On Making Friends (As An Adult)

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coffee with friends

“Hi?” My Hello, Hi and Good mornings have all as of late been uttered as questions. Not statements as the usual dialect goes but inquisitions; the greetings linger, they trail off and end in a very definite question mark. My best guess as to why my voice inflections have been inflecting something else entirely? The intense question hiding behind the hello: Can we be friends?

My dear friends from grade school, high school, college and those incredible bonds secured in early adulthood are forever etched in my heart and, these days, only a phone call (or text) away. But the proximity to each of them is miles and miles, so to grab an impromptu glass of wine together is near impossible, sadly.

So I am an adult and I am trying (hopefully not too desperately) to make friends.

Have you made it through this exercise before? If so, I do applaud you. If not, I absolutely encourage it with bouts of bravery as they come. It’s not the easiest to bring yourself to the table (most especially when it seems already full) but if forcing myself to grab a seat anyways has taught me anything, it’s this: the reward far outweighs the risk.

Gently treading in a newfound place of immediate friendlessness (and securely in my 30s) it became my sole responsibility to make new connections, form new bonds and, quite literally, ask women to be my friend—unnerving to say the very least. My husband’s new job dictated a move to a new city, one rife in suburban splendor and unfortunately for me, a location where many families raise children who end up raising their own children down the street. Transplants? Who needs ‘em. (I did.)

My husband and I left downtown Chicago after a wild nine year run, and with our 18-month-old son in tow we headed to the suburbs in the great state of Michigan. It was a quick and unexpected turnaround so barely had I begun to mourn the loss of the hustle and bustle of the city than I found myself in the isolating quiet of perfectly manicured lawns.

Now what? Not knowing a single soul (with the exception of my husband’s colleague's wife—who is one of the most fun, most brilliant friends I now have) was downright scary. I missed everything about the city, especially the communal feel of people. In a seemingly foreign land and as a stay at home mom I could go for days on end (if I so chose) and literally not talk to a single adult save my husband. The transition was rough, the aftermath even harder.

But as we all know, sometimes our attitudes can make or break us. So after a few weeks of wallowing—up with the bootstraps and on with it, I said. Get thee to a Starbucks and say, Hello?

So it began: I introduced myself to anyone and everyone who would listen. Some utterances fell on deaf ears, some launched themselves into places even I dared not think conversations could go. Mostly it startled people and gave them pause as (I’m sure) they asked themselves: what does she want? Oh, only a friend. Eye contact took on a new meaning entirely as I now understood the adage of eyes as the windows to the soul; I looked deep and searched for a glimmer of recognition.

I became an expert at asking grown women for their digits; I went on many a friend blind date; I disregarded my inhibitions and approached anyone; I found that being humble is, indeed, a virtue. I am downright friendless! Care to help? I discarded fear and insecurities as I chatted, making small talk and pursuing connections.

And it’s not that I was searching for quantity—as an adult I certainly appreciate and cherish my intimate circle of close confidants. Adding fringe friends to the mix becomes near impossible to manage alongside two toddlers, a freelance career and, well, general life upkeep. And I wasn’t naive enough to think that the first three women I met were going to become lifelong friends so I cast a wide net hoping to catch a few prizewinners. And thankfully, I did.

It’s been quite the almost-three-year journey creating a new life, building community and making friends after our geographical reboot. But it’s taught me much about growing into my own skin and throwing myself into the front lines. It almost became a reinvention of sorts; old friends just know—they’ve lived your history alongside you. They are most certainly the ties that bind you to, well, you. And new friends have to be told—who you are, what you’ve been through and what you stand for.

I think there’s a difference in these tales of friendships and obvious advantages to each. But I’ve learned the true beauty of friendship mirrors your current stage of life: who you are today, right this very second, reflects itself in those you call your people. Those you fought hard to find, to make and to keep. So in my truest Oprah-ism, this is what I know for sure: friends are worth every effort.

p.s. One editor's shares her thoughts On Living  Alone.