Tots can easily identify a potential friend. If you have or had toddlers, you will know exactly what I mean. They simply look for someone with a specific mode of transport (car seat, stroller, mini bicycle); more or less the same height (dog, fellow human being) or a shared activity (play ground, party) & they are friends! Instantly. They also get into arguments or fights in about two minutes after meeting & make up just as quickly.
As an adult – especially in your 30’s (& later) – finding friends is much trickier. When you are a social person, like me, moving across the country means that you can easily find yourself down in the dumps & lonely. Sure, a specific mode of transport (same car?), activity (exercise class, church) or same height (in my case short gals or 12-year-olds) can certainly be a catalyst for a conversation or the start of a relationship. But the connection is not always an instant one. And a part of me just want to have all my ‘old’ friends around, but reality requires that I reach out & make new friends. Luckily ‘old’ friendships can never be replaced.
Required: time, patience & some improvisation
Some women are not tea drinkers or chatty types. As for me: I need my girls & I need them often! Not in a needy kind of way. Rather in the way that their mere presence fuels & inspire me. Chatting or joking or venting or sharing is what I love. Having tea. And chatting.
I’ve always been like this. From disco dancing to mix tapes as a pre-schooler with my neighbourhood bestie, to group sleepover parties at primary school & many many many social get-togethers as a teenager. Then came university. The all-time high for building wonderful friendships. We had all the time in the world. Life was all about long cups of tea, copious amounts of wine (!), cramming for an exam & general daydreaming about love & life. Bliss.
Back to the point of making new friends in your 30’s & beyond. I’ve realised that it requires time & patience. When you relocate – like we did – there is a certain longing (“aah, I miss my friends”) & pressure (“so, have you made any friends yet?”) to make new friends, but it takes time. After stumbling across this article – originally via Cup Of Jo – I realised that I’m not the only one trying to figure out the 30’s friendship scene.
I’ve been using some unusual & creative ways of meeting new friends. My strategy has not been limited to the points below, but has included:
- ‘Blind dates’. Please allow me to explain. Friends will often say “so & so is a friend of a friend & also lives in your area”. Numbers are exchanged & a coffee (blind date) is arranged. I’ve had a few of these & have been pleasantly surprised by how sweet people can be. We often use our networks to connect on a professional level, so why not do the same on a friendship level?
- Random conversations with random people. In a grocery store: “Hi, I love your haircut. I’m new around here. Who is your hairdresser?”, then a conversation & a coffee invite follows. True story.
- Crafty activities (like a painting workshop & pottery class) where I can meet likeminded people.
So, here are my – still incomplete – tips or notes to self for finding & staying friends in your 30’s. Please feel free to share or add more.
- Stop apologising. Before our move, we had a standing Monday afternoon mommy play date. This was partly to keep out little ones busy but became such a special date with dear friends. Albeit interrupted & chaotic, it was so often a lifeline. Biting, screaming & the general inability to share (not us, but the 18-month-olds) can make you feel self-conscious about yourself & your tot. When you start apologising for every tiny thing you won’t be doing anything else. I find this particularly hard, as the madness of having little ones around can sometimes be so overwhelming & down right embarrassing. So, my advice (to self) is to stop apologising for the behaviour of your toddler & just enjoy the company.
- Don’t judge. Embrace your differences. This is a phase of life where you are likely to find friends in places that you would not necessarily have in your 20’s.
- Keep an open mind. A new friend can pop up anywhere, anytime. Even if she doesn’t look like ‘your kind’ initially, she might surprise you. This has happened to me a number of times already with dear friends. A very unlikely candidate at a rather unlikely venue turns out to be a gem! And don’t forget your neighbours – the location is advantageous & a quick, impromptu chats & coffee is so convenient & necessary.
- It is ok not to be in touch on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, but make it clear that the friendship is still really close to your heart. My friends abroad will confirm that I’m the absolute worst long distance friend. It is encouraging, though, to know that the heart connection remains.
Have you made new friends lately? Please share your tips.
Cheers to many years of wonderful (new & old) friendships!