chose, without any restraint, and unafraid of judgement. Their sense of freedom with one another always reminds me to cultivate a space of acceptance for my own friends.
2. The healing power of conversation
When my grandmother passed away, her best friends and sisters gathered to share their stories of their sisterhood with my grandmother. The first time they’d been to a beach in the 1950s with her, plunging into the water in their saris; my grandmother, well into her seventies, dancing and singing at a gathering of sisters (my family couldn’t begin to imagine her dancing!). They would call one another late at night just to talk about things weighing on them, and rush to be by their side whenever they could. Their conversations would not only soothe them in times of need, but the retelling of their stories and allowing us into their sisterhood helped my family and I heal from our own grief.
3. We can agree, and we can disagree.
My sisters have taught me that not only are we entitled to our own opinions, but that we can respectfully express them to one another without damaging our relationship. Sisterhood is not about sameness, but rather the coming together of different identities in an unyielding bond of acceptance.
4. Gossip is fruitless.
Whenever I’m in the company of my dear friend Hawa and I find myself wanting to revel in gossip, she always manages to veer us away from it, and instead forges a conversation about what we can do to strengthen our communities and bring about change for good. Her grace and the dignity she upholds has taught me that there is no value in gossip, and it functions only as a projection of our own insecurities.
5. Love unconditionally.
From my best friend, Daniela, I have learned the boundlessness of love in sisterhood. Through everything – loving the wrong boys, compulsively making wrong choices and hurting myself, losing my beloved grandparents within six months of each other, wearing much too much eyeliner in my early twenties, nagging her constantly to critique and edit my writing – she has been by my side. She has held me while I cried, laughed with me and put me in my place, pushed me when I needed it the most, and taught me, and continues to teach me, how to love unconditionally every single day.
6. Empower women, don’t diminish them.
Since my first experiences of female friendship, I have, from time to time, said or done something cruel to reduce other women, and have also known what it feels like to be diminished by another woman. Cruelty is momentarily remedial of course, but leaves an everlasting bad taste in the month. In the way that gossip is fruitless, there is also no value in lessening women. Through the generosity of sisterhood, I’ve learned that there is nothing stronger and more limitless than an empowered woman.
7. Be grateful.
Finding women who are kind and trusting, women who will anger us and push us to meet the limitlessness of our potential is sacred. Remember that for as much as you are there for them, they are here of you. Be grateful for this special bond.