At my age, almost 48, you would think most of my friends are already in place right? I mean I have been around a while. I've lived through school years, college life, young married life, young mommy-hood, served as a volunteer for dance studios and softball teams, been an active member in churches and ministries through the years, moved on to older married life and mom life only with teens and adults now – you get it, I have met people, lots of them. I do have friends, lots of them, and I love them dearly.
So why the need to make new friends?
After all my years of living I have suddenly found myself in a new state and new community far away from my old one where I lived comfortably for over 18 years. The truth is I basically lived my entire life in the Tampa, Florida area with only a few years away.
Living in the same area for almost a lifetime provides certain comforts. You know someone almost everywhere you go, you run in basically the same circles all the time. Even in a big area like the greater Tampa area the world becomes small as your circles all intersect somehow. Everyone is connected it seems.
For an introvert like me that made it very easy for me to ride my more outgoing friends’ coat tails and I did that, over and over again. Now, in this new place, where I know no one in my new community I have a choice to make. Get out there (terrifying, any other introverts out there?) or stay cozy with a book and my writing and only interact with my immediate family.
Another important factor to consider if you are cheering me on one way or the other is I still have two girls at home, ages 13 and 15. They, too, find themselves in a new place, knowing no one, needing to connect.
The truth is, even as an introvert I need connection with people. Real actual people, not just my favorite characters from whatever amazing book I am reading or show I am binge watching.
As a late-bloomer in life I usually take FOREVER to do anything. Knowing this, my girls were terrified as we set out on this big new adventure because they still rely on me to drive them everywhere and to get them signed up for things at all. One more important factor, we home school, which ads another level of difficulty to meeting your “people” in a new area. There is no built in pool of people to dive in to (aka school) you have to find the people, groups, classes, activities or just people to talk to in general.
Prior to moving, I made a commitment to myself and my girls, I would not take forever to get out there and find people. Which meant, I had to start. I had to dive in first.
When you have littles its easy right? You go to mommy and me things. As home school families we go to the elementary age group activities and the moms all wait around and watch – your group starts to form that way. You find your people on the sidelines while all your cute little ones are potty training, playing, dancing or whatever it may be. All of you ooohhh and ahhhh over your own and each others precious tiny humans and then, over all the conversations that happen, between the oohhhhs and ahhhs, you connect and friendship forms.
With teenagers its not so easy. You drop them off for dance classes or practice. You don’t have to wait around and watch and if you do your kids are embarrassed and the other kids think your kid has mommy attachment issues – its a whole thing. Your mom group isn’t going to form that way and honestly with teenagers your friend group may not even be the mom’s of their friends anyway.
So what do you do? How do you meet people?
I am happy (and a little proud of myself I must say) to report I am actually meeting people! Not many yet but some and here are a few things I have done:
1. Coffee Date
Seems obvious right? But how do you find someone to coffee date with?
Interestingly enough for me it was Instagram! Yes. Social media, the very thing we tell our children to be wary of and as parents we try to monitor with a close eye.
I have found for those of us with like interests who end up finding each other in the same geographical area you can connect in real life and it is so fun and heart warming!
When you find an Instagram friend and you start interacting on social media for a while, publicly with comments on posts and then having conversations over texting or direct messaging that’s when you have a connection and potential coffee date material.
Not really a cold contact. I am not sure I would do that.
You really can get to know each other over Instagram. Especially with people who are being genuine. Lot’s of people say “live authentic” but they really aren’t. My guess is someone who isn’t really authentic won’t really connect with you anyway. In person or over social media. You’ll know the difference when someone replies to you impersonally or if you strike up more of a friendship.
A sweet Instagram friend saw I was moving to her area and she reached out to me. Two coffee dates later and another on the books!
I have to mention to cute little local spot we went too, Hidden Julles Cafe did you notice our coffee cups in the picure? A great place for a coffee date and a meal if you are around Haymarket (cutest name of a town right?).
You may not always find a good friend or connection on your first try – my dear college friend who also experienced a later in life move encouraged me to get out there and wisely said they won’t all be “your people” and that’s ok but you have to try.
By the way, my new friend Sarah happens to have an amazing website herself all dedicated to a Happy, Healthy Home. Check out SugarBananas ! You won't be disappointed!
2. Book Club!
I have always wanted to be part of a book club and just happened to find one nearby that just happened to be starting up a book that was already on my list to read! I took that as a sign, with so many “just happened to be” happening I thought I should pay attention.
This was harder for me than going on my first coffee date with my now new in person (as opposed to Instagram) friend Sarah. Why? Because Sarah and I had already connected on Instagram and although we hadn’t met in person we had a little ground under our feet. Like I actually knew what she looked like and knew we had some things in common.
This book club was just cold turkey and at someones HOUSE (terrifying – no polite way out right?).
I cannot even tell you how many times I was seconds away from deciding to stay home that first night. I had to just keep charging ahead. No looking back. I didn’t let the words “well I might just stay home” come out of my mouth no matter how many times they popped in my head.
Not to mention it was like 20 degrees out! Remember I came from Florida – the cold is enough to legitimately keep me inside.
I am so happy I went. I met the sweetest group of ladies, there were only 5 of us the first night. All various ages and stages. It was wonderful, I couldn’t wait to go back the next week.
3. Keep trying
This one is still in the works. With two successful tries under my belt I am confident I won’t give up. I still don’t feel super connected to my community. I have to be honest. It’s a strange feeling after having such deep roots and then suddenly feeling kind of lost.
The good news is I now feel less like a stranger on a new planet and more like “the new girl”. At least “the new girl” has potential to meet friends and eventually won’t be “the new girl” anymore.
If you are in the middle of a move or just needing to make new friends I hope this encourages you. This was not easy for me, at all. Putting myself out there in real life is terrifying. Sitting here typing real life words from my heart is much less terrifying, I am not sure why when words are life to me but still that is how I feel. Safer in the glow of the screen with the click of the keys. Extremely vulnerable in real, actual, physical life.
Even still – jumping in, taking that leap of faith has been so good for me and for my girls to see! They know me better than I know myself sometimes and seeing me brave the newness of all this must be helping them know they can too. I am counting on that.
Be brave friends, put yourself out there, connect with each other in real life.
If I can do it, you can too.
Hi! i'm Heidi,
Founder and Author of the SOS Blog. Simply Our Society exists for poetry lovers, book lovers, parents, midlife women and those recovering from eating disorders and hidden abuse. My hope is the SOSblog will become a resource to make life a little better and easier (with a special emphasis on this crazy season called midlife!).