This piece was co-written by two friends, Emily Schrems and Emily Steffen. Their individual words are noted by their names below.
(E. Steffen) Developing an individual voice within a friendship forces the truth out of you. Schrems and I have different recollections of our meeting for the first time after 14 years apart, but her decision to come over to me in a coffee shop without knowing who I was opened the door to create more impact with our futures than we ever foresaw alone.
(E. Schrems) This is a funny story. Em and I initially knew each other from pre-k. We played soccer together as kiddos and lost touch after she switched schools in second grade. Fast forward 14 years, and we found ourselves in our favorite hometown coffee shop. Not recognizing her, I saw a girl in line behind me wearing a Giving Key. I had just moved back from LA, and was eager to see someone who embodied the city I love so much. I knew she was either an out-of-towner, or someone like me who had also been molded by city life. We talked briefly about her key and I just remember knowing she was someone I was supposed to know. Finally I was like, “This might be weird, but do you want to grab coffee?” So we exchanged numbers and realized each other’s last names were from way back when!
(E. Steffen) Over the last four years, we have rooted our friendship, co-workership, and business partnership upon transparency, to even the rubble of our pasts. Since the get go, our relationship has been forced to be raw.
(E. Schrems) The concept of “voice” in our friendship has developed steadily over time through vulnerable conversation. I have always had a hard time saying what’s actually going on within me. I take the “beat around the bush” approach to conflict, and communication in general, whereas Em is more of a straight shooter.
Our friendship has taught me that I have to understand my own voice before I can expect to be understood by anyone else. (E. Steffen)
I’m a verbal processor, but I also have the internal struggle of understanding my thoughts and letting go of the emotional control I have over exposing them. Em allows my voice to bounce off the safety of who she is: welcoming all conversation, criticism, words of frustration, and questions asked. We individually have a passion for being storytellers and knowing the stories of others. It took courage to begin with the past, invite one another into the now, and dream for the future that has lead our voices and story together.
(E. Schrems) I have learned so much from the way she shares her own experiences as they’re happening. I listen and ask questions. We rarely offer advice to one another; we allow each other to get to what she already knows is there.
Helping each other express ourselves in this way has allowed us to know and be confident in who we are individually within our friendship.
This is important because we’re able to sit with each other without judgement or the anxiety of needing to find a solution for the other person.
(E. Steffen) One of the essential things to remember: just because you are similar in some ways, does not mean that you are the same.
(E. Schrems) Our lives intertwine in almost every way, from work, to social life, to hobbies, yet they’re still very different. So we’ve got to be able to love ourselves individually, and each other without expectation, understanding that each of us will surprise the other sometimes.
(E. Steffen) Our friendship has been a journey of self awareness and grace. I believe so much in Em, and in seeing her strengths, I was forced to recognize my own. I found this decision essential in learning how to fully grasp and celebrate the abilities we each show up with daily. It was the belief in my inadequacy that used to hold my voice back.
Choosing self awareness amidst a relationship sets the platform for creating a voice that stems from a healthy perspective of both yourself and the other person.
(E. Schrems) Being honest about this has created so much freedom for me. Sometimes, I feel threatened by someone who is similar to me and also better than me in ways. I have found more strength in calling that out within myself with honesty and grace. Rather than battling against myself, I learned to celebrate that my best friend (and soooo many other women) is a total boss lady, and we’re in it together.
(E. Steffen) Em and I may have both grown up in Michigan and lived in LA, but the same places don’t craft the same story. Us living in the same city doesn’t mean our day to day experiences are even close to being similar. So asking questions often has stemmed constant communication and an invitation that has allowed me to be a part of Emily’s day to day story. Our conversations make me realize that the influence of the present is just as important to recognize in what has molded our voices as the experiences of the past.
(E. Schrems) Finding our voice is an all encompassing journey. When you bring another person into that process, it forces you to know what you believe, and what your voice sounds like amidst a culture telling you how it should sound in a thousand different ways. My friendship with Em has made me more honest, more intentional, and more wholly myself. I encourage you to identify who these people are in your life, and choose to cheer them on and hear their voice for life.
Photos by Marisa Kimmel of Emily & Emily