One of the reasons being single works so well for me is my robust circle of what experts call social connections: some I’ve known forever, others I only recently met, some I share a bloodline with. Lots of studies and medical experts support that –single or married– healthy relationships are what help keep people sane and thriving. Family, friends, co-workers, neighbors; it doesn’t really matter who they are as long as you’re good to and for each other.
Making new friends as an adult can be a challenge. When we’re younger, we’re in more situations where it’s easy to meet people –school, sororities, the club, playing sports– but these seemingly unending people options get thin once we’re no longer doing those things. A couple of readers of this blog have commented that they want to be more socially connected, but it’s a little more work. Here’s how a few people I know are navigating this:
- My sister, Phyllis, has met a number of interesting and fun people while taking continuing education classes at American University (my alma-mater).
- My friend, Kim, is an active user of MeetUp.com, that helps people find and join groups of other people with whom they share a common interest. It can be politics, books, games, movies, health, pets, careers or hobbies. Users enter their ZIP code or their city and the topic they want to meet about, and the website helps them arrange a place and time to meet. Kim goes camping, plays Scrabble, and meets others who are learning French for dinner so they can practice their new language.
- Rhona, a longtime reader of The Spinsterlicious Life (and owner of her own blog, Singularly Happy), has this to add about making new friends:
Making friends in a new place as an adult can be very frustrating and can lead to feelings of isolation and sadness. When I first moved to a new city, I was really frustrated and I was becoming more introverted than usual. Going to work and then home was becoming a sad habit for me. After months of this, I noticed unpleasant habits in my behavior. I started to dread going home and would walk the mall aimlessly to avoid boredom. I was also talking less and less. After recognizing these changes, and not liking them, I took action.
First thing I did was jump online and Googled Meet-up. The second thing I
did was attend events. The last thing I did and continue to do is open up.
I am an introvert. Most times I prefer to be alone than with a group of people or another person, period. I love being around friends and family and have a great time with them but I need my space and time alone almost compulsively. This is why living alone has been so empowering for me and maybe why marriage is so unappealing.
Although I am an introvert, not having a network of friends with whom I could socially interact was getting old. I was driving myself crazy. So Googling Meet-up groups for my city has been one of the best things for me. At first I was nervous to be entering this
world of making new friends virtually in a new city but I knew that I had
to do it if I wanted to have a semblance of a life here. From the Meet-up site, I chose four groups that interested me. I am active in two of them, so far.
The groups I chose all suit my personality. Two groups are for women in
my age group without kids or husband/attachment of any kind. We meet at
least once every other week. We do all sorts of fun and lighthearted events and I have made some good friends in the process.
The other groups are my buffer groups. I have not made the same sort of connections that I wanted with these groups but they still provide fun and enjoyment when I choose to attend an event.
Joining a fitness club has been another way for me to make new friends and meeting people in a new city. I don’t want to go to a gym, so I Googled “power walking clubs” in my city. The search was almost a bust but then, somehow, I spied a blog of a husband and wife team who hold walking sessions twice a week to anyone who wants to join. This really is just a group where we meet and walk. We meet in a very public place and walk one night for 5k.
On the weekend, they offer a 10k walk. I immediately joined and have been happy thus far. This group is comprised of a ragtag bunch of people of varying ages but my main goal for joining was to get in a good power walk, building my endurance while possibly chatting with some fun people. This has increased my social world even further. I get to meet some cool people who love to sweat a bit and have discussions while doing it.
Another highlight of this group is that there are varying fitness levels
present and the organizers don’t make people who are slower (pointing to
myself) feel less adequate (as some fitness teachers do.) Even if you don’t
enjoy power walking, there are numerous running or biking or varying
fitness groups one can join. The main issue is to enter with a sincere smile and a desire to be a part of.
I have had some really positive results from reaching out. I have met some
cool people who I now consider friends. I have been able to participate in
activities that I would not have been privy to if I was not part of these
groups. And, my social life in my new city has flourished. I
believe I have had success with meeting new people in a new city as an
adult because I am willing to take safe risks.
Going to Meet-up groups, initially, can be difficult. I remember driving to my first Meet-up filled with nerves. I was scared but really wanted and needed this. I was the first person to arrive at the event but immediately opened up and shoved my introverted side to the corner for the evening. It was tough, let me tell you, but it worked! That first night I shared with some of the women at my table how difficult it has been for me
to meet new people as an adult. It was like I broke an invisible dam and the result was a tidal wave of response. Pretty much everyone breathed a sigh of relief and expressed the same sort of emotions.
From here on out, I made new friends. Whereas in the past my evenings were filled with watching mindless TV or taking walks alone (I still do enjoy this), on the nights and
weekends, you will probably find me out and about with my new friends.
Admittedly, I have not formed lifelong friendships with everyone I connect
with through these groups, but that is ok. I did not walk into this
expecting to find a 2nd best friend. I did however make a friend by
putting myself out there. There is one woman in particular. We clicked
immediately and our friendship feels very natural and like we have known each other since childhood. The point of going out and joining a group is not to necessarily make lifelong friends, but having an adult to speak with and enjoy something new with a network of likeminded people or person.
Don’t be shy. My rationale is that everyone who joins a group like Meet-up is looking for some of the same things. We all want to meet new people and share in an activity we
enjoy. Try to leave fear behind and join the social train.
And what about the rest of you? What role does friendship play in your life? Please share your stories on how you’ve met new people…what works, and what doesn’t work.