There’s no sugarcoating it. Everyone feels lonely sometimes.
Making friends as an adult isn’t quite the same as when you’re a kid. When we’re young, it doesn’t take much to bond with other children your age. On the playground, maybe you both liked building sandcastles., or wore the same pink jelly sandals. Maybe you both had the same birthday and shared a chocolate fudge cake… you both were reading Harry Potter, you were assigned as partners for a science project, or you were on the same softball team. Whatever it was, it doesn’t matter. Friendship is easy when you aren’t worried too much about what anyone else thinks. You meet someone you’re age who enjoys similar activities to you and BOOM… you have a new friend.
Why is it so much harder for so many of us as adults?
Life always seems to get in the way. Timing is never “right”. There are a million other things you could be doing, and besides… you have a family. You have your childhood friends you see every once in a while. You might even have coworkers, which might as well be the same thing if your employer has anything to say about it. Your college friends are scattered across the country, you see each other when each one gets married, and it’s radio silence in-between. And the worst part of it all… everyone else online seems to have so many more fulfilling and exciting friendships than you do.
Well, I’m sharing this post for all of us who struggle. I mentioned my feelings briefly about this online (which feels a little like yelling into the void) but was very surprised at how many people reached out to me saying they felt the same way.
The past few years have wreaked havoc across the world, in many tangible ways. This is not meant to disparage any of that. But what has this sense of isolation done to our psyche?
I’m no psychologist, but it seems from my small corner of the world, that so many of us feel or have felt, at one point in the past 24+ months, lonelier than ever.
Early 2022, my husband and I packed all of our belongings and moved to a new place far from where we’ve lived for most of our lives. I did write a little about my feelings about it in this previous post. We are now about half an hour away from my family, but besides that – everything about our new home felt alien. We had moved to the suburbs in a beautiful and safe area, but with no children, no pets, and working out of the house… it was an extreme change of pace from what we were used to.
Less than a year ago, we were lucky to have a backyard wedding with 100 of our closest friends and family in attendance. And only a few months later, we felt very alone.
So, it was time to get to work. I had never considered myself an extrovert before, but the desire to forge friendships was now stronger than ever. I desperately missed my friends and acquaintances who I saw on a regular basis. But I instead looked at my life through a new lens: was I truly the type of person I’d want to be friends with?
Stop waiting for something to happen; make it happen.
The first and primary piece of advice: don’t just sit at home praying for a friend to find you. You need to get up and get out of your house. You need to make the effort, yourself. Stop waiting. Stop wishing.
This is a task easier said than done. But this situation won’t change unless you do. Failure is part of the journey and the more you fail, the more you’ll eventually begin to win. Allow yourself those uncomfortable moments in public – you see a pair of shoes that look cool, tell them. You’re standing in line for coffee and you comment on the weather outside. Sometimes, these little things go nowhere. But will the possibility of it going nowhere stop you from the chance it will?
Secondly, waiting on the “perfect” friend will leave you disappointed. We’re all flawed. We meet people who we like, but don’t check every box. And that’s okay! Expecting perfection out of people will only strain the relationship, and the friendship will dwindle on its own. Your base should be consistent – and the rest falls into place.
Think about the friends you’ve had in your past that you used to think you could not do life without… sometimes friendships just run their course. It doesn’t always end in an explosion of unpleasantness. Sometimes, a season of life is over and it’s time for everyone to tip their hats and move on. There’s nothing wrong with being friendly-from-afar with those who may no longer qualify as “the greatest friend of your life”.
I’ve made some friends in some of the oddest situations since we moved. Neighborhood walks while holding a coffee cup, hiking in the mountains, trying out a new hair salon, sitting at a sushi bar next to a talkative local – the first step to making a friend is being open to it. Has every one of these friendships stood the test of time? No, not all friendships are bound to turn into your future child’s godmother/godfather.
Friends that last a lifetime are rare
The friends that last a lifetime are rare. If you feel like you haven’t met that friend in your life yet, fear not. It’s like lightning striking. You don’t know when it will happen. Just be receptive.
Old friends that you don’t see for a while… social media has made it easier to connect, but also easier to neglect. So many friendships boil down to liking photos. If you don’t like having that type of friend, then don’t be that friend to the people who you care most about.
Take a moment to think about a person that you haven’t seen in 5+ years – you didn’t remember to wish them a happy birthday on Facebook…. Or they didn’t congratulate you on that milestone in your life you were posting 100 Instagram stories about. What should you do when you do run into each other?
You should let it go. It’s much easier to move on and let the conversation flow naturally rather than hash out silly resentments. Life is busy – and it’s unfair to assume that you’re somehow the busiest person in the world who has time for everyone and everything and no one pays you the same respect in return. Life goes on. Friendships change. A past friendship becoming more casual isn’t the end of the world.
However, if there’s a friend in your life that has your gut sinking to the pit of your stomach every time you speak or see them, this might be a toxic friendship that is time to move past. Naturally drifting away is normal – sometimes it’s best for everyone. Take it from me: no amount of the validation you seek is worth a toxic friendship.
No amount of the ego validation you seek is worth maintaining a toxic friendship.
To any of us who feel the need to keep toxic friendships in our lives to feed our egos, just know that we do it at the expense of everyone around us. Cut that sh*t out.
But, back to a lighter note!☀️ Our friendships as adults aren’t supposed to be painful. It may look different than sandcastles, recess, and dinosaur chicken nuggets after school. But get out there and allow the world to see the type of person you are, and better yet… invite those types of people into your life.
If you enjoy high-energy situations, join a gym membership or a workout class. From experience, I know these aren’t always budget-friendly, so it’s certainly not required to find the biggest brand name gym in your area. Look on Facebook pages and Meetup for workout groups, and sign-up for charity races, or local events. Making friends really is just a form of networking if you want to get to the bare bones of it.
If you have kiddos, it’s as simple as asking about someone else’s children. There is no greater icebreaker.
If not, volunteer at a local shelter, join a club, allow the salesperson at the mall to help you find what you’re looking for, ask the butcher at the grocery store what they recommend… just get out of your bubble. Start, and start today,