As I soon approach my 37th birthday, I’ve begun to recognize my weaknesses a lot easier than ever before. One of those areas that I have taken for granted and now seems blaringly obvious, is my struggle in meeting and making new friends. I grew up in the same town and maintained friendships from pre-k through high school graduation! It was easy and safe (besides the usual drama of friendships growing up). I am still in contact with a handful of those wonderful girlfriends and had some as a part of my wedding party, but due to distance and busyness of life, they are no longer the “regulars”.
Even beginning college, away from home for the first time and in a whole new world, I was able to pal up with my roommate and sorority sisters fairly easily and now still call them dear friends. It was easier then. Maybe we weren’t set in our ways or too comfortable and that allowed us the bravery to reach out and connect. Maybe it’s because we weren’t as busy with marriage, housekeeping, and raising kids. My college friends, affectionately self-proclaimed the “Fab 4”, are all doing life, too, and although they will always be my “forever friends”, they are no longer my “everyday friends” that I currently crave and miss.
Maybe it’s because I’m a creature of comfort and have always relied on my friendships and expected they’d always be a part of things, that I took them for granted. As I thought it was supposed to get easier as I age, my own insecurities actually increased as I worked through my great struggles with anxiety (shame, depression, worry, guilt) over the years. This caused me to pull away and shut down and as a result, damage connections with others. One particular friendship, my rock and BFF, very slowly changed because of my pulling away and as we changed, we did so in seemingly different directions. It happens. It’s life and I know that. But it doesn’t make it any easier and I find myself still mourning a reliable friendship that I thought would always be what it was.
So, here I am now and seeing just how tough it can be to be a big girl in adult life trying to make new friends. I’m naturally shy. I despise small talk and feel like a bumbling idiot at times. I’ve always known this, but up until recently, I did not see how it affects this task of pushing myself to meet others. I have recently been in numerous settings, i.e. baby class, school-related meetings, etc., and realized that I can do all the smiling I want (which I try to overcompensate with because I’ve always been well aware that I may come across snotty, when in fact, I’m just shy!), but that’s not going to get me engaged in conversation or moving to the next base in “mom dating”. I’m referring to a book I’m in the middle of reading called, Women are Scary, The Totally Awkward Adventures of Finding Mom Friends by Melanie Dale. It is spot on and is really what has given me a kick in the pants to recognize my need to step it up and get out of my comfort zone. My “kindred spirit” as Anne Shirley would call it, isn’t going to necessarily knock on my door and want to hang out.
Speaking of “kindred spirits”, another issue I need to address is my high expectations for what these friendships will be like. With a friend, and like I do still have with one or two of my “forever friends”, I crave ease and safety. I want a giggle partner that gets me. I want to play together fairly regularly and share common interests (or learn new ones from one another!). Am I signing myself up for the friend version of The Bachelorette? Are these realistic expectations? I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m determined to kick it up a notch and try to reach out more with the other moms, my co-workers, neighbors. I can push myself to ask them questions and just practice being a good listener. That’s enough for now and if anything, it will hopefully give me just the right amount of a confidence to be brave!