"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one." C.S. Lewis
Adulthood is an adventure that no one really knows how to navigate. In talking to my friends scattered all over the country and around the world, one of the consistent sentiments shared is having trouble making new friends. Making friends in adulthood is difficult but not impossible. That distinction is key. Adults are lonely. People are yearning for others who get them. Folks crave connection. No matter how closed off they might seem - it is a universal experience. A few or a lot of failed attempts does not mean we should give up where we are or on making friends in general. We have to keep trying, and try smart!
Quite honestly, the things we learned as kids to build our friendships still applies to striving the do the same thing in adulthood. Find something you have in common and build on it. Even more so, the principles from our college orientation experiences, and those first few weeks at our alma mater's speak volumes to teach us how to forge worthwhile relationships with new people. Nobody can know you if you don't let yourself be known. Friendship is about choice, consistent, and repeated choice, to be in relationship, connected, and present with others. We have to choose people again and again. Every time we reach out we are reinforcing that bond until it is strong enough to hold on its own.
Think about the friends we don't talk to daily but never worry about; those are friendships that have been fortified over time. We cannot compare those long-lasting friendships or use them as a defense to keep people new out - we are not giving them a fair chance. Different people will show up differently, and provide different kinds of friendship; are we open to them or not? Oftentimes we struggle with converting acquaintances to friends because we foolishly try to expedite the process, don't invest substantive time or energy into others, or do not show up vulnerably enough to let others know us. Usually it's a combination of the three.
Making friends in adulthood is a challenge because adults can be picky, superficial, and inconsistent. So many friendships (and frankly relationships) that have solid starts fizzle out quickly because they were built on situational convenience instead of relational substance. Yes, we connected that one time but every attempt to follow up was shot down until one or both people involved gave up. Make plans to hang out, and follow through on them. Set a date, time, and location. Express your excitement to spend time with the other person. Show up, and/or communicate otherwise. If you have to cancel, immediately suggest a makeup meetup with details. If you're the one that backs out then it's up to you setup a replacement hangout. Friendships solidify when we normalize someone's presence in our life. In our instantaneous, accelerationist society, relationships of all sorts begin fast and furious, and end just as quickly. When there's no gravity to the relationship it allows people to float away. Substance, dialogue, storytelling, emotions, feelings, shared experiences, that's was grounds relationships. We have to give our stories, part of who we are to others, and receive what others give us in return.
Friendship unlocks our inner selves. There's something amazing that happens every once in a while when we are around people who truly understand us, who validate us, and make us feel honored, welcomed, and celebrated. Our most authentic selves, an inner us oftentimes even unbeknownst to us, makes an appearance. It's us unadulterated, carefree, and comfortable. It is us at our best, most genuine, and realest. It is us full to the brim with life, passion, and emotion. Adulthood can be antithetical to that release when we spend extensive periods of time deprived of those potent connections. When we live in solitariness we forgot what that inner us feels like, and how it feels to be unapologetically us.
We miss out on being our brightest version of ourselves. We shrink away from the world, and others instead of extending our reach to embrace it. We trade warmth for cold isolation. But how do we find those people who bring that person out in us? Oftentimes the people that do it for us are unexpected. It's rarely those that we actively pursue but rather those that just happen to be around. Their presence is so subtle yet too blatant that we do not recognize it. It's those that are proximate to us but don't get the appreciation they deserve. Those we breathe in like air subliminally, those are the people that we need to acknowledge. Think of those you speak to consistently, who are effortless, who make you feel good - invest energy, time, and effort into those people.
People often say that clubs, organizations, and involvements don't matter after college - those people would be wrong. The best way to make friends without the safety net of education or work is to follow your passions. Hobbies, volunteering, community groups - whatever gets you in contact with others that have a shared interest. Go, be present, be bold, strike up conversations, build slowly, and then get explicit in telling people that you're enjoying their company, want to get to know them more, would love to connect, etc. Then do it. It can really be that simple. Join a co-ed dodgeball league, take a fitness class, pick up photography, volunteer at a foodbank, spend time with the young professionals league, go to your work happy-hours ... there are so many opportunities to get to know people but the all require us to be active in putting ourselves out there, letting people in, and leaning in to those connections. Meet friends of friends, swipe for friends, talk to be who are around when out bowling, strolling your neighborhood, at Target, whatever. Convert dates to friends if you can. People are more willing to let us in that we realize - we just have to be worthwhile in doing so. X