Making Friends as a Grownup

Remember making friends in college, Fledglings? It was so easy. You’d literally just walk into the dorm-hall lobby or the cafeteria and sit down next to someone, and you’d make a friend. Forging new friendships in college required nothing more than physically leaving your room.

Well, thirteen years on from starting college, I’m here to tell you that that will be the absolute easiest time you will EVER have making new friends. Making friends as a grownup with a full-time job and relatives that need your time and attention and a partner you want to spend alone time with, is ridiculously hard to pull off. This is mainly because all the people you could be friends with right now – they also have all those demands on their time. It’s not easy out there, guys.

When I moved to west Texas from the DFW Metroplex, I knew I was leaving behind friends I’d had for at least a decade. I was sad about that, but I was also excited for a new adventure, and let’s face it, the whole ‘too many time constraints to hang with your friends’ thing was absolutely still a factor in my life in DFW. We just didn’t hang out as often as we had when I was 22, single, and functionally unemployed.

So what’s a busy birdie to do when she finds herself in a new place and in need of people to hang out with? I’ve lived here about a year and a half, and I think I’m getting the hang of it now. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  1. Be Where The People Are. Yes, just like Ariel, you wanna be where the people are. If you’re looking for new friends to do things with, it behooves you to show up to places where people are already doing things you like. That way, even if you don’t make new friends, at least you’re getting out and doing something you think is fun. If you enjoy yoga, sign up for a yoga class – other people who like yoga take yoga classes! If you’re an artist, see what the local museums are up to and set yourself up to run into other art-lovers! If you love animals, see if your shelter takes volunteers for adoption events and hang out with other people who love animals! Going through something with other people is how friendships are forged – it’s why college is so great for forming friendships. But taking the same class or volunteering for the same organization can have a similar effect on people.
  2. Be Forthcoming. If you’re new in town and want to make friends, tell people that. I know it feels like you’re coming off as a giant dork, but it’s so easy for grownups to assume that people they meet already have social lives, and we forget to initiate those friendship-having things we all want to do together. If you’re the one wanting friends, you’ll have to speak up. Ask someone if they want to grab dinner, or share a ride to the next cat-adoption event – after you get to know them a little, obviously. They probably didn’t even know you’re short on socializing, so you suggesting something is the best way to make it happen.
  3. Be Patient. This is a big one: remember how I mentioned all those obligations we have now? Remember how I also mentioned that the people we want to be friends with also have those obligations? Yeah, scheduling a meetup is going to be hard. Schedules change, nobody has the same free evenings, last-minute work/child/home situations happen to scupper best-laid plans. Don’t get disappointed or assume people don’t like you because they keep having to reschedule – just keep trying. Give it some down-time in between, so you’re not annoying people, but if something fell through, try and reschedule as soon as you can. If you don’t put the effort in to make it happen, it becomes all to easy to end up at home every night for weeks on end. I wish events and happenings would just materialize like they did back in college, but I’ve found that it’s not nearly that easy anymore. The only way I’ve been able to make it work is to keep scheduling things, and then scheduling them again when they fall through. It gets tedious and frustrating sometimes, but so does sitting at home all the time, and at least rescheduling gives you a chance of doing something fun with your day.
  4. Be Flexible. Your hangouts may not look like you’re used to them looking, and it’s important to roll with it and focus on having fun. Your friend might need to bring their kid along on your Starbucks date. You might need your friends to come to you because you’re waiting on a delivery. Your friend’s wife might be switching to a night shift, so they can’t hang out before 7PM. These things happen, and it’s important to adjust your expectations so you can still get your social on, rather than canceling because it’s not going to be the exact hangout you wanted to have. Don’t pass up on seeing friends just because the venue/guest list/activities have changed – your friends are still there, right? Go to the thing to see them and to catch up on their lives. If you’re with good people, you’ll probably end up having fun anyway.

It’s so easy to get used to our socializing being an epic event where everyone can do whatever they want for however long they want, and all that fun is just free for the taking. The reality of being out of college and in the whole employed/partnered/responsible world has been a big change for me, and it probably is for you too, because we all have SO MUCH going on. Fun is still necessary, but now it has to be scheduled, and everyone is going to need to compromise at least a little, and it might not work out the first time you try and get together. That’s okay, I promise. When the stars align and you do end up having a fantastic time with your friends, you’ll remember why you put in all that effort, because it will be 100% worth it.

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