A couple of years ago my husband (then fiancé) got a job as a visiting professor at Oklahoma City University. It was a great opportunity. The kind you don’t turn down. But that isn’t to say it was an easy decision. We were living in Los Angeles, and so to say it was a culture shock to move to Oklahoma for a year would be an understatement. Leaving our friends and the city we had come to love (for so many reasons!) was a choice that was a bit devastating for me. But we decided to try it, and our crazy adventure began. We got married and immediately began packing up to head on a cross country road trip to (what felt like) the middle of nowhere.
It was hard moving to Oklahoma. I didn’t have a job, we didn’t know where we were going to live, and we knew nothing of the area. But the hardest part about it was that we didn’t have any friends or family there. In fact, we didn’t have any friends or family within a few hundred miles.
Making friends is easy when you’re young. You’re in the same class, on the same team, you live in a dorm together. I became good friends with a girl in college because we simply happened to be walking in the same direction. Within minutes we were planning a night out together. But it becomes increasingly difficult to make friends as an adult. And increasingly “creepy” to ask a complete stranger if they know of any good parties going on that night.
So maybe you’ve recently moved, or you’ve simply realized that you don’t have as many things in common with your old friends as you used to. Maybe you’ve prepared a tape for the next Real World only to finally recognize that you’re, “Way too old to ever be considered.” Whatever the case may be, you want to make more friends in 2017. Because you’re fun! Other people need to share in your awesomeness!
But for many of us, making friends as an adult is a terrifying proposition. One that we’ve put off for a couple of years, only to realize the sad truth: We’re kind of lonely. So how do you make new friends?
Try a Meetup Group!
Pretty much every major city has Meetup, and while you may feel weird going to one, I guarantee you that every other person there is there to make friends too. And feels just as nervous and weird. So it’s a super low key way to meet other people who A) like the same activities as you and B) Are also really trying to make friends.
There are basically groups for every activity under the sun, but in Oklahoma, I chose a ladies book club. Was the book club a little lame? Sure. There were a strange mix of people there and a huge age range. So it was a little awkward at times, but tbh way less so than I expected. Since we had the book to talk about, we had a baseline to chat — even if every person there wasn’t about to become a BFF. Lots of women in the group had also just moved, and so it was fun to talk about the challenges of moving to Oklahoma City with other people experiencing exactly the same thing. One girl, I immediately bonded with over the fact that we both hated it (I know, I know—I should have been keeping a more open mind, but believe me. Oklahoma is rough).
Take a Class.
Similar to the Meetup idea, this is a good way to meet like-minded people. I started a MFA in creative writing and suddenly found myself surrounded by other liberal artists. And even if you don’t meet anyone to hang out with, it gives you something social and active to do every week. Simply by proximity you’ll find lots of new people to be friendly with. So find something you’re passionate about and Google classes in the area.
You can have fun and be mentally stimulated while you broaden your friendship horizons.
Get a Pet.
I mean not to be your new best friend (although they’re going to be a GOOD BOY AND THE BEST FRIEND EVER). We’re trying to find you human companionship, we swear. But when you don’t have kids yet, it can be hard to meet people. Just like when you were in school, once you have kids you have an easy in to meet other parents. But for those of us in the “in between” stage, it can be hard to approach potential friends or have an in to talk to strangers.
Just because you don’t have any little ones doesn’t mean you can’t have an easy in. Pets are great conversation starters. The dog park alone is a fantastic place to chat with strangers. It also gets you out of the house. You’ll be amazed by how many of your neighbors also have pets and are out there walking day in and day out. And it’s the perfect time to strike up a conversation as your dogs sniff each other’s butts and get to know each other in a more intimate way than you and your neighbor ever will (probably? but no judgments!). So head to a shelter and adopt a new buddy!
Meet Your Neighbors.
The other day there was a car accident (everyone was okay) outside of my house, and for the first time we actually talked to our neighbors who came out. And you know what? They were really cool. We’re conditioned in big cities to simply nod and keep moving, but your neighbors could be a great asset in the friendship quest! And how easy is it to hang out with your neighbors?? You don’t even have to drive anywhere, you can just pop in next door and have a drink. Find your Kramer!
So now you’ve gone to that “hiking while eating samosas and juggling” Meetup. And the miracle happened! You met someone that might be cool! It would be easy to chat with them and never bring up a second hang out. Making new friends is a lot like trying to date. You’re in your own head wondering, do they like me? Are they interested in a second hangout? What if they’re secretly an ax murderer and there are 17 drifters’ bodies in their basement right now??
But you’re never going to make friends if you don’t try! So take the risk and ask them for their phone number. If you’re thinking they might be a good match, chances are they’re thinking the same thing.
In dating or friendships we’re so indirect these days. If you send a text saying, “Nice meeting you, let’s hang out sometime” it may seem like you’re being clear. But the reality is that you’re kind of being rude. You’re putting the onus on the other person to take the real first step and suggest a time and place. And you’re setting yourself up for them to be as scared as you are and agree that it would be fun to “sometime” hang out.
So be direct when you contact them. “I loved meeting you at the hula hooping with your dog meet up! Would you be free to grab a coffee Tuesday afternoon?” Yes, this gives them the chance to say no or blow you off, but at least you’ll know right? And if they can’t do the day you gave them (but are interested), you’ve opened the door for them to easily suggest a time and date that would work for them. It’s a win-win.
Relax and Have Fun.
Seriously. I know it’s hard. I’m really shy, the kind of person that panics at new social interactions. So meeting new friends in a new place seemed torturous at the time. But looking back? I shouldn’t have been so nervous. I did make friends, and I had a great time with them. And I couldn’t be happier I met them because they helped to shape me as a person today. It can be scary to put yourself out there and go out with new people, but ask yourself– what’s the worst that can happen? Probably (barring them being a serial killer) the worst that will happen is that you’ll pick a fun activity and do it with someone you don’t totally click with. And then you’ll move on — either having been nervous and miserable the whole time or (if you choose) having enjoyed yourself.
So you should enjoy yourself! You did it! You made a friend. And (most likely) if you relax and have fun doing whatever activity you’re doing, you will have fun with the person you’re with too.