This whole minimalist lifestyle got me trippin. Once you strip away everything you clearly don't need, you start to see what you want is glaringly missing - like making new friends after moving, traveling, shifting careers, dumping a boy, yada yada yada. I haven't blogged in almost six months, but every time I return with a completely new life experience and evolution as a human being, you, my dear readers, are there with your incomparable thoughtfulness and comments and stories to share. It's got me thinking - I should return to this blog and never leave again. You know why? Because this shit show we call the internet is where most of us grown folk find friends. We find kindred spirits, we catch up from time to time, comment on each other's blogs, retweet funny tweets, like each other's pretty pictures, and go about life feeling quite content having never met that strange person in real life. What a phenomenon right? I mean, you don't even have my cell phone number girl. But I lovedddd that yellow dress you wore last week, plus that inspirational quote you keep touting is totally bomb. You're like my ride or die friend. Just not in real life. Ummmm.
Think back to when you were little and made those first trips to the park or playground with your mama or papa (or both if you were so 1950s kind of lucky). At first, you probably clung to mom’s or dad’s leg with sweaty little palms. Hiding behind them for a bit gave you time to get brave while peeking around at the kids having fun. For me, taking the first step to making friends was scary. Especially when you're a minority living in a certain town that doesn't expect you'd be living there. And, now that I’m an adult it’s even harder! With all of our life experiences and maturity, why is it so hard to make friends once we get past the college years?
I’ve always been a bit shy, even though naturally I appear extremely outgoing and gregarious. I think a little introversion waned its way into my DNA by osmosis. When I was little, my three best friends were Bert, Ernie, and Big Bird. Screw barbie. She was for chumps. I’d spend hours laying in front of the television watching and singing along to PBS. I had the theme song memorized:
“Come and play
Friendly neighbors there
That's where we meet”
But, where were these friendly neighbors? How could I get to this magical, happy street? I didn’t know how to get there and I was lonely.
Shit, I just admitted the L word.
After a few months of having the television monopolized by singing, dancing puppets, my mother got tired of me in the house. She shoved me out the front door into the sunlight of our front yard. I screamed and cried as if I was a vampire exposed to daylight. I banged on the screen door, but it was locked.
With tears on my little cheeks, and a pit in my stomach, I turned around to face the world before me. Children were playing up and down Cimmarron Street where we lived. They were laughing, riding bikes, and having fun. It was a lot like Sesame Street. But, I couldn’t figure out how to take that first step to meet them.
I don't know how you feel, but for me making friends as an adult is scarier than it was when I was five. I don’t have mom to give me that shove out the front door. I have to open the door and cross the threshold by myself and venture out into the scary world. This ain't your friendly neighborhood Sesame Street! Bitches be cray! And intimidating. And catty. And wayyyy too similar to Real Housewives. Can we go back to naive youth when having a bunch of males as your besties was totally politically correct? I did well with that.
And, as an adult, I know I carry a lot of emotional baggage that can make it hard to make connections with others. This baggage is filled with rejections and self-doubt I’ve gathered through the years. I’m like an emotional hoarder. So, in the back of my mind an inner timid child voice says to me:
“What if they don’t like you?”
“Don’t say something stupid!”
“Be cool. Don’t look like a loser.”
“Do I have spinach in my teeth?”
The truth is, almost everyone feels the same way at one time or another. And that feeling is called lonely, no matter how much you deny it or allow the stigma to embarrass you. It doesn't mean you’re completely forever alone or weird and neither am I. Well, let me retract. You might be some kind of weird if all you care about is becoming a top blogger and getting free shit and mirroring the life of your "idols" while forgetting to live for yourself with actual morals and values and a 50year plan because blogs don't pay a pension or bring you genuine love. Now that's weird. Alas, I digress. Adults are just little kids in big bodies. We’ve become even more guarded over the years. We’ve forgotten how to just open up to and accept others. We judge and others judge us. We get just as scared. And when you start to think about it, what's the perfect playpen for freaked out adults with disposable time but no disposable courage? The goddamn internet. You little lurker you.
So, how can you make friends when you’re an adult?
Well, every person and situation is different. Making yourself available to the possibility of new friends is the key. Clearly you’re not going to make new friends if you never step foot outside your own home and comfort zone. New friends don’t usually just come knocking…and if they do, you should probably keep the door locked! (I mean honestly, does anyone ever use the "just wanted to see if I could borrow some sugar" line in real life) Shove yourself out the door, like my mom did to me. Lock that door behind you and take that first step as often as possible.
Not all occasions or social settings are created equal. Don’t limit yourself to the same kind of friend-making opportunities, like bars and parties. That might have worked in college but it’s not as easy as you get older. Take advantage of settings where people are open, happy, and giving of themselves. Volunteer groups, book clubs, and sporting events can be great places to meet people who may be there to make friends too. And, with a common interest or goal to spark a conversation, you’re one step ahead.
Check this out. Here are three humble and over simplified tips I’ve learned that have made it easier for me to make friends since college:
1. Eyes on the Prize (not the phone): Don’t make yourself less approachable. Keeping your nose constantly in your cell phone may make YOU feel less awkward, but it makes it really difficult for people to talk to you or even believe that you're capable of having a conversation. And, if you're making progress in a game of Candy Crush, you're likely to come off annoyed if interrupted by a potential friend. Unless you’ve got some super amazing new phone that might be a conversation starter, keep it put away as much as possible. I know, I know. Easier said than done. As a social experiment I will walk into a busy Starbucks in the Village and time myself to see how long I can sip a cup of coffee and ...make...actual...eye contact with other humans! Wow, do they give away Nobel prizes for that? Talk about hard work.
2. No SWI's (Socializing While Intoxicated): Be careful with the alcohol. This isn't a Jamie Foxx video doll. A little bit may relax you and make you less tense. But, one drink too many and people may avoid rather than approach you. And, when you're intoxicated, you aren't really getting to know the other person and they aren't getting to know the real you. You may be really disappointed in the friend choices the "drunk you" makes.
3. Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall: Check out what your body language may be saying to others. Facial expressions and the way you carry yourself lets others know if you’re likely to reject them. And, no one wants to be rejected. Also, look out for whether you have "bitch resting face" or the opposite "creepy, awkward smile". Of course, don't forget to breathe. Tensing up makes you look like you need to find a restroom rather than a friend!
4. Be the Genuine Article: Don't try to be someone you're not. The adult person you are now is interesting enough to make and keep friends. If you're nervous, or think you'll be boring, plan ahead. Think of some interesting topics or stories that might fuel a conversation. Remember, "you is kind, you is smart, you is important". You will impress others just based on the real you.
Finally, social media and the Internet are great tools for making or maintaining contact with friends. However, you're trying to break that cycle of staying at home. You want flesh and blood friends rather than virtual friends. Remember, Cyberworld is not your adult version of the playground. You need to meet people face to face and make those emotional, mental, and physical connections. Don't allow yourself to use the ability to hide behind your monitor as a crutch. I learned to make new friends after college and so can you. Get out there and give it a shot. Being an adult is hard enough and no one should have to do it all alone!