Happy New Year’s Eve everyone! I’m thrilled because I will be ringing in 2011 at a dear friend’s wedding. She was my roommate for almost three years in New York City, and we worked together, so you might say being spoiled with her friendship is part of the reason I got such a shock to the system when I moved to Chicago. I even spoke at her rehearsal dinner last night. Telling an old pal how special she is seemed a really fitting way for me to close out 2010.
This has been a momentous year for me. Friend searching can teach you as much about yourself as it does other about other people.
So first, what I’ve learned about myself:
1. I am a social being. In my earlier Chicago days I would have described myself as a homebody, but that might have been due to the fact that I didn’t have that many locals to hang out with. These days I’ve realized I get a lot of energy and happiness from being out with new friends. I’m not trying to go out drinking till 1 am, but a girls’ dinner will put me in a great mood.
2. I enjoy alone time. It seems like a contradiction of the aforementioned point #1, but now that I am not alone all the time, I appreciate the time that I am. It used to feel lonely, now it feels relaxing.
3. I’m braver than I thought. Once upon a time I would have said “Oh I could never do that!” to a hearty percentage of the things I’ve tackled this year. Write a note to a waitress after a meal? Ask an established author to have lunch with me? At her reading no less? But now I’ve learned that the worst that can happen is I’ll be embarrassed for a minute. Then I move on. There are worse things.
What I’ve learned about other people:
1. Everyone wants friends. I was so so so so so worried that the people I approached this year would find me annoying or burdensome or strange. But across the board people have been thrilled when I asked them on a friend-date. People are busy and aren’t always willing to do the work it takes to make friends, but if you carry the load—at least in the beginning—others will happily come along.
2. People don’t analyze your every move the way you think they do. I constantly hear from readers that they are scared to approach someone because they don’t want to seem weird. I felt that way at the beginning. Now I know, no one is thinking about me enough to think I’m weird. If I approach someone, they usually just respond. They don’t analyze my crazy. At least not yet.
3. You never know what someone else is thinking. When I asked out the girl who works at the boutique on my corner, she said that she can never be the asker because it’s unprofessional for the salesgirl to invite a customer out for coffee. Until that moment it had never occurred to me that maybe she wanted to be friends with me but something was holding her back. The point is, you’ll never know what someone else is thinking. So just ask. It’s the only way to find out.
Three things I’ve learned about making friends:
1. Friends don’t come knocking at your door. If making new friends is important to you, you absolutely must be willing to do the work. You have to reach out and follow up and plan outings. You have to call back and write back and facebook message back. You have to show up.
2. Consistency is key. I see the people in my improv class once a week. We’ve become fast friends. Some of my new friends are in my book club which guarantees I’ll see them at least once a month. Some new friends I liked so much that I created consistency with them—I formed a dinner club. Now I see them once a month too. Seeing someone twice and never again is not friendship.
3. Friendships take time. I thought I would meet someone and we would have this friend-love at first sight business, but—surprise!—it hasn’t happened like that. Sure there have been some I have clicked with more than others, but even those relationships need time to become true friendships. Patience has never been my strong suit.
I hope these notes will help some of you make friends in the new year! What did you learn in 2010?