An Ode to Your First Friend, Mom

Hi. I’m Chandra, the founder of Friendish. Like many people, I’m the accidental entrepreneur but have found myself on this exciting ride that has been the craziest roller coaster you can imagine minus the seat belt.

Last month, our baby start up turned one year old. And like a new mom, I’ve beamed with pride at how we’ve grown in such a short amount of time. But I have also wept, very publicly due to pure exhaustion, confusion and honest to goodness lack of experience. People say that entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart and now I really know what that means. It is the hardest most rewarding work you’ll do and without a support system of some kind, you will most certainly fail.

No matter who you are or what you’ve done or will do, those of us who are blessed, lucky or whatever you like to call it, probably have had one big time, “don’t push my kid, you can do it, that’s my baby” cheerleader from day one, MOM. Since I’m still on the journey of becoming a successful founder, I haven’t been able to buy my Mom a house or take her on nice trips or do all the things many of us dream of doing to say thank you for all the money deposited in our accounts when it was down to less than $100 and the rent was due or the surprise care package after a bad breakup abroad or the home cooked meals, comfort and care over the years. But this is my effort in saying thank you to my Mom, Marilyn Arthur for all that she has done over the years and particularly this here last one, that has been hell on wheels.

My mom is a true Southern Black woman. For those of you who don’t have mamas from the South, I’m really sorry ’cause there’s honestly nothing better. I think second to having a mom from the south I’d want a Caribbean Mom or an Italian Mom. I digress. She loves the South, the slow life, a glass of iced (the d is silent) tea (with lots of ice), the good old days and Matlock and Perry Mason any day of the week. Growing up in the later stages of segregation in Florida also means my Mom remembers “colored (insert plural adjective)” and being taught by her grandma to bow her head when speaking to white people. She also was taught to “properly clean,” by my dear Grandma Doris who was a housekeeper.

Like most Southern people, religion is center to a good, Christian upbringing and my mother was only slightly different in that she and we (my sister and I) were brought up as Jehovah’s Witnesses. Whatever your feelings about Jehovah’s Witnesses, like my mother, I was raised well with a healthy appreciation for God and Christ and was always taught humility, kindness, respect and to let love lead and guide your thoughts and actions. I am truly grateful for the way I was raised because it gave me a solid foundation and the guidance to move through life with a steadiness and direction that served, and still serves, me well.

My grandmother’s dream for her children was to have office jobs — whatever that meant or to be teachers. All she knew was that she wanted more than scrubbing the floors of wealthy white folks who lived on the riverside, and rightfully so. She was grateful for her housekeeping jobs and later on her job at the hospital, but knew that if she could push her kids to do more, then maybe they might be able to give us more of a chance or opportunity in life. My Mom did not graduate from college but did get that office job at AT&T where she faithfully worked for 25 years and drove an hour back and forth, five days a week on I-4 (rated the nations 3rd worst interstate to. this. day.) so that my sister and I could stay in a community with our family and friends and not have to experience being uprooted. No matter the exhaustion or personal and emotional stress she was under as a single parent, she made sure of two things upon getting home from work 1) we always had enough to eat and 2) we always made it to Kingdom Hall.

When you’re a kid you don’t think about the sacrifices your parents are making for you, and I believe now as an adult that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Our parents work so hard so that we may enjoy the beauty and freedom of childhood and my mom was no different. She unlike my Grandma did not lay out the path for us as to what career we should or should not take. We were taught from as early as I can remember that we could ‘do anything.’ I now know as an adult and from speaking with friends and family that not all of us were receiving this kind of messaging. Many parents frame for their children what they should do and push them towards certain careers that guarantee a level of success and financial stability, and there is nothing wrong with that.

But to tell a young, black, wild, curious, rambunctious girl child that she can do anything: wow…that’s something. And ‘do anything’ I did. I had a Kool-Aid stand at about seven years old because we didn’t have lemons and I was determined to earn summer candy money for the corner store. I joined orchestra in 5th grade and played classical cello for twelve years, yes I was that dweeby kid lugging an instrument nearly the size of her body on and off the bus. I, with the help of my still-best friend, Jessica, did some investigative journalism for our high school TV show, Potpourri when we reported on a local housing development kicking local residents out of their apartments to make room for new and improved units and tenants. I moved to Berlin, Germany on a whim where I lived for four years and was introduced to startups and tech. Most recently I founded my second tech startup, Friendish which strives to eliminate the bias in friend finding.

Along the way there have been hiccups, breakdowns, breakups, fear, fun but no matter the changes there’s been my one constant, my dear Mama who has always had my back, pushed me to my full potential and reassured me that my best will always be enough. I’m old enough to know that not everyone had a great, supportive mom because life sucks sometimes and some of us get dealt a much tougher hand than others. But, if you were blessed or lucky enough to have a great mom who has literally given her life for you, I hope this piece will inspire you to let her know not just today, but as often as possible just how much she means to you.

“There’s no way I can pay you back, but my plan is to show you that I understand, you are appreciated.” -Tupac