I spent my final week in Boston in tears. I was happy to be moving on to the next city and the next phase of my life, but I was sad not only to be leaving an absolutely amazing city full of memories but also to be leaving so many incredible friends. When we moved to Boston I knew one person other than Justin. ONE. So how did I make friends in just a few short years that made leaving so hard?
Well I learned a few things throughout my friend-making journey in Boston, and they’re actually things that have carried over into my life today. If you’re trying to figure out how to navigate friend-making in this unstructured adult world we live in, here are a few tips.
1. The first thing you have to do is put your big girl pants on and put yourself out there. It’s scary. I get it. I’m an extrovert by nature, but contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t mean that I’m super outgoing – especially in situations where I don’t know anyone. Walking into a room full of strangers makes my palms sweat. When you’re in a new city and don’t know anyone, though, you have to put yourself in uncomfortable situations if you ever want to meet anyone. The likelihood of someone knocking on your door and asking you to be their friend is incredibly slim. So when I lived in Boston, I went to Boston Blogger meetups and connected with like minded people. I started going to Pure Barre and chatted with girls before and after class who ended up becoming some of my closest friends in Boston. I said “YES!” when the girls at work asked me to join them for dinner in Harvard Square after work. And the more I did it, the easier it became, and the more awesome people I had the privilege of getting to know.
2. Put your phone down. Now that you have your big girl pants on, don’t decide to trek backwards and pull out your phone at the next social gathering you go to. I know it’s so easy to do. When no one is talking to you, checking out your phone makes you look like you are, in fact, not a loser and you’re engaged in something – even if that something is the same feed of Instagram photos you looked at five minutes ago. But guess what? If you’re really that interested in your phone, people are way less likely to approach you and strike up a conversation. I mean, no one wants to be rude and interrupt, right?
3. Compliment someone. This is what you do when you can’t lean on the crutch that is looking at your phone. It’s the easiest way to strike up a conversation with someone. Now, please don’t go making insincere compliments. That’s not cool. But find someone whose necklace, shoes, bag, pants or hair you like, and tell them! People love compliments, you guys. All you have to do is say, “Hey! I love your necklace! Where’d you get it?”. And then maybe she’ll tell you she got it at J.Crew or a boutique that you love, and SHAZAM! You instantly have a connection. You can bond over shopping initially which can lead to a conversation about something else.
4. Say “YES!”. Stop making up excuses as to why you can’t do this or that. If you truly want to make friends, you’ll find time in your schedule to do so, and you’ll also find the courage to step out of your comfort zone. If someone you just met asks you to grab lunch or a drink, do it. If a friend at work asks you to join their crew for a Friday night outing, go! No, you’re not going to build lifelong friendships with every one of these people. I’ve gone to dinner with potential friends before, and honestly? We just weren’t meant to be besties. And that’s totally fine. You can’t be friends with everyone. BUT you’ll never know who you’re supposed to be friends with if you don’t at least test the waters.
5. Be proactive. Even though I’m now back in my hometown where I could very easily fall back into my group of high school friends and be content, I’ve made a decision not to. Let me preface this by saying I LOVE MY HIGH SCHOOL FRIENDS. I love them dearly, and I still thoroughly enjoy the time we spend together. But I also want to extend my network and broaden my horizons. Specifically, I really want to connect with other creatives in the Evansville area, because I think it’s incredibly important to have that support network. So to be completely candid, I did a little bit of internet stalking. I found some people I wanted to connect with, and I reached out to them! Most people have been more than happy to sit down for a drink with me or chat over a lunch date. Sure, some people are unresponsive, but that’s part of the process and you can’t let it get to you. Maybe you love reading and want to find a book club, or maybe you want to find a workout buddy, or maybe you want to hang out with someone who shares your appreciation for a good glass of wine. Let your friend, Google, lead the way. There are websites and Facebook groups out there for nearly everything. And if you can’t find one, start one! I promise you you’re not the only one who would find it useful.
Making friends as an adult is hard. We spend the better part of our lives in social situations such as play dates set up by mom, school, organized sports and college that are more or less a bubble. We don’t realize it while we’re going through it, but we’re basically placed into scenarios where we’re surrounded by people who are our same age and are also looking to make friends. And then… then we enter the real world, and it’s like BAM! BUBBLE POPPED! Good luck trying to figure this one out! BYE! So I understand that these things may seem a little unnatural and uncomfortable at first. But it really just takes a little bit of effort. It takes making that first step and putting yourself out there, and you will meet your people. You’ll find your tribe and make lifelong friends. And once you do it, those amazing friendships you gain in your life will make any bit of uncomfortability you feel now totally worth it.