I Have No Idea What I'm Doing: Friendship in the Real World
Among the difficulties of post-graduate life (i.e. paying bills, no school breaks, not setting my own schedule, basically every work week feeling like finals week, etc.) is an issue I honestly had not anticipated: making friends.
Before I begin, let me back track a bit.
Though I've always been very shy (uncomfortably so, at times, if we're being completely honest), I never had an issue making friends until my freshman year of college. Throughout high school, however, I floated between groups, with friends in all different places and grades. My core group of high school friends are all still counted among my best friends to this day - I considered (and still do consider) myself pretty lucky in this sense.
Cue freshman year. I moved to Nashville without knowing a single person...past the Arizona border. I was the first person from my high school to attend Vandy, had roommate issues right off the bat, hated Vandy's work-hard-play-hard/rich, snobby, preppy kid culture and like I mentioned, was extremely shy. Needless to say, the first two months of freshman year were rough - I hated seeing how everyone bonded so quickly (years later, I learned this was a facade), and I hated feeling so alone, particularly when I was feeling so lost and doubting if I made the right choice for the next few years of my life. Long story short, two girls stopped by my room one night and invited me out. The rest is history, and one of the girls and her roommate are still my two best friends - my soulmates - to this day. Couple this with joining a sorority, student government, a competitive running team, and class...well, life had a funny way of working out, and I never felt more included, happy or content with friends before.
Although my loneliness of freshman year really only lasted 10 weeks or so, it was one of the more miserable and awful things I'd dealt with up to that point. I applied to transfer and I cried a lot and I really suffered a lot of doubt in regards to my relocation. The remaining three years in Nashville, I always vowed that nothing could ever be worse than those 10 weeks, and I could never feel as lonely as I did back then - it was all on the upward trend from here on out.
Well, when I moved to San Diego, I kicked myself for that overarching vow - things were going to be worse and get even lonelier - for a considerably longer period of time.
I boldly (or stupidly - your choice) moved to San Diego without knowing a single individual within a two hour radius. I had the go-big-or-go-home mentality (and was also very ready to move out and start work) - literally starting my job without a place to live.
The issue of not knowing a single person in the area didn't seem daunting at first. I was decent at making friends, and I knew I could push myself to be outgoing when push came to shove.
Then, one major issue came up - how?!
How was I planning to even meet people? Do adults just sit around at bars and meet - without hitting on each other? Is there an adult version of a sorority? Help, SOS!
I quickly realized I didn't have the same outlets and opportunities that I did during college. There was no sorority, it wasn't guaranteed that people my age would be living in my apartment complex, there were no clubs and organizations that I could hop right into, there were no frat party bathroom lines (you laugh, but you know it's true!), there were no awkward group ice-breakers. Instead, there was an office filled with intimidating existing friendships, a complex full of relatively older people or college kids (but not so much the in-between age), and on my end, an overwhelming sense of anxiety. I wasn't sure how to break into office friendships and more importantly, how to find friendship outside my office.
Admittedly, the first two weeks of trying to tackle this "how?" question resulted in a lot of tears. Eventually, I sucked it up and decided to put myself out there on levels I hadn't before - and really truly forced myself to feel awkward and uncomfortable. I showed up at November Project San Diego completely alone at 6:30 AM, I paid membership dues for an alumni Alpha Chi Omega chapter, I sat down with groups of people at lunch during work, I joined a church group, I went to a few meetups, I went to networking events, and I tried studio classes across the city. Though not all of these were successful, some worked, albeit initial awkwardness (i.e. clinging to specific individuals that were friendly, repeating my name and why I came to San Diego for weeks and weeks and weeks). Mostly, the awkwardness came from me feeling like I was forcing myself upon people. I hated asking the same two people to eat everyday with me at work, I joined a relay team with people I hadn't even met, and I just kept showing up to workouts with a group of already existing friends in the morning. I hate feeling like a burden or an outsider, so this shoved me out of my comfort zone.
Things that admittedly helped throughout this time period: winning a bet at a work event at the Del Mar Races, partner workouts at November Project, getting invited out by coworkers who were all my age, and yep, joining that relay team.
A few months later (and plenty of tears and doubt of why I moved to the opposite coast from all of my college friends, while they all relatively remained together), I realized I had people to hang out with. I was involved in multiple group texts, I was casually dating someone, and I had a solid group of people to call on for plans. But, something was still off.
When my car broke down, when I broke up with the guy I'd been seeing, when I fractured my hip, when I achieved my goals at work - all my highs and lows - I didn't know who to call or who to text within my actual time zone. I didn't have people in San Diego to call, to lean on, to confide in during the good and bad times. I didn't even have friends that I could call up to just come over and eat with me and veg out and just talk about life for hours with. I was missing depth in my relationships - I had friends, but nothing compared to the actual sister/soulmate bond I wanted and needed.
I've been told that this type of friendship comes with time, patience and a lot of effort, and granted I am excited to have friends and things to do finally, but I want my people. And I have no idea how to get there other than continually feeling awkward and inviting myself places.
So, yet again, I'm back facing the big question of "how?!" How do you find your best friends? More so, how do you find your place in a new city.
I never expected making friends - and finding my place and my crew - was going to be this hard when I moved. Anyone else feeling the same?