“Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.”
― John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men
The thing they don’t tell you about getting older is how hard it is to maintain relationship. As a grade-school child, you’re in a room with 25 other kids your same age from your neighborhood and for roughly eight months, you have built in best friends. That’s how it goes for 13 years or so and then you slowly add more and more people until you realize, unless you’re intentional, you might not know anyone.
I can’t name one person I met in college. Seriously.
As an adult, I’ve learned that if I want to have more than surface-level friendships, I’m going to have to put in the extra effort. I don’t know that I’ll ever find the consistency I had in grade school. I work from home. I’m a single adult. If I want friendships, I have to make them a priority. Here are some best practices I’ve collected over the past years:
1. Don’t expect your friends to be psychic. I’m not even sure the people advertising themselves to be psychics are psychics, but we expect our friends to know when we’re sad or sick or feeling left out. While you don’t want to end up in a one-sided relationship, involvement with another person is always going to require putting yourself out there in some form. If you’re feeling blue, invite a friend to dinner. Decide you aren’t going to let it ruin your night if they aren’t available. Maybe think of 3 or 4 people to ask just in case. The point is just to get some quality time!
2. Know what you love. It can be really frustrating hanging out with people who love football to watch football if you don’t love football. Who’s fault is it really? If they know they love football, they are only being authentic to what they love. What do YOU love? If it’s not football, that’s totally fine! Is it hiking? Is it crafting? Is it going to concerts? The more you know about what you love, the easier it is to find your tribe or to invite people into experiences with you versus always feeling like you’re tagging along with someone else. It’s no one else’s job to find out what you love so take the time to really think about it and then share it!
3. Reconnect. There has to be some advantage to all the social media we’re glued to these days. Maybe it’s an opportunity to reach out to family or friends you lost touch with long ago. Upon moving to LA last year, I reconnected with one of those grade school friends I mentioned after I noticed on Facebook that she’d also moved to Los Angeles after graduating from college in Texas. We sent a couple of emails back and forth and scheduled lunch. It was a little nerve-wracking walking up to the restaurant. Would it be weird? Would we even have anything in common anymore? But, from the moment we sat down at the table, it was as if we had never missed a day!
It’s hard to be vulnerable. It’s hard to say “I feel alone” because it means you want people around and so much of society these days says you’re weak if you need people. To that I say the world isn’t big enough for everyone to have their own islands, so community has to happen. I also think that some of our best refining comes in the context of community.
It is where we learn to be selfless and also to stand up for ourselves.
It is where we learn to love ourselves and also to put others first.
It is where we learn what hills we want to die on.
It is where we learn the value of “thank you” and “I’m sorry”.
Those seem like worthy lessons.
So, don’t forget.
You are not alone.
You’re here and I’m here and so we can go ahead and put the notion that you’re alone to sleep.
You are not hopeless.
You are not unworthy of love.
I can say that with full confidence because your heart is beating.
So get out there!
A lonely someone is waiting on your friendship.