Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Making friends in a new city

Our first weekend in Cinci, 2013

Shortly after undergrad I was in the middle of applying to graduate programs when my husband received a call from an employer offering a full time job and a master's degree. The only catch? It was in a different state. He had been excited about this program and telling friends about it for months, so I didn't think twice about it when he asked me to move with him. It would be a new adventure together as a married couple. We had a family member living there, and extended family within driving distance.We packed up our small car with suitcases, an air mattress and our cat to move from Raleigh, NC to Cincinnati, OH.

Now this would be different living in a new city solo. We had a family member introduce us to a few people, and I had my husband with me. However I have lived in new cities by myself, too. Catching up with friends via text, phone calls, or messenger was nice for a short period of time but I found myself longing for an in-person friendship. I wanted to form my new tribe, so to speak. Connection is important, and I wanted to have people to share this new chapter of my life with. On my first birthday in my new city I decided to make a change and really put myself out there. It took time, but slowly I formed relationships and now five years later I can confidently say we have "settled" into a new circle of friends.

But I'm an introvert, I can hear some of you thinking. Me too. I am what I call a "very extroverted introvert" in that I am often bubbly and can talk to people, but I recharge individually. Whether you have twenty friends or one very close one is up to you and what you feel comfortable with, but it is still important to make those connections. Here is what I learned over the last few years.

Let your friends, family, and acquaintances know where you are moving. Often times someone you know will know someone in the area you are moving. Even if you do not form long lasting, deep connections with them it is nice to feel like you can reach out to someone if you need to. Say, if you have a flat tire. I've been on both ends of this: seeking people out who lived in the area I was moving, and having people let me know someone they are close to is moving into town.

Join groups or clubs that interest you. It is different making friends in your twenties than it is in college, when you are surrounded by people in the same situation as you all day and night. You have to seek people out with similar interests. Join a class, a young adult group, a moms group, a church group, a singles meetup, a community organization, a subcommittee at work. Being in close proximity to people who are into the same things as you takes out the awkward what do we have in common stage of getting to know someone. You already know you have something in common! It at least gives you something to talk about, whether that is a project you are working on together or a broader topic.

The internet is a beautiful thing. I joined a website - and there are a lot out there - which was essentially like Tinder for friendships. (Does Tinder have this? I'm a decade into a relationship so I don't know!) I know it sounds a little strange, but I actually ended up meeting up with and forming a friendship with a lady off of the website. We are five years in, and I would consider her one of my closest friends! There are meet up websites as well, so think outside of the box and give them a try. Note: be safe and use your best judgement. This website specifically verified you were a female, a real person vs. a bot, and lived locally.

Step outside of your comfort zone. Try new clubs or activities, go to an event where you have one trusted friend to fall back on, and meet up with that friend of a friend who lives in the same city as you. You really never know what will become of it. I have met people at parties through mutual friends, joined groups that neighbors are a part of, and connected with people on Facebook groups such as Blessed is She in person. Sometimes those have turned out to be great and I have continued to hang out with them, and other times I left knowing it wasn't going anywhere but feeling more confident in myself that I was able to get out and be a little more extroverted. It never hurts to practice!

It's all about your mindset. As a therapist I can tell you with utmost certainty that your thoughts are powerful. If you have negative, fearful thoughts, they will hold you back. The ultimate truth is not everyone you meet will like you, just as you do not necessarily like everyone you meet. I'm here to tell you that's okay. If everyone were the same, life would be boring. There are people out there who are meant to connect with you, who bring out the best in you, and can make you feel comfortable. Not everyone will be that for you, and you will not be that person for everyone. Go into situations hoping for the best with no expectations. Use your strengths to build your confidence. If you are introverted, chances are you are a good listener. If you are someone who is great at planning events, invite people over. If you are great at something work oriented find a need for that in the workplace such as a subcommittee or a club. Identify your strengths and use them to your advantage.

Most importantly, it takes time. It took about five years for me to feel like I have my foothold in this new space, and even then I am always growing and learning. Give yourself a little grace, it will take some time to adjust to this new chapter.

Hopefully this was helpful to you, and I wish you best of luck in your new city!

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