Sometimes life’s parallels are uncanny. Okay, so maybe emerging adulthood doesn’t look quite like the kindergarten playground, but it can feel like it. Lots of things are new, you’re thrust into a flurry of activity you may or may not be prepared for, and oh yeah — you have to make friends.
This is probably the thing that has been most difficult for me since graduating college and leaving the relative safety of the education world. Of course, school has a lot of risks and challenges and lots of people you don’t want to be friends with, but at least there are a ton of potential opportunities built into your daily schedule.
Once school’s out, not so much. For the 8ish months after graduating college that I was living with my parents, I was back in the same place I grew up, so luckily I had a couple of old friends and familiar places to go back to. Still, the majority of my friends were far away, so being able to see them was a trip that had to be planned instead of just a door that had to be knocked on. Since I moved out and started working full-time, it’s been a bit more challenging.
The good news is I’m good friends with the people I live with, but my nearby friend count outside of that is pretty much zero. My coworkers are all kind, and a few in particular are really easy to chat with over lunch or during a lull in the work day. But because for the most part people are working autonomously and on something different than you, you’ve got to go much more out of your way to develop friendships out of acquaintanceships.
I’m an introvert. I like people, and enjoy friendships and being social, but initiating that is a beast I’ve never been fond of. I met my best friend because we had a mutual friend, got to know my boyfriend because he sat next to me in class, and made my best friend in college because we lived in the same dorm and then worked together. Proximity is a huge help in forming friendships, especially proximity with downtime.
Now that we’ve established all that, this is usually the part where I have some helpful advice. I have to admit I’m still struggling with this one, so my advice is painfully limited, but these are the things I have found helpful:
- Find the kid coloring the same picture as you. In other words, find a group or activity outside of work and home where you can meet people with mutual interests. I recently started going to a new church, and am hoping to connect with folks as I invest time there, as well as find a place to volunteer semi-consistently.
- Share your snacks. Everything is easier over food. Ask coworkers out to lunch, or say yes when they ask you. I’ve brought in treats for the office just to be a positive presence, and as an easier excuse to say hi to folks than just randomly meandering up to their desk.
- Don’t cry. Tell the voice in your head to calm the heck down. Your acquaintances are probably not avoiding you or whispering behind your back, so please try not to worry about it.
- You know, be friendly. Ask about things people care about, listen attentively, and remember what they say. Having a vested interest in someone’s life — even if it’s just for the sake of conversation — will create the opportunity for friendships to form.
Okay guys, that’s it. That’s all I got. However, I would absolutely love to hear suggestions on what you’ve found helpful for making friends in new places because I need all the help I can get. Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!