“I guess I’d feel better if I had a boyfriend to do things with,” I remember telling my mother wistfully as I looked out the window at the beautiful fall weather. “No you don’t,” my mother answered wisely, “You just want friends.”
That thought stopped me in my tracks. Not only because I was slightly insulted my mother was trying to pretend she knew my feelings better than I did, but because it was really true. Yes, part of me did want a boyfriend to go on cute fall dates with, but I mostly just wanted someone to go with me to do cute fall things in general. I craved having friends I could go to apple orchards and corn mazes with, or someone who would tolerate and even enjoy my love for scary movies. I guess I had just believed that having a boyfriend would mean I would have someone to do things with, but that didn’t mean I wouldn’t still be lonely.
This conversation took place almost a year ago, as I was struggling and frustrated with God because I hadn’t really found my “people” yet post-college. I had been living in Lancaster for four months, and the huge group of friends I thought I would have at that point was looking a lot like zero. I foolishly thought that finding friends would be only too easy after college. I remember thinking, I’m fun, I’m likable, I sometimes make people laugh, who wouldn’t want to be my friend? Let me assure you, if you are struggling to find new friends in your new area or hometown after college, it is not because you are not likable. It has nothing to do with you at all. It’s just plain tricky.
Friendships, like any relationship, are built through time and effort. Just like you can’t be in the comfortable, “let’s just stay in and watch a movie,” stage until several months after dating, you can’t be best friends with someone instantly after you meet them one time. But that’s totally what I expected. And I am assuming that is something you were expecting as well. We plan to make friends right away after college, and when it takes a lot more time, we get frustrated with God and our personalities.
Maybe if I was funnier, wittier, talked less, talked more, etc., I would have found friends by now. Or perhaps you’ve watched Friends one too many times and are wondering where your perfect group of five friends could be hiding? Let me hit you with some truth; I didn’t have any friends in Lancaster until like December. You heard me correctly, I didn’t have friends I felt like I could connect with until post-Christmas, and I only had two of them. I didn’t feel fully comfortable and have weekend plans consistently until April, or this past Spring. This means it took me almost a whole year to establish a legitimate community.
And I don’t mean a community of people I just talk to briefly at church, or flake on plans with at the last minute because I secretly like Netflix better than them, or who talk only about themselves and couldn’t care less about my problems. I mean true genuine friendships or people who sincerely know me and love me despite my flaws. I have found a community of people that I can rely on post-college, and you can too.
So today if you have been attending your new church, living in your new town, or dutifully attending your small group weekly, don’t freak out because you haven’t met your best friend. Good, quality friends and community take time, and today, I want to go through some things that I believe hold us back from finding a good community.
We are terrified that no one actually wants to spend time with us. And, because our confidence is generally running thinner than the shorts at American Eagle during this life change, we become too afraid to ask. What if they say no? What if they laugh at me? What if they go and then hate me? There are so many questions swirling around our insecure brains that we let fear win, and we don’t end up asking anyone to hang out. And because they may be waiting for someone to ask them to hang out just like you are, you both end up lonely on Saturday night re-watching Gossip Girl or that cheesy Netflix rom-com.
I got rejected a lot of times when I asked people to hang out. When I moved to the area, I asked a girl from my college to hang out over Facebook messenger. Even though we hadn’t been friends in college, I was convinced we could be friends now, plus we had so much in common already! Hello, new best friend! She left me on read and never responded.
And I wish I could say that was the last time I was rejected by someone I thought I could be friends with. Girls are cruel, even outside of high school. Sometimes people thought they replied to you and forgot. Sometimes life is crazy, and we have other things on our mind. The point is, we all have the potential to be rejected from a friend date, but that doesn’t mean we can’t put ourselves out there. Someone will say yes to your invitation, and then you can say goodbye to Peter Kravinsky for a night.
We Invest In The Wrong People
Finding a new set of friends is honestly just like dating. We go somewhere casual for our first meeting or date, like a coffee shop, getting a drink, or to dinner. We are generally nervous and hoping to impress them. And, we have to say lame things at the end of the night like, “we should do this again sometime,” or, “would you want to do this again sometime?” even if we don’t mean it. But, just like dating, sometimes you don’t just click with people. They could appear to have everything you want in a friend from the outside but then end up not being someone you could see yourself hanging out with on a regular basis.
In dating, people don’t feel bad at all about ghosting someone, so why should you feel bad about not hanging out with someone you met who just wasn’t your favorite? I am not suggesting you “ghost” these people, but don’t feel bad not attempting to make plans with someone again who you honestly couldn’t see yourself becoming close to. We all look for different traits and desire different things from our friends, don’t feel bad when you don’t click with someone.
Likewise, with dating, it may be smart to give someone another chance if your first meeting was kind of bland. But, if you have been hanging out with a girl for a while now and she is just not your speed, a real mean girl, or someone who sucks the energy out of you, you can stop. It’s not like in high school when you are forced to see the same people day after day if you don’t want to be close to someone, no one is forcing you to be. We all have a limited amount of energy we can extend on our friendships, so don’t waste some of that precious energy on someone who is just ok.
We Don’t Know What To Talk About
Especially if you are someone who is more introverted, you may be panicked and anxious thinking about how to interact with someone you don’t know well. What if you can’t think of anything to say? Or, none of you have anything to say, and you just sit in awkward silence? Luckily for you, I have come up with some question ideas to get the conversation going and not stopping.
What do you do as a living?
Where did you grow up?
Do you have any brothers and sisters?
Are you a cat or dog person?
Who is someone you look up close?
Coffee or tea?
Books or podcasts?- and what author or podcaster is your favorite?
Where do you go to church in the area?
What is your idea of a perfect Saturday?
What’s your favorite season or holiday?
What is your idea of a perfect meal?
Who is your favorite band or musician?
What show have you been binge watching lately?
Do you live at home or on your own?
What is your favorite thing about the city you live in?
What was your favorite Halloween costume when you were a kid?
What is your favorite store to shop at?
What is your favorite restaurant to eat at?
What do you like most and least about your current job?
Where did you go to college?
Cooking or baking?
Who is your celebrity crush?
These questions may seem silly or like they might not lead to deep conversation, but remember, your first meeting with this person is akin to your first date. You can’t go telling them your entire life story before you’ve gotten your frappuccino. Take it slow and realize that truly getting deep and knowing someone takes time.
We Compare Ourselves To Others
If you asked post-college grads what something they struggle with the most is, I am sure that comparison would be at the top of their list. With social media, it is almost too easy to see how people we used to know or go to school with are up to. It can be challenging when you are feeling especially blue, to see a bunch of your college friends getting together because they all live in the same area, or seeing pictures of a friend going out with a group of new friends to a big event.
It can be easy to feel like you are really behind on the friend game. That when you do reunite with your college friends, they will have replaced you and you’ll have to pretend the girl you sat next to and briefly had a conversation with at church is actually a close friend and not a mere acquaintance, so they don’t feel bad for you when gushing about their new friends.
But, my mother always taught me this great saying, “Make new friends but keep the old. “
You reached a depth and understanding with your old friends that you most likely haven’t achieved with your new friends yet. Also, just because your friends are making new friends, doesn’t mean they don’t still need you in their lives. I love that I have friends that I go to for different things. I have friends who are better listeners, are great for a night in, great for a night out, better for spiritual talks, and better to gossip with( don’t judge me too harshly for this one). And, if you stop to look at your current friend circle, I am sure that you will notice the same thing. We aren’t replacing our old friends by making new ones; we are simply filling other roles in our lives or enhancing ones that are already there.
So don’t feel shame that your old friends are making more new friends than you, or feel guilty about making new friends. As you get older and spend more time out of college, you’ll realize that you have friends who you kept just for a season, and friends you’ll keep for a lifetime.
And just because someone posts a bunch of pictures of themselves with new people, doesn’t mean they didn’t go home missing their other friends and feeling lonely that night. No one is truly doing as well as their Instagram feed suggests.
Also, it’s important to remember that we have different capacities for friendship and others. It’s even deeper than introversion and extraversion. You may love being around people, but only be able to handle having a couple of deeper relationships. Or, you may be someone who is comfortable being close to a lot of people. Don’t get upset about your limits, instead, embrace them. Because we can all handle different levels of people, you can’t compare yourself to the girl from Instagram who has such a wide circle of friends, you may think you want that, but you would actually be exhausted by it. And, if you want to make more friends, you can always reach out to others as I mention in this article.
Wrapping It Up
If you have been starting to get the friendship blues lately, it’s important to remember that you aren’t alone. There are young adults all over the world that are facing this issue. Women out there who are craving deeper, God-centered community, who are looking for someone like you to reach out and be their new friend. God has not abandoned you. He has great plans and great friends He wants to influence you, and also for you to influence. So put yourself out there, put down that Instagram feed, and stop letting fear hold you back from making new friends in your area.
Let me know if you have any tips to help make friends more easily in the comments below!
1. Pray for God to bring you new friends and to open your eyes to those around you.
2. Invite one person this month or week to get coffee. Don’t worry about what you’ll talk about or let fear hold you back, just do it.
3. Follow Up. Once you have had a great coffee date or hang out time with a potential best friend, don’t hesitate to follow up and ask them to hang out again. After all, you can’t have a real relationship with someone if you’ve only gone on one date. Be intentional in the pursuit of friendship, and it will pay off!