Finding -and Keeping- New Friendships As An Adult
This post is extremely sensitive to me and has taken over 2 months to write, yet I feel that I might not be the only one out there who finds it difficult to find and keep friends as an adult. Apologies if the grammar / sentence structure is a bit off – after this long, I just had to stomp on my ‘it needs to be perfect’ gene and get it out to you.
Making Friends Through Childhood
Making friends has never been a problem for me. I have never been what most would call a normal girl and certainly never a girly-girl. Today, I would label my younger self as a shy tomboy. I was able to fit into most ‘crowds’ and as a young child, I claimed an equal number of boys my friend as I did girls. I did have a female best friend through fourth grade – her name was Becky. Then our school district redistricted our lines (thanks alot TCAPS!!! [insert dripping sarcasm here]) and I ended up at a different elementary school. Tara became my new best friend and that lasted through a good part of junior high – until we found other interests and we faded away.
Later in high school, I got burned by some so-called female ‘friends’ (something in their nuanced tone along the lines of “You came to the dance alone? Your mother made your dress?* How…Cute.” had me shying away for some reason). I was then left with the feeling that the language of the males of my acquaintance were easier to parse (“Hey, wanna go out to the lake with us? So-and-so is trying to impress a girl. We’re gonna take empty out his gas tank and take the boat paddles. Should be a riot!”).
In 1998, I started at a small college and was determined to try this whole “let’s find Terri a new best friend thing” again. I started working at the Library, joined an awesome [read: kick-ass] sorority full of fascinating and intelligent ladies and by the end of my four years, thought I had made some close friendships.
*I want to make it a point to say that any grown woman would have been proud and delighted to have worn the delicate, custom-fitted, sateen empire-waisted gown (not a dress!) that my mother painstakingly and expertly crafted for me. Most teenage girls have severely under-developed fashion sense and do not appreciate bespoke work when it stares them down and gives ’em the “cut direct”!
“I Can’t Keep You”
But alas, time, distance, and circumstance faded many of those friendships. Matter of fact, I haven’t been able to purposely catch up with / run one down since 2003 – and then it was because I returned as an alumni to our alma mater’s Homecoming and had them ‘trapped’ for the weekend. (At least, that how it has felt to me as I look back in my weakened, befogged state.)
I left my home state to pursue a graduate degree in 2002. I started to make some friends in my classes, only to leave after 8 weeks because of a shooting (no one was injured, but if my roommate or I had been sitting up instead of laying down on the couch and floor, respectively, we wouldn’t be having this conversation).
So while all of my sorority sisters and fem-friends were out getting married, starting grad school, or just plain exploring the wonders of the world, I was holed up at my parents’ house, trying to learn not to drop to the ground when a kitchen cupboard door shut…
After a year, I started coming out of my shell. I dated a bit, but couldn’t seem to form any lasting relationships – friendships included.
My mom finally got me motivated again and I enrolled [again] in grad school. This time around it was an in-state school – not quite the degree I was after (Historic Preservation instead of Museum Studies) but it was ‘safe’.
I really enjoyed that period of my life. I was an adult, living completely on a waitress’s salary (and why I ALWAYS tip at least 20% to this day), but was still a mere 5 hours’ drive away from Home. It was a good balance for me and exactly what I needed to get myself focused on a path again.
While writing my thesis, I went to work for a building conservation company that fulfilled contract jobs all over the Great Lakes area. (Yes, I, a delicate female, did heavy-duty, power tool knowledge required, construction work. Compound that with the requirement that you have a degree in historical building materials and how they chemically alter over time and that’s a pretty hard-core job. The company routinely had 3 to 4 women on the job at all times.) I traveled quite a bit and made at least two good friendships there (shout out to M & M!!). I credit them with teaching me what an intelligent, successful woman should expect and demand from their personal and professional lives.
I left that job to start my short career in federal museums. Between 2008 and 2013, I followed the slim job pickings and moved from Wisconsin to Michigan, Michigan to Utah, Utah to Minnesota, Minnesota to Missouri, and finally Missouri to Texas (and I have moved twice since coming to the San Antonio area). This has put an extreme strain on any budding friendships that I would try to start.
My old job here in Texas made it virtually impossible to make friends. Turns out, as a museum staff of one, you are left holding ALL the bags and you have to be extremely aware of your work relationships. In a military situation, this meant that anyone my age who was also the head of a department was ok to catch a drink with after work, but anyone lower -or higher- in rank was not acceptable. So trying to find a female friend my age at work just wasn’t gonna happen. After a while, I lost my hope and optimism then just stopped trying.
Pan to today. I am sick and tired of not having anyone other than my husband and parents to lean on, go out to bars / concerts / hiking / have explorer adventures with. Trouble is, I am having difficulties finding other women my age to be friends with and am wondering if other women out there are in the same boat? I mean, where do women find friends after college – especially when we are NOT in the area’s social, political, or religious majority?
I’ve polled some people (awkwardly, of course) for our benefit and these are some places and groups that have been suggested to me:
- Work. This doesn’t apply now and it didn’t apply when I was a paid employee. I was the only person in the entire building AND as the civilian director of a museum organization, structured within the military, making friends with your employees or supervisors (i.e. those of lower or higher rank) was frowned upon.
- Church. This one does not apply as I [happily] do not align with any particular Faith. However, I can see how it would be an excellent way for someone else to find another person who has similar values so I’m keeping it on the list.
- Exercise Class. I am looking into this – finding one exercise I’m interested in spending money on has been harder to locate than I thought. $15.00 for ONE yoga class??? Maybe I should take a turn raking in the dough and hold these in my home…
- Neighborhood. The neighborhood we live in is mostly a mix of my parents’ or grandparents’ generation. The few that are my age all seem to work full time. There is this one person nearby I’m trying to introduce myself to, but finding a balance between friendly and desperate (especially when one is desperate) is extremely difficult.
- Take a Class. I tried taking an adult pottery class through the local ISD. One other person showed up. She was in her 70s. I’m gonna keep trying with this one – I love to learn, so I’m not really out anything but money and a little time. (And really, if I can put my new knowledge to work for me, it’s an investment!)
- Interest Group. I am quite passionate about some worthy organizations, but the few I want to volunteer for are only accepting ‘applications’ for weekend slots or require a specific time commitment which I am reluctant to provide (30 or more hours per week).
- Through Family. My husband has been awesomely trying to connect me with other co-worker’s wives or females from his workplace. This has been somewhat hit or miss. Most are local to the area and so already have a solid network and/or we do not have similar values.
- Parents of Your Children. Making friends of my kid’s friend’s parents? My not actively trying to spawn, let alone the 9 months of gestation then 4-5 years of maturation means this is not gonna happen for a looong while yet.
- The Internet. It worked for finding my ‘sole’ mate, so why can’t it work for friends too? I joined a website called “Meetup.com”. It lists a bunch of groups that people can join. So far, I’ve joined and participated in 6 groups – walking, hiking, girls on the town, board games, Sci-Fi, and one more outdoor exploring type. I did try a gardening group, but they were all much older and that is not the kind of crowd I am presently looking for.
- Time. One very wise person [and one with loads more patience than me] told me it would just take time. It’s been 3 years. I know some gals I would be proud to call friend, but it just hasn’t clicked yet.