There are a handful of things that most people aren’t prepared to do when they leave home in their twenties: file their own taxes, change the oil in their car, explain the laws of physics, and make new friends.
Two months ago, I accepted a job in my field that is perfect for a novice journalist. At my ‘Going Away’ party, I was overwhelmed by the number of people who showed up to say goodbye. I didn’t fully understand how many people I could count as friends until they showed up flooding my house with food and a ridiculous amount of alcohol.
Now I am 1,600 miles away, starting over. Looking back, I now realise how comfortable I was. I’m an introvert so I never really initiate any of the hangouts, I just let others invite me out. I have to seek these friendships out myself now, and it’s way more daunting than I expected it to be. This is an issue that I know tons of people my age face. Just Googling ‘How to make friends in your twenties’ brings up a whole host of articles, blog posts, and even video tutorials that all offer the same basic advice: engage in activities that you like, try to meet other people who like those things, as well as go out and try to talk to new people.
Trying to make new friends is more terrifying to me than ‘putting myself out there’ and finding somebody to date. When going on a date there is an understood likelihood that things won’t work out, but you can try again with someone new next week. If you aren’t interested, you just say goodbye and move on. Looking for friends is different, and both friendships and romantic relationships grow differently. A lot of relationships start with a ‘honeymood period’, where you’re obsessed with each other. Friendships aren’t like that, you don’t spend a huge amount of time talking to one another. It’s harder to find an excuse to ask someone to hang out if it isn’t a date. Friendships are a lot easier when circumstances, such as school, put you in a close proximity for a long period of time. Some of my best friends in my hometown were people I knew from work. When you’re behind the counter with someone for six hours a day, several days a week, facing the same struggles of the service industry, you really get to know each other. I was lucky enough to be stuck behind the counter with some incredible people. It’s a lot harder for me now without six-hour shifts facing the worst of humanity, that we would inevitably bond over. As an introvert, I tend to prefer staying in to going out. But you don’t make friends while binge watching West Wing for the seventh time and knitting alone in your room. So, now I have to learn to be more outgoing and that sounds both exhausting and terrifying to me.
According to my mother, when I was little I would simply take my dolls next door, hand one to girl next door and say “You can play with me.” I have a hard time imagining this tactic would work now, and I no longer have the confidence of a girl who owned multiple Barbie dolls. I have found that the biggest struggle trying to make friends as an adult is that pretty much everyone your age already has an established friendship group. However, I think I’ve come up with a strong infiltration manoeuvre.
First, you have to pounce on one of the group members and convince them that you’re worthy of joining the pack. Next, you charm the rest of the pack into allowing you to stay. Once you’re in, the real work begins. The pack probably have a dozen inside jokes and references that you just won’t be able to use. Instead, you have to create new jokes, new references, new bonds, new histories.
The numerous formalities that I struggle with when making new friends seem to stem from my own personality. I’m not big on spontaneous hangouts, I don’t like my personal time to be interrupted, and I’m not really a partier. This isn’t to say that being spontaneous, hanging out with people a lot, and partying are bad. They just aren’t things that I tend to enjoy on a regular basis. This is also not to say that these are the only ways to meet people and make friends. But let’s be real, it’s easier to feel comfortable around new people if you’re in a group and you have a drink in your hand.
Over the past two months, I have pushed myself to accept more invitations to go out and have made more of an effort to speak with people I don’t know. I have signed up to volunteer with local causes that I care about in order to surround myself with kindred spirits. I looked to Buzzfeed for a helpful listicle and was not disappointed. I even swiped through Tinder for a bit but apparently people on there aren’t into just being friends. Thankfully work friends have come to my rescue again, several people have invited me out and made me feel very welcome. Thank god for extroverts.
Having to make friends is part of life, but it can be an exciting one too. There are still plenty of nights that are just myself and Netflix, but there are a growing number of nights that include plans with new people, who just might turn into new friends.
– Jamie Swinnerton