A Night at #IRLPanel

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This week I had the pleasure of attending the brilliant #IRLPanel, the brainchild of bloggers Emma Gannon and Laura Jane Williams. The aim of their event is to bring together women from the internet for a night of meaningful conversation, self-empowerment and connection IRL (in real life for those who don’t like acronyms).

Emma and Laura guided the discussion with other panellists Nadin Hadi, Lucy Sheridan and Jade Coles on the topic of friendship – something that I particularly like to hear other people’s experience of, because it makes me realise that I’m not alone with my various issues and paranoias.

The night kicked off with the panellists answering the very broad question of “What does friendship mean to you?” There were lots of insightful answers but one thing Nadin said really struck me:

You can have an unrequited love but not an unrequited friendship.

They touched on a lot of myths and archetypes we often think of in regards to friendship, such as the need to have one best friend, or that once you hit your mid-20s you won’t make any more close friends, or that your friends should automatically know when you need them to be there for you.

I swear, it felt like the whole room was breathing a sigh of relief and OMG YES ME TOO.

Another thing that came up which I nodded along vigorously to was the acknowledgement that friendships on screen are not how friendships are in real life. It turns out I’m not the only one who’s compared my friendships to celluloid ones and deemed myself wholly inadequate for not having that one solid BFF who is there to bring me pizza in bed or whisk me off on holiday every time something shit happens.

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My lovely friend Lucy (centre) touched on ending friendships and “ghosting”, which can often be painful/awkward to navigate. She made the really great point that if you’ve drifted from a friend then you need to accept that you’ve both been complicit in the drifting, but most importantly, not feel any malice in it. I interviewed Lucy about comparison a while back if you want to get more from her amazing brain.

Drifting and breakups happen much more often than most of would like to admit. Laura suggested that this might be because as we grow older we want to stand out and become our own person, not just a carbon copy of our friendship group – which is what we wanted as teenagers. That totally resonated with me, as it seemed to for a lot of the women in the room.

Breaking up with a friend doesn’t mean that you’re not a nice or kind person.

– Laura Jane Williams

The discussion gave me so much to think about, but mostly made me incredibly relieved to know I wasn’t alone in my anxieties about friendship. I felt grateful once again for my close friends who I know I can always turn to and have brilliant times with. And if for whatever reason some friendships don’t last, that it’s not the end of the world.

After some Q&A from the audience we hit up the self-serve bar (yes it was dangerous and no I wasn’t great at self-control) which led to lots more conversation with each other. It was honestly like being back at uni where everyone is mega-friendly and wants to chat to you – as you can see from the photo of me, Sirena and Daisy taken by Nicole – all of whom I met that night!

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As someone who normally freezes up in awkward “network-y” type scenarios, I can honestly say that it felt like such a safe space where everyone was genuine. I found it easy to express my true opinions and didn’t feel any type of judgement.

I came away buzzing and really glad I went along – if you want to see more about the event or check when the next one is, visit irl-panel.com!

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