How Do Grown Ups Make Friends?

This week’s episode of New Girl gave me a lot to think about. This episode dealt with Schmidt and Nick’s friendship and Cece and Jess’s relationship. They were posing the question, if those people (assuming they were real and not tv characters) met today, would they still be friends? I’ve been thinking a lot about my friendships. Most of my friends I have known since college or from teaching. Our relationships are built on a shared past. I’m finding it very difficult now, as an adult, to make friends that would even come close to comparing to my current friends. Of course, I’m not a very patient person and I forget that friendships don’t develop over night, though looking back, it seems that they did.

College is certainly the easiest time to make lasting friendships. You live with or very near your friends, you spend all of your time with them or looking for them, and you share your first real taste of independence with them. My friends and I had the best times ever in college, and also helped each other through situations that seemed insurmountable. Our friendship now is built on shared experience and a deep, almost familial, love. I do wonder though if we would all be friends if we met today. I work in education, Erin works in PR, Doug is a lawyer, and Liz lives in Boston. In our real lives, we speak different languages, but Cece at the end of the episode sums it all up. She says to Jess, “we’re friends now.” I think that relationships built on a strong past just last (so poetic!) as long as the people involved still care about each other.

For the most part I think that people stop making friends as quickly after college. I, however, had a very different experience. I made super close friends when I first started teaching because we were all hanging on to each other for dear life. We also didn’t have lives outside of school, so our whole existences revolved around the kids and each other. It’s interesting that those friendships that I made in the first two years of teaching imploded when all of us started growing up and having lives outside of school. We handled ourselves like our adolescent students, fighting and being resentful. Being in the presence of teenagers makes you act like them. The friends that I still have from teaching know me as a grown up, not just a college graduate. Our friendships still developed quickly because, like I said, we were clinging to each other for dear life, but we also had lives that existed outside of school that we could talk about. I knew that when I left my old school I would never again be in a workplace where every lunch time was like a family meal and there was always someone willing to get another cup of coffee. But knowing this and experiencing it are two very different things.

When I started my new job I thought that being friends with my coworkers would be super easy and would happen really quickly. We all had cubicles near each other and I watch The Office and assumed that people would just welcome me into the fold. I figured within weeks we’d be going to happy hours and having dinner after work and I’d feel comfortable. That’s not exactly what happened. It wasn’t that I was being left out, but everyone that I work with is an actual adult. They’re married and have kids or lives that they are going home to every night. And so do I. I’m not single and unattached like I was when I first entered the work force. My job is not my life anymore. I’ve been there a year and half now and am only just starting to feel like a part of their “family.” But it’s still different. When I was teaching we went out after work pretty much every friday. Now that happens maybe once every 2 months. It was really hard at the beginning to feel so isolated and out of place when I had just left all of my friends behind. Erin, who had been working an an office environment since college, assured me that the experience I was having at my new job was much more normal that the experience I had as a teacher. Like I said, I knew it would be different, but switching jobs was really my first experience with trying to make friends as an adult. It is a very strange world to navigate.

I’m trying to figure it out in my new neighborhood too. Park Slope seems like a very friendly place, but its hard for me to sit back and let the friendships develop. I feel like if I don’t have an instant connection with someone I don’t want to force myself on them. This is definitely my own insecurity about feeling like I’m too much or too needy. The place with the most potential for friendship is definitely my Zumba class, where I have been welcomed and accepted, if only because everyone assumes I’ve been there forever. I’m like a chicken who gets brought into the coop at night so that in the morning the rest of the chickens think its been there forever. Everyone seems okay with my being there but nobody really knows me.

I’m finding that I don’t really know how to put myself out there. Plus, I’m nervous because I don’t want to be rejected or be seen as weird (I do not know where these ideas come from, they seem so strange writing them now). I am trying though, last night I invited some people from my class to see my a cappella show (You guys should come!). One of them is a singer and seems excited about it. Maybe she’ll come and we can get to know each other in a different environment. The adult world is interesting since everyone does have their own lives, we need to look for the connections instead of them being laid out in front of us. I also have to remember that I really haven’t been doing this for that long. Its been a year and a half with my coworkers and about 6 months in Park Slope. I will make friends, but these things take time. I just have to be patient.

Any advice, grown ups?

Growing up, in other places: Going Alone vs. Being Lonely and Being the Youngest to Being a Grown Up
Zumba, in other places: Confessions of a Zumba Addict
Teaching, in other places: What does it Mean to Be a Teacher? and What Does it Mean to be a Teacher?: Part 2

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3 thoughts on “How Do Grown Ups Make Friends?

  1. Pingback: Being a Grown Up: The Good, The Bad, and The Peanut Butter M&M Cookies « Think well. Love well. Dine well.

  2. Pingback: Making Friends is like Dating « Think well. Love well. Dine well.

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