Look How Far We’ve Come

I’ve done a pretty decent job this year of meeting new people. I don’t have a new BFF just yet, but I do have new friends. I’ve met them in all sorts of ways—improv class, online essays, wedding dress shopping, work, meet and greets—and I sloooowwwwlly feel like I’m establishing my own social network in my not-so-new-anymore city.

On Saturday night I went to a new pal’s birthday party. When I got there, she was telling some of the guests—including a few of the ladies who attended my getting-to-know-you pizza dinner—that she moved to Chicago five and a half years ago and didn’t know one person at the party before she got here. Every single guest was a relatively new friend. And it was a good-sized crowd.

It struck me as such an encouraging detail. In only five years, she’s set up an entire life for herself. When we talked about it the next day, she said she’d had a bit of a lightbulb moment when she realized her guest list was entirely new friends. It made her never want to leave. After all, five years seems quick once it has passed, but to start again would be daunting.

I’ve been in Chicago for three and a half years now. I didn’t do a big affair for my birthday, mostly because I turned 28 and that’s not a very interesting age, but also because I felt like so many of my new friends were in that more-than-an-acquaintance-but-not-a-full-fledged-friend stage. I wouldn’t want someone I barely knew to feel obligated to celebrate me, but I also wouldn’t want to leave anyone out.

I won’t be in my friend’s shoes in two years because I have family and college friends who I knew when I arrived here and who I very much plan on inviting to any 30th birthday festivities that might occur. But still, I love the idea that a good portion of the room could be filled with new additions.

When I first moved to Chicago, I was nervous about the whole new friends thing but excited for a change. I loved the anticipation of what my Chicago life might bring. Who would I meet? What would we do? Would anyone in the Midwest care for pop culture the way I do?

It’s fun to be in the process of answering those questions. And it’s satisfying to notice as each small step turns someone from a stranger to a friend. My new friend’s story makes me excited all over again to see what the next two years could bring.

Where do you see your friendships in two years? Have you ever had a friendship aha moment? Or a realization that your BFF search could be called off?


Filed under The Search

10 responses to “Look How Far We’ve Come

  1. Ashley

    I’m in the midst of an aha-moment-playout this morning. Yesterday I had my aha moment that I was the only one in the close knit of 4 friends that ever initiates – anything. I’ve known this, but yesterday it hit me hard and I wanted to throw in the flags and call quits; I’m done being the initiator. I want to be pursued; I want to be the one to simply say yes or no and not plan the entire social outing; I simply want to be the one to receive the email asking how things are going! Then again I’m stuck because how do I tell my friends that I need more of their time and effort put into our relationship; put into me?!

    • Dot

      Ashley,I know how you feel “always extending the invite.” From the dozens of invitations I have extended , all the happy gatherings, few friends make the effort to initiate the gathering. It used to bother me, but now I think it just comes down to some people are planners and make life happen.Some people are followers and let life happen. I have to be the planner. I have to make sure I have all the fun I can.Friends are fun! So I say, take a break, rest and get back to the inviting.

    • I think Dot is right on the money. Often as a group of friends is formed, we each fall into a role. In my group of friends from college there is a clear distinction of the ones who make the decisions–where we will go, what we will do–and those of us who just go along with it. There used to be times it annoyed me, but then I realized that is just our dynamic. And now in my new life, I am more often the iniator than not, but I figure if I want to have the fun with friends, that I have to be willing to make it happen.

      I don’t think you are the inviter because they don’t care or want to be with you, I bet it’s just because it’s a role you fell into originally. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with bringing this up with your friends–or just saying “I miss you guys, but am swamped right now so would one of you take over planning duties?”–or, as Dot said, take a breather for a bit. Soon enough you’ll be reinvigorated and ready to initiate again!

    • Lorrie Paige

      I’ve been in that situation many times (but with new people as potential friends, so maybe you should weigh the pros and cons about how valuable they are as your friends).

      Like a marriage, their NEEDS to be that reciprocation or one day you could wind up resenting the fact that you are doing all the work in the relationship. Don’t sell yourself short. Look for people who really want to do things with you and WILL suggest things. Afterall, THEY are going to places on their own, but not inviting you? Hmmm…

      I’d just tell them the way you told us, if they are close friends of yours. If nothing changes, move on, in my opinion. Best to you!

  2. Noemi

    I’ve been in Philly for two years and was struggling terribly with finding new friends locally. After I began to read this blog, I realized that I hadn’t initiated any attempts at friendship with the people around me. In the past few months, I have actually gotten pretty close to one mother whom I met only two months after moving here but that I didn’t really “pursue” even though we both kept talking about it. We’ve gone for lunch several times, talked and texted, and laughed a ton. I have a feeling she is going to be my local BFF.

    Additionally, I started talking more to some of the mom’s from my son’s swim team and just this past Saturday we all had a “girl’s night out” at the team’s Halloween fundraiser. And the best part? They invited me! We had a really good time, and I finally felt like I belonged with a new group. While I wouldn’t exactly identify any of them as BFF’s yet, it was nice to know that they had accepted me enough to join them.

    I’ll be turning 45 in a couple of years, and when I do, I know that I will be celebrating with the BFF’s I’ve had for many years, but I also have the feeling a few of these new friends will also be there.

  3. Wow, since you mentioned it, that’s how most of my parties are too. I only knew 2 people in Chicago when I moved here 6 and a half years ago, and one has since left town and the other has mostly disappeared, so all of my friends are people that I met on my own after moving here. It’s hard to know for sure, but I’m fairly certain that I’ll be friends with at least a majority of the same people in 2 years that I am today. I still don’t have a Chicago BFF though, so I have no idea how long that actually takes.

  4. Suzannah

    Oh gosh…my BFF search has been frought with personal insight and numerous lite bulb moments!!!…as I first recognized the absence of a local BFF…I started to exam how my current friendships came to be…and WOW!!!! I have for the most part let others decide they want to be my friend, with no real thought as to whether there was enough shared interests or common ground for the relationship to be fulfilling…I was new in town, busy with kids , just happy to be making familiar faces…I now recognize how much power I gave away…the real lite bulb was, why? I am kinda hyper particular about alot of things in my life..
    But also I am learning that I really have a hard time, reading others social cues…since I never pursued a friendship…..I am used to be invited, not issuing invites til the relationship is established…..so I am thinking I may bit call it off but might take a breather!!!….it is lil hard on the ole’ self confidence…

    • Betty

      Suzannah, I can totally relate. I’m finding myself in the exact same situation! Our family was new in town (new state too), and we didn’t know anyone. Getting acclimated to so many new things, busy with the kids, feeling totally overwhelmed, and feeling a strong need to be part of a community — any community — I pretty much accepted any offers of friendship that were extended to me because I didn’t want to feel isolated. Some of these relationships have ended up causing me a lot of stress, and after a lot of recent soul-searching, I have come to the conclusion that we are just not mutually compatible long-term for a variety of reasons. We may have had some of the same shared interests and been in a similar life stage (which is what brought us together in the first place), but I’m finding out that that is not enough if our personalities, temperaments, and individual quirks don’t mesh well together. I’m now trying to step back a little bit before I jump into any new relationships.

  5. Suzannah

    Thank-you Betty….feeling like someone relates is great….now that we are all settled, and I have the mental energy to focus on what I enjoy out of my friendships, instead of just looking for an anchor…really does change your perpective…..and I absolutely appreciate those earlier friendships, that helped my transition…but now I feel like I really want a BFF to have some fun…
    Betty, I hope you meet a great lady and go on to have a great friendship!!

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