I was hit hard by the betrayal and abandonment of my female friends in high school. I was harshly judged and scorned. Targeted, isolated and then suddenly forgiven, I returned to the fold. I needed those friends in that environment, then as soon as I could, I bailed out. Although I still credit the experience as being one of the key springboards to broadening my life experiences, it cut deep. I was marked for a long while. Somewhere in my psyche I decided that women could be dangerous, best to be kept at a safe, manageable distance. So it was, until August 13, 1999.

As it turns out Aztec legend foretold that on this day there would be great transformation—a tremendous confluence of ecological, economic, social, political and psychological forces that would come together like a tidal wave and bring the potential to manifest our desires. I was living in my Kombi in Broome, Western Australia, moving from night to night to avoid the rangers. I had wonderful dreadlocks and wore a million shades of brown and patchouli ad nauseam. I was having one of the most incredible times of my life.

I knew nothing of the Aztec legend that day as I pulled my Kombi into the town beach car park. While using the dunnies, I reached for some toilet paper and instead pulled out a flyer. It was a cryptic invitation with a coded map to a “Day of Destiny” party. I decoded the instructions and turned up, dressed, as instructed, as my destiny. I came bearing water: I hoped that in the future I would be an element that could quench others’ thirst. It was 1999. Pre Y2K. I felt like we might be on the verge of an evolutionary macro shift. I was hopeful!

I walked into the “party”. There were only three women. One: The Spirit Bird, adorned as a sea eagle, draped in a hammock. Two: The Alchemist, cross-legged on the floor, smoke swirling around her as she lay out a spread of handmade tarot cards for number three: The Myth-Stress, painted gold and fixing me with her smiling green eyes as I stood in the doorway. I felt nervous, yet somehow seen. It felt to me like I had crossed a threshold into an alternate reality. Looking back now, I think I did. These women were the beginning of a new understanding of female friendships and connection for me.

Over the next few years I experienced and learnt a new depth of what it is to “go there”, to tease at the knotted strands of understanding and achieve glimpses of flowing tangle-free clarity. My new female friends offered me a solace and a hearth that no other relationship could. Tear-stained cheeks over tea, hand-rolled cigarettes and whiskey, candles spluttering into the wee hours as we ached with longing and laughter, climbing through terrain littered with self loathing, jubilation, possibility, confusion, discovery, irony and whispers of our most hidden dreams.

Through these women I was able to delve into what I had been hiding from. We shared a robust and vulnerable space where I felt I could be completely embodied and expressed but more importantly brazenly honest and awkwardly insecure. I finally got to air out my dirty laundry, in an environment where I didn’t feel judged. As my knickerbockers hung crisp and clean on the line, I realised that something had changed in me. A new freedom was seeping in. I didn’t just find women friends. I found an opportunity to forgive myself and forgive the women I had felt abandoned and betrayed by. I found the burgeoning and coming of age of my own sense of what it is to be a woman.

These three opened the doors to many more women who would flow into my life. I am now heavily endowed, with female friends in abundance—a great wealth indeed. Women with whom I have traversed and shared birth and death, grief, fear and joy, always hedging towards a deeper understanding of ourselves and each other, expanding towards broader self discovery. Although our bonds are hewn by the times we have held the space for tears and grief, what I remember most in recalling them now is laughter. So much soul-saving laughter. They are a diverse hearty mob, a commonly hilarious bunch.

I’m still learning what it is to be a good friend. It is one of the crafts of life I would love to master. I have been taught what I know thus far by some brave women. Women who have been generous enough to say, “That’s not enough,” or “I don’t believe you” or “You’re better than that.” The painfully-honest ones whose collective wisdom and courage, partnered with their ability to be tender and present, has shaped me into being a more accountable, vulnerable and powerful person, a better mother, daughter, musician and partner. I really want to be the best version of myself that I can be, and now I know this will only be possible in partnership with my precious female friends. We all strive for the best versions of each other, and although it’s not always the easiest road, it is the most rewarding. So keep it coming ladies. I trust you.

Danielle Caruana (Mama Kin), is an Australian singer-songwriter. She’s also Dumbo Feather alumni, read her conversation here.

Image via Unsplash.