People say that “breaking up is hard to do”, but what’s really hard is making friends as an adult! I’m not sure about you, but I love making new friends and meeting new people, but when I moved to the Duluth area this past May, I found myself feeling much like a dog behind some foggy pet store glass – a pet store that was not frequented by any families in need of a new pet.
Why is it so hard to make friends as an adult? Is it just Minnesota, or is it everywhere? So many people have said to me, “I’ve heard that it’s really hard to make friends in Minnesota”, but why is that? As we get older, we get more set in our likes, dislikes, tolerances, preferences… does that make us too picky to please when it comes to being open to relationships? Is it the lack of time and energy that keeps us from connecting with others?
Minnesota is supposed to be a very friendly place to live, but my assumption is that people who have been in this area their whole lives (or longer than a month) already had their good friends, their inner circle, their outer circle, and their families with whom they divided their free time amongst. Were most people just not looking to add more people to their already full and fulfilling virtual rolodex? How is a person supposed to break through such solid walls?
Isolated and depressed, I brainstormed about how best to make new friends in the place I wanted to plant and grow deep roots. What did I do? I found out who my children were friends with at the Elementary School summer program and at the daycare, and I left handwritten notes introducing myself, saying our kids were “friends” (as bad-pickup-liney as that sounds), and asking if they wanted to get together for a play date.
I felt like I was asking for a blind date… I mean, who does that? Desperate times call for crazy mom doings. I felt like if I threw out a bunch of noodles, one was bound to stick to the wall eventually, right? The family and friends I confided in about my isolation told me, “People are just so busy in the summer; you’ll have an easier time making friends when school starts.” Okay, well, that’s really unhelpful with the entire summer ahead of me – a summer of loneliness and seclusion.
A person cannot simply rely on one method for finding new friends, however, she must diversify for success. So… I wandered the neighborhood looking for people out and about, people who had small children or toys littering their front yards, and I pounced on anyone who looked like a potential play date match (TOP TIP: try to look nonthreatening when you’re clearly being a crazy friend seeker). This tactic proved to be successful first: I met a dad home for a pre-business golf clothing change, and while I was out jogging, I met a family who was waiting for the bus – both families with which we have ongoing play dates.
Oh! And I cannot forget how I ambushed the guy who delivered firewood to our house… I held him in captive conversation for at least two and a half hours, and now he and his wife are our good friends too (this strategy is for advanced social butterflies, by the way, not for the shy.)
Finally, after I had started making neighborhood friends, mothers that I had reached out via note to, started emailing and texting, welcoming me to the area and wanting to get together! Can you believe it? Cold call friendship making actually worked. Handwritten goes a long way these days when impersonal electronic communication is king.
When autumn rolled around, I found myself in the good-problem-to-have situation of having TOO MANY friends. So to myself I said, “Aaaaand, we got there.” It took a few months of very active friend outreach, but I have found some extremely wonderful friends, ones whose friendships I am happy to foster and keep for many, many years to come.
The key to breaking through the walls of others, walls made up of existing friends and close-living family, is to be sincere and outgoing. You won’t make friends if you don’t try, and you won’t make good friends if you don’t open up about yourself… ALL of yourself (the good, the bad, and the scary mommy). If you’re having trouble making new friends, step out of your comfort zone and talk to others… most people in the Duluth area are exceedingly friendly and happy to have someone to talk to. If you’re a parent looking for play date friends, well, I’ve found that most parents are in the same situation as you are. Combining adult social time with kid play time is a bonus in the parenting realm – multitasking with a side of sanity are always welcome. Good things come to those who wait, and good friendships come to those to try. Happy friend making, friends!