I’m not “new” to the neighborhood, but there have been many days where I have felt deeply the absence of good friends nearby. I spent way too much time in crisis-mode (work transitions and conflict, church transitions and conflict, MIL’s cancer and death, FIL’s transition, son’s brush with death, and too many problems with the house) to be bothered with making friends. There didn’t seem to be enough time to make new friends, but just enough time to know I needed some.
In college I was blessed, truly blessed, to have made several life-long friends. We have weathered life’s transitions and remain close, even when time and distance make intimate friendship inconvenient. When I think of friends who will be with me when my parents leave me and see Jesus or be with me when my kids get married I think of a special group of friends. They are all Christians. They are all Asian American. They are all now married and mothers. We have had shared experiences during college and common childhood/cultural experiences. Our value systems are the same. Our life stages currently are the same.
Making new friends and then nurturing those friendships into deeper friendships can be difficult. Why? Because I’m a sinner, broken, crooked-hearted and selfish. Just ask my husband. My insecurities get in the way, and then when someone else’s garbage meets mine it’s just a bigger pile of garbage, most days. Because I find being friends with people who are more like me in race, ethnicity, age, education, life-stage, etc. easier – less explaining and wondering about the big things and little things that make me who I am. The broader the common ground the easier it is to walk on together.
But as we’ve shed our college lives and expectations behind, my college girlfriends and I have realized that even with so many things in common maintaining and deepening friendships takes work. And at the end of the day, venting on a blog post isn’t nearly as fun as calling up a friend.
So what do you do to meet new people and deepen friendships?
I have learned to be honest. Honestly, I can be stand-offish and intimidating. To quote “Up In the Air” – I type with purpose. I walk with purpose. I talk with purpose. And just like in the movie it can look like I’m really angry. My mom has told me that I have a hardened look on my face and that I need to smile and soften the intensity. I was angry with her for a long time over that comment, and then I realized she was right. I hate that.
A little bit of honesty and lots of forgiveness, grace and love from others, especially Jesus, has allowed me to step into situations and create situations that make friendship possible.
I’m looking forward to an overnight with a group of women I’ve been slowly getting to know over the past two years. I’m excited to find out what we may have in common other than our children attending school together and our delightful personalities. I’m relieved to find out I wasn’t the only one wondering what others were going to pack and wear, and I wasn’t the only one who was going to make a beeline to the hot tub. The only other times I’ve done something like this have been in safety with friends I’d known deeply for years. This is new.
Another thing I’m trying is to use my mad e-mail skills and gather people together. I had heard of some local neighborhood book clubs and felt sorry for myself that no one had ever invited me to join. Well, here in America if you can’t join them, throw your own party (hee, hee). I shared my book club fantasy – a room full of women with diverse viewpoints and experiences and sharing their interactions with a common book over a glass of wine and laughter. It was creating space for relationships to develop into friendships. I’m not expecting a room full of new best friends, but I am hopeful for the possibilities.
And I guess that is the third thing I’m trying. I’m trying to be hopeful for the possibilities.
So what has helped you make new friends and stay hopeful in friendships? What do you do together that has made your friendships richer and deeper? What are the roadblocks that you keep coming up against?
I acutely feel the experience of being far from long-time, deeply embedded friendships. While I know that I’ll make new friends in my new home, as I tend to like someone almost everywhere I go, I feel far away from relationships where I just don’t have to try so hard. I find myself thinking of my friends’ children a lot and missing their growing up years.
By the way, I hope to start a book club and you are on the short list of women I plan to invite. Stay tuned!
What has helped me make new friends? Time and the ability to see around my insecurities and determination to pull away when it feels awkward. What gives me hope? looking back and remembering other times when new friendships become old, dear friendships, and knowing that it can happen again if I commit to it.
What has helped friendships be richer and deeper? Time… shared experiences… commitment.. intentional vulnerability
Roadblocks? Cultural differences that make our worlds seem very far apart, my own introversion and fear of being seen as different or weird, and our good ol’ American surfacy culture.
Interesting that you would write on this topic. I’ve struggled with having close friendships and I think I’m at the place that I’ve decided to just be myself and accept the fact that I won’t always be liked or accepted by some people. I know that I’m different–I’m somewhat of a non-conformist, have very diverse interests, tend toward the intellectual and am an introvert. I always seem to be in settings where I’m the minority, not only ethnically, but in my background, opinions and interests. I think all of this lends itself to me not being seen as approachable even when I have tried. My conclusion is that being comfortable with who I am is what I need to be and not worry so much about trying to be what or who other people think I should be in order to be accepted. In fact, the people who I tend to be most attracted to are those who exude comfort with themselves even in the midst of sticking out like a sore thumb in certain settings.