Earlier this week, Jennifer wrote about leaving her friends behind because of a big cross-country move. I made a similar big move nearly four years ago,
following my now husband from San Diego to Seattle when he started his exciting
new career. The hardest part for me? Making new friends. It sure isn't as easy as it used to be!
Unlike Jennifer, I’m more
of an introvert than a social butterfly. My job involves
interviewing all sorts of people, but I’m happiest with my nose buried in a book, working on home
and design projects, or scouring thrift shops for great scores. Still, I’ve
always had plenty of pals.
Back in San Diego, my best
buddy lived a couple of minutes away. We’d hang out practically every day.
She’d come over to preview my latest date outfit or I'd drop by to admire her new
coffee table. We could gab for hours. At my wedding, she even joked to our
table that if one of us were a man, we’d have gotten married ages ago.
I also had a wide circle
of friends and acquaintances. Whether grabbing my morning coffee or going to
shows solo, I’d always run into somebody. My social calendar was exactly as
full as I wanted it to be. And it was easy to make new friends, because my job
as an arts writer connected me with lots of cool people.
Here in Seattle, on the
other hand, I’ve had an incredibly difficult time forging meaningful
friendships. I only have a few casual friends, and most of them are fellow transplants that I already knew from
Southern California. When you’re in
your 30s, making new friends can be a Herculean task, especially if you work at
home like I do.
Think of it as dating
without the possibility of getting lucky. You meet somebody new, daydream about your apparent chemistry, and hope they feel the same way. Like
dating, you can’t straight-out ask: do you like me? You have to read the signs and hope
you’re not misinterpreting. You have to be your most charming self. And you
have to be prepared for rejection.
I’ve been on the giving
and receiving end of brush-offs. I’ve had conversations that required my best
interviewing skills to get through. I even went on a blind-friend date recently that reminded me of my worst actual dates. She literally did not ask
a single question about me because she was so busy talking about herself. And
here I thought I was done with all that when I got hitched!
In the NY Times story
“Friends of a Certain Age: Why Is It Hard to Make Friends Over 30?,” writer
Alex Williams cites the biggest obstacles to finding lasting friendships as you get older. For
starters, your priorities shift. In your 20s, life’s possibilities seem endless
and friends are easily met at bars and parties. In your 30s, you’re
focused more intently on your career and home life. Your schedule is
jam-packed with obligations. You’re pickier about what you want. And spouses and kids make
compatibility even more complicated.
In other words: It’s
really, really hard to make new close friends as you approach the midlife mark.
Especially if you’re starting over in a new city. So what’s a gal or guy to do?
Here are some tips I’ve gathered while trying to figure it out.
Keep your old
friends close, even if they’re scattered to the winds. Nothing will cheer you
up faster on a lonely day than hearing a good friend’s voice or getting an
email with all their latest news. It takes effort, of course, but it’s worth
notion of who your friends should be. I’ve been trying so hard to meet
like-minded creative people close to my own age that I’ve probably missed out on a lot
of opportunities. That elderly neighbor could have some amazing stories or
recipes to share. The much-younger co-worker a few cubicles over might remind
you of how fun it is to let loose once in a while.
Get over your
fear of rejection. It’s going to happen no matter what. I’ve been making an
effort to talk to pretty much anyone about anything. Some people look at me
like I’m crazy, while others engage. Even chatting with a stranger for a few
minutes can be fulfilling.
Follow up on
every lead. If a contact says they know someone in your new city that you might
like, go for it. Sure, it could be a terrible blind-friend date, but you could
also find a new bestie. You network to advance your career. Use those skills
for making friends, too.
Take a class or
join an organization or team. It’s a cliché for a reason: It actually works! A sporty friend of
mine recently moved and she already has a bunch of friends that she met playing
soccer. I’m planning to sign up for some classes that interest me, from
woodworking to raising chickens in the city. I’m also perfecting my downward
dog at the neighborhood yoga center. At the very least, you’ll gain some new
skills or get some exercise.
Look into local social
networks that specifically target folks who are trying to make new friends. Such
organizations host group activities, from cocktail mixers to a shared day on
the slopes. As an introvert, I’m overwhelmed by big groups and forced social
situations, but this is a can't-lose approach for extroverts.
guidelines and don't waste your time. If I meet someone new and our first hangout seems like a success,
I’ll follow up with a friendly email. I’ll even suggest making future plans.
After that second meeting, though, it’s up to the other person to reciprocate.
I learned this the hard way when I first moved here. I met someone that I
clicked with and she always said yes when I asked her to hang out. But I realized
that I was the only one doing the asking, which is not a good foundation for
friendship. I moved on and focused my attention elsewhere. Also, don’t feel
obligated to hang out with people you don’t particularly like just because you crave
expectations in check. I gave up on finding a Seattle-based BFF — though it still might happen someday — and instead began searching for friends
who meet specific needs. Maybe you have a buddy that you grab breakfast with
once a month, or a regular coffee date with someone who excels at deep conversations, or a pal that shares
your passion for basketball or gallery openings. No one person needs to fill
every needLearn to enjoy your own company and explore your new city. It may seem daunting to sit at a restaurant bar by yourself, but you'd be surprised at how easy it can be to strike up a conversation, whether it's with the bartender or the person next to you. I make a point of doing this whenever my husband is out of town.
Don’t be hard on
yourself. Give it time. You know you’re an awesome person. Eventually, your new friends will know that too.
(Image: Chris Perez / Laurel & Margot's Celebration of Craft House Tour)