My husband and I moved from the prairies to the west coast a few years ago because the opportunity came up and we both agreed on one thing; BC is best! He has moved around the country quite a bit for work, but this was my first big move away from my family and friends. I have been learning a lot!
I realized that I didn’t know how to make friends. I had no idea. I’ve always had friends out of situational necessity. I grew up in a small town and lived there my entire pre-adult life life. I moved away for university and lived in the dorms. I worked part-time with other people my age. When I graduated college I worked with my friends that graduated at the same time. There were always people around, and one can’t just not talk to them without being the weird chick, and then one just magically ends up with friends!
After I moved across the country and wasn’t in school regularly and then found my job search quickly going nowhere, I realized that I never learned how to make a friend out of a stranger on the street. Who is supposed to say “hello” first? Do I wait for someone to make eye contact? Can I beg my hair stylist to go for coffee with me? Can I just bake some cookies with the front door open and hope someone wanders in to find the delicious smell, and then just slam the door shut and force tea down their throat until they agree to buy adorable “best friends” necklaces with me? I don’t know, I never learned how to make friends with complete strangers outside of structured social settings!
I spent a lot of days being sad and depressed on the couch with my dog sleeping on the floor beside me before I finally got so annoyed at having nothing to do while my husband was at work and powered up my Google machine. After much searching I found that I was not, in fact, alone in my search for friends. There is online dating, but it also turns out that there is online friending! There are blogs and sites dedicated to connecting lonely individuals with other lonely individuals who are looking for a platonic tea party buddy who will drink it without you having to be charged with administering a noxious substance.
I found a social group site, http://www.meetup.com, made a profile, and started searching for someone to friend. It turned out that I didn’t really fit in with the local groups already running (I’m not a 40-year-old divorced woman, or a dude with a pimped out motorbike), so I said “To hell with it, I’m making my own.” And just like that I started hosting a group online, organizing hikes and pub nights, knitting circles and winery tours. It’s the easiest friending I have ever done.
I was back in my hometown chatting with my mom and a few of her friends a few months later, and one of them asked me how I’d been doing out west on my own (since my husband travels a lot for extended periods for work) and if I’ve been finding a social group. I excitedly told them about my online ladies’ social group, and they all looked surprised. One of them said “wow, you’re really brave and outgoing.” They talked about it as if I was doing this amazing thing, when in reality all I’d do was post something online like “Cheap Movie Night!” and go see a movie with a bunch of friendly gals. We continued chatting and when I got home I thought about the conversation; I came to the conclusion that MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS!
Almost everyone relies on their social or occupational situations to provide them with friends. Uprooting yourself and moving across the country is becoming more common, but is still by no means the typical thing to do. So many people are born, grow up, live, work, play, and die in the same community and never have to step outside of their comfortable little box. Here I am, living all by myself on the other side of the country, and meeting strangers online in order to have someone to go hiking with so I don’t get eaten by a cougar, and people think that’s amazing. I mean, it’s kind of a pain in the ass, really. If I meet friends online for the first time, I don’t know if I can run faster than them and I kind of need to know that in case we meet a cougar.
So if you have been wondering your whole life why everyone seems to know how to make friends while you struggle, I bet it’s not just you. I bet all of those other people are wondering (or wondered at some point) the same thing. Thinking about that has made it much easier for me to strike up a conversation with someone at the tea shop, or engage someone on the beach taking their dog for a walk in a brief friendly exchange. I have not been bitten yet – neither by human nor dog.
Smile at that stranger as you walk past them on the street, maybe tell that dude at the dog park that his sweater looks nice. Bake some Christmas cookies and take them to your neighbours, or maybe stop in the parking lot for that girl who looks like she can’t get her car started. If no one is sure who should initiate a social interaction, it might as well be you!