Since leaving my office job back in June, I’ve been working primarily from home. And from the coffee shop down the block. When my self-employment first started, I was really worried that this kind of solitary writing life wouldn’t gel with the whole “I want to make new friends” thing. And, basically, it doesn’t. Sure, sometimes I smile at the redhead who always seems to be at the table next to me, but I’m pretty sure she hasn’t noticed.
I have a few other work-from-home pals, and sometimes we meet up for a study session, but all in all it’s not conducive to forging new friendships.
However, this gym gig I took? It’s a friend-searcher’s dream!
For two hours twice a week, I check people into a workout studio near my apartment. I signed up for the job because I loved the classes but they were out of my price range. Now that I work there, I can exercise for free. The benefit I didn’t see coming when I started was that I’d suddenly know everyone in the neighborhood.
I sit at the front desk being the greeter girl. (Writing that makes me think of Jon Lovitz in that episode of Friends where he’s looking to open a restaurant and Monica cooks for him, but he’s too stoned to wait for the food. When he walks in he takes one look at Rachel and says, in his nasal tone, “Hellooooo, greeter girl.”) I get to know people’s names. I chat with them while they wait for class to begin, and then again when they get out. It’s hardly enough time to form a legitimate friendship, but when you’re on the search for a BFF, just running into familiar faces around town can feel like success.
I caught up with one gym-goer when I ran into her at a local brunch spot. Another I saw at 7-Eleven. When I went to class the other day, the girl on the treadmill next to me asked when my book was coming out (Two months from today! OMG!) and I asked her about her upcoming wedding. It’s just enough to provide that sense of community and belonging that anyone on a BFF-quest is looking for.
I get that most of you probably don’t have time (or interest) to take on 4 hours of front desk work at the gym. But I like to offer ways of making pals that you might not have thought of. Any job that entails interacting with customers could do the trick. Maybe you want to volunteer at the library a couple of times a week. Or take a shift at a bakery because you love the smell of fresh cupcakes. There are plenty of benefits: getting to be around something you love (or, in my case of working out, something you love to hate), discounts (!!), and an extra dose of friendly interaction.
I know it’s crazy for me to suggest anyone take on more work, but as someone who still feels like a newbie in Chicago four years later, this job helps me feel like an insider in my ‘hood. So, you know, just a thought.
Have you ever taken on a project and found that making new pals was an unexpected side effect? What were they?