Monday, January 20, 2014
how to make friends in a grown up world
Sunday night in the Jensen household means Brickley and I hang out and do unproductive things like watch 12 episodes of Parks and Rec on Netflix. I actually just came to the realization that I forgot to turn off Parks and Rec and switch over to Downton Abbey at 9... Thank goodness for watching shows online! I also have the pleasure of listening to our upstairs neighbors stomp and scream over what I can assume is NFL football, NOT Downton Abbey.
Anyway... One thing I've come to realize first hand over the past three years is that making friends is hard.
I don't remember even making friends until middle school. I grew up with the same people at church and in gymnastics... they were always around, and while I chose who I was close to, I never had to work toward being friends with anyone.
In middle school, I started going to private school, and knew no one. However, it was a tiny school, I had classes with the same group of kids all day, AND I was wearing the same shoes as my soon to be bestie. I didn't even have to sit by myself during lunch on that first day, which is basically the worst feeling in the world for a 12 year old girl. And a 25 year old girl.
The great thing about school (high school and college both) is that it puts you in the presence of the same people every single day. You're practically forced to live life together. You can choose who you want to spend your extra time with, but you don't have to go out of your way to find friends.
Now here's the thing. My biggest problem with making friends is that it takes takes me an insane amount of time to do so. I skipped a grade in middle school and literally spoke maybe 20 words to anyone in my class in 8th-11th grade. It took four years... FOUR AWKWARD YEARS to feel truly comfortable at school. But senior year of high school was one of my favorite years of my life so far, and for that, I am grateful.
College was a little different, since I was actually living with people. I was part of the honors college, which meant I was living with people my Freshman year who were actually in the same core classes as me at Baylor. You would think living with people would speed up the friendship process. And it definitely did... to 5 awkward months. The people God placed on that dorm hall were some of the most amazing people I've had the pleasure of meeting. I built friendships that have continued over the past 7 years, over multiple phases of life. I'm so glad I got to live life with them.
And then I graduated... and then I got married... and then we moved 2,000 miles away to a state I had only visited once.
Over the last two and a half years, I have made some amazing friends... to the point where I would really struggle with moving away. I love living life with these people, but it's definitely been a learning journey.
When I first moved here, I maintained heavy contact with my friends from home, even though we were all spread out all over the world. When exciting things happened, I told them. I was making friends in Rhode Island, too. But typically, I would share ups and downs with friends I had known for years. I cried on my first Rhode Island birthday because I realized that the people who would be at my party hadn't even known me for a year. I was so grateful for those friends but I also missed my other friends a ton! After two years or so of living in Rhode Island, I kept in touch with my old friends a little less, spent time with my new friends more, but the new friendships were still not at the same level of the old friendships, if that makes sense. I struggled for a while with loneliness. Who knew making friends in the real world would be so hard? I get busy, I work a lot... Sometimes I just want to spend that one free evening at home alone on the couch. So, I'm learning how to make friends in a grown up, busy world. I have realized that I actually have to invest in people. Sometimes people don't invest in me like I think they should. But that doesn't mean we can't be friends.
With that said, I've done some research about making friends. I read The Church Planter's Wife by Christine Hoover and The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. The authors have very different reasons for making friends, but very similar ways of doing it. I've also just learned from experience.
SO. Without further ado, here are my tips for making friends.
1. Be Curious. If you are like me, you will understand what I am about to say. It causes me physical PAIN to start a conversation with someone I don't know. Literally. I struggle and struggle with getting simple questions out of my mouth. It's not because I'm not curious or don't care. Generally I have questions that I practice asking in my mind 350 times before I actually get up the courage to speak them. It's just the actual act of getting them out. I'm also very good with silence. It doesn't bother me. So this tip is one of the hardest for me. BUT... If you ask a person questions about their life, they will probably answer. If you're nice about it, they will probably like you. That's how I see it, anyway. People like to talk about themselves, so ask away!
2. Make Time. Making friends means actually trying these days. You can't just get away with seeing someone once a week at church and expect them to suddenly become your bff. Invite them over to watch Downton Abbey. Plan a coffee date. Go out to dinner. Make conscious decisions to spend time with people!
3. Make a choice and pursue. This one might seem weird to people who make friends easily. I make a choice on who I am going to pursue as a friend. Typically this is based on similarities, walk of life, and their willingness to be my friend. I decide on one or two people I want to make sure I invest into a friendship with, and then go for it. It kind of sounds like dating, and I guess it kind of is.
4. Be willing to move on. This one also may seem weird to people who make friends easily. There are people out there who don't have to try to make friends. They love people and people love them. For me, and other friends I have talked to, when I make a choice to build a friendship, I put a lot of effort into that process. And it really hurts when you invest that time and energy and they don't give anything back. I'm not saying that friendships are all about you getting something out of it... But if you feel like you are doing all the work and the other person NEVER invites you to hang out, NEVER initiates conversations, etc., then it's probably time to move on. And I don't mean dump them as a friend... Just loosen up your expectations for that one friend and seek a best friend forever elsewhere. I decided that I want to be close friends with people who want to be close friends with me! I was tired of feeling hurt every time a person asked other friends to hang out, come over for dinner, etc., but never asked me. It's not really fair to hold them to a standard they don't want to reach, so I decided to let it go. We can still hang out of course, but my expectations have been lowered so that I don't get hurt, and I have time to invest in other friendships.
This also goes for old friendships too. When you move away from all your friends, people start to grow apart. This is normal and natural. I still try to maintain friendships from a distance, of course. But some of those friendships change more quickly than others. I can't expect a friend to stay close if he or she doesn't want to. Some people see the friendships they have NOW as the valuable ones, and others see friendships from all different phases of life as valuable. I tend to hold on to close friendships for a long time. Which means I can easily get hurt if I attempt to text or call a certain friend who lives 2000 miles away and they never get back to me... They are invested in other friendships, and I can be too! It stinks, and I miss them, but moving on causes a lot less stress than being angry about something the other person doesn't even realize is wrong.
5. Be vulnerable. This can be tough. But so worth it. I listened to an older woman tell a group of people at church the other day that she doesn't share her life with friends. She has friends but she doesn't tell those friends anything about her personal life because she doesn't want to. This made me really sad! My closest friendships are the ones where I can call at any time when I'm feeling sad, happy, lonely, angry... They've seen every side of me and don't mind. When you're making a friend, don't be afraid to open up a little about your life. You don't have to give them nasty details right away, but being honest and vulnerable lets others know you trust them, and may even encourage them to trust you, too!
Welp, there we go. Obviously I am still learning as I go here. It's weird living in a place where no one knew you before you got married. The fact that no one here, besides Nick, knew me as Haley Purdy is so odd to me. But new friendships are fun, and I wouldn't trade where God has us for anything.