Last week I had a much needed and long overdue phone-date with one of my best friends, Kelly. Now here's what you should know about Kelly: she's freaking awesome. Seriously, one of the funnest and nicest people you could ever know. And I am so blessed to know her. Being acutely aware of her degree of awesomeness and friendship powers, however, is what made the topic of our conversation so unbelievable: making friends is hard, man. She wrote an amazing and heartfelt post here on the topic. I then read a follow-up post written by another wonderful lady who joined in on the conversation.
So it's safe to conclude here that friendships are incredibly meaningful to each and every one of us and we have all had our fair share of trials and triumphs in this area. From day one in our lives, we crave relationships and need those special bonds that tie us to others. Toddlers recognize friends. I remember friends dating back to kindergarten (and have even kept a very special one from that time - holla, Melon!) Disappointments I felt in friendships from elementary school still affect me today. My almost complete lack of friends in middle school (i.e. Hell), save one, still impact my self-esteem. Some of my most formative and impactful friendships occured during high school.
When I was really young, I had such resilience. It was so easy for me to bask in the rays of sunshine and joy and rainbows and all that. Although I was always on the shy side, and incredibly sensitive to injustice and down-right meanness, I found solace in the sweet little sheltered world I resided in. As I got older though, I realized more and more that not everyone is full of love and not everyone wanted to be your BFF. Whaaa..? Nevertheless, I managed to find some real gems in the friend department. I didn't need a lot, only a couple of close, special ones. That's all that mattered to me, and those friends I carry in my heart and always will.
I never had to be the new girl before. Well I have, in a small-scale way, but new school? New neighborhood? New town? No, never. I grew up in the same house all my life, grew up with the same classmates. And then I moved a year ago. To a new state. Away from everyone I love and all that was familiar (except for E; I don't know what i'd so without her). And for the first time, I had to learn how to start from scratch. I knew my friends were still there for me, just a phone call/text/email away - but sometimes you just need someone to hug, you know? Or stuff your faces with junk food, or watch cheesy movies with, or car-jam to Pat Benetar with, or you know, look at face to face.
I was determined, though, and so was Elise. We made it a mission to venture out into the world of Seattle and by golly, make us some friends! We became a kind-of task force with our weapons of kindness and charm and free-food-at-our-place. We really tried hard. And you know what? We met some great incredible people. People who are intelligent, funny, generous, and kind. For them, we are so thankful. I had to step out of my comfort zone like never before and demolish my box of security that I lived in. It's been 11 months, and the first 6 were super painful. I was miserable. By the 8 month mark, I was finally beginning to feel at home. And now, I am still struggling, sometimes discouraged, but mostly a LOT better...I have come a long way.
Here's the thing though- once you go out and meet people, what happens next? How do you cross that gap between acquaintance-land and friend-for-life? You'd think by 23, I'd know by now. I mean, it's happened before, and I still don't know how it happens. Doh. It makes me think, am I just totally inept at this? Am I broken? Is what I have to offer not appealing? Back to my conversation with Kelly: we had an epiphany. See, she has of late been wondering the same thing. We were not alone. Why is this such a common dilemma? I already told you, Kelly is awesome. Anyone who wouldn't want to be her friend is legitimately an insane person and is totally missing out. And if she is my friend, along with every other unbelievably awesome person who is my friend (and they all are), then I must tentatively conclude that I....maybe...perhaps...am O.K. too? So what's the deal, then? If everyone I know has this desire for close, bonding, meaningful relationships in their lives, then why are they so hard to form?
I have a couple inklings:
1.) It's this age group. Mid to late twenty somethings have so much on their plates. They are in grad-school, they have careers, they are getting married, they are popping out babies, etc. Oh my gosh, they are super-people. I don't know how they handle it. They amaze me and are my heroes. I don't do any of these things. I mean, I have a job, but other than that I am probably the least busy out of anyone I know. So yeah, I can see how that would make it hard to dedicate a lot of time to coffee-dates and toe-nailing painting parties and the like.
2.) People are already established. They already have friends. It's not that they are not interested in you, or that they don't like you, but their lives and friendship circles have been in the works for years and are pretty functional as they are. They are not out looking for new additions. That's not to say they won't accept you - gosh, please don't hear me saying that. They are nice, not rude. But let's be honest, the new person has a lot more motivation to put themselves out there.
3.) Walls of vulnerability and circles of trust are hella hard to break through. Because every person in this world has faced hurt and disappointment and broken relationships at some point in their life, it makes it really hard to open up completely to another new person whom you know nothing about and had just popped up in your world and is all, "Hey wanna be BFFs and share everything?!!!!" Actually, I don't ever say that to anyone, ever. Sometimes I think it, though.... Anyways, to be completely serious, this is a real and honest struggle that a lot of people face. And I totally get it. It's a scary thing to be vulnerable with someone new.
And on top of all of that, I know that for me, I have my own roadblocks getting in the way. I am a very introverted person. I have a hard time being completely myself around new people. My personality is misconstrued by many, I fear. And sheesh, I know I'm not alone in that, everyone has been misunderstood before. In both Kelly and Emily's posts, they mentioned that their fear is that they "talk too much" (which they don't, BTW). Mine is completely and utterly the opposite. I undertalk. Yes, that's a new phrase we're gonna use here. All my undertalking really interferes with the whole "getting-to-know-you" situation. I am understanding that I am a difficult person to get to know. And I hate that, because I totally don't mean to be that way. That is the opposite of what I wish to be, actually. And then I have this thing where when I do open my mouth and say something, I get all self-concious and word-vomit something I don't even mean to say and then I'm all...what the hell? Why did I say that? Gooosh. And maybe I shouldn't worry so much or be so self-concious, because in all honesty, I am am outrageously hard on myself. But still. That's what I'm dealing with.
All this to say, if you reading this are struggling in this area, take heart. You're not alone. We all face it in different ways, and we each have our own unique struggles and insecurities in the midst of it, but it's real to us all. It's hard for us all. Friendships are so important. I am so thankful for the close, dear friends I have. And you know what else, I am SO thankful for all the new and beginning friendships I have, as well! I did not intend, at any point in this post, to say that I do not appreciate the precious and new friends and acquaintances I have here in Seattle. Oh man, you all are so wonderful. I can't wait to continue getting to know you. I am making a vow that I will try even harder and pursue you even more because you are important to me. And I look forward to the journey we have ahead of us. And if we are meant to stay acquaintances, I am thankful for that as well. You still play a vital role in my life. To those friends back home, thank you for who you are and for always being there. I miss you, and cannot wait to see you again. To those friends I've lost touch with over the years, you still hold a special place in my heart and I would not be who I am without you. To my bloggy-reader friends, I cannot tell you how much you encourage and uplift me. Thank you for reading my words, for being patient with me when I am not able to connect with you often, and for sharing your wisdom, talent, and heart in your own blogs.
If you've sat through this, thank you. I encourage you to join the conversation, share your experience. Please feel free to comment, email, or write your own post on the topic. Let me know if you do so, I want to make sure to read it!
And lastly - I encourage you to reach out. Maybe you are in the process of trying to make friends; don't give up. Even when you're feeling most discouraged, know you're not alone and keep pushing on. If you are the established one, if you have your best friends, if you are thriving where you are, PLEASE look around you. Invite someone new. Lend out a hand. I guarantee, someone will really appreciate it because you are probably awesome and you will be doing the world a favor by sharing your awesome-self!