I should probably start this off by saying I’m not very qualified to be giving advice on making friends.
I just moved across the country to a place where I didn’t know a soul, and I’m shy and awkward and would rather devour a 500 page book in four days than go to a bar or a party or cafe and strike up a conversation with a (probably very nice and willing to chat) stranger.
Maybe that makes me highly qualified—I’m not really sure.
Either way, the whole concept of meeting people out in the real world has been pretty all-consuming lately.
Now, for the most part, I’m comfortable (most comfortable, in fact) being alone. Still, loneliness happens. And when loneliness happens, we look for validation.
So, tonight I sent a text to my four best friends and told them I missed them. Then I spent a few minutes having a pity party and decided I would text a few other people to invite them to this little shin-dig and let them know all about my sadness and shyness and insecurities.
But, while I was scrolling though my inbox looking for just the right person to make me feel better about myself, I started thinking about those four best friends I texted a few minutes before, and something dawned on me:
They were strangers once, too.
We didn’t go to kindergarten together, or meet because our moms were best friends, and we didn’t have gym class together in middle school. We met in college, as perfect strangers.
Up until now, I had been using the fact that this wasn’t college as an excuse for why making friends has been so hard: people don’t hang out with their doors open and walk up and down hallways asking where you’re from and what you’re doing tonight in the apartment building I live in (which, when I really stop to think about it, is for the best).
But, on my quest for virtual validation this evening, I realized that it’s not a lack of people to befriend that’s the issue for most of us.
The issue is that we’re afraid the people we talk to now won’t be as eager to make friends as we are—or worse, that maybe they do want to make friends but we might not be interesting enough or fun enough or whatever-your-biggest-insecurity-is enough to become one of them.
And that will probably be true sometimes. We can’t be everyone’s cup of tea.
But, we can remember that everyone we know now, aside from our family, was once a stranger. And now they aren’t. They are our best friend, or a friend of our best friend, or a boyfriend or a wife or someone we exchange pleasantries with every so often.
And they all thought we were enough of something to want to stick around.
The whole world is really just a big mess of us, we strangers, but every so often someone reaches out and decides they want to know a little bit more about one of them—even if it’s just a name, even if it’s just for a night.
Then, one by one, two by two, we all become a little less strange to one another.
And when we stop being afraid and start being honest and come out from behind our books or our jobs or our very best excuses—that’s when we realize that some of those strangers actually look a lot like what a best friend might look like, or talk like someone we might fall in love with might talk, or share a dream we thought only existed in our own, strange mind.
That’s when we start building relationships.
That’s when we stop feeling lonely.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Emily Bartran
Photo: Wikimedia Commons