Making Friends After College and Beyond
After our recent visit to my home town in December 2011, I came home with an abundance of childhood memorabilia and keep-sakes. One thing that I found interesting, was reviewing how my closest friends saw me. When asked what I’m most good at – the response was often “making new friends”. Looking back – I did have a lot of friends the year following college. It was strange too, because I had a lot of different groups of friends.
- Childhood/school friends
- College friends
- Friends made through college friends and connections
- Church friends
- Work friends (when I moved to Johannesburg these friends kept me sane)
I made friends easily – and no, I am not super outgoing… These friendships did not happen overnight (with the exception of the church friends group maybe), I am a very quiet and reserved person who takes a while to warm up to people…. okay – more accurately, I give people time to warm up to me. Once someone lets me in – I’m all in. I love people and enjoy learning from different people’s perspectives and outlooks on life.
That being said – when I came to the U.S.A. in 2006 I hit a bit of a brick wall. The only “socializing” I was doing involved au pair meetings and socials. I made a couple of friends, one who became like a sister to me – where I felt 100% comfortable around her. However, for the most part, I did not have a lot in common with the au pair girls – and they mostly kept to themselves, preferring to socialize with people from their home countries.
I took some college classes and tried to make connections – but without spending a lot of time with people, I’m not really given the opportunity to come out of my shell.
After meeting and falling in love with my (now) husband, I made some new friends…. mostly guys though – and we do not have a great deal in common. And even hubby doesn’t see them very often. I have now worked as a nanny for 4 years (beyond au pairing) and I attend university online — leaving little to no interaction with adults.
I’ve reached the understanding that trying to make lasting connections and friendships with people when you’re in your mid-to-late-twenties is like dating all over again. I remember when I was trying to make connections with some of the people at our old church…. I would put feelers out, and more often than not, get rejected. It hurt. Then one person reached out to me – and I became super excited, but was trying to “play it cool” so I wouldn’t scare her off. Hanging out in the beginning was stressful and I had some minor anxiety about it – because I didn’t want to say the wrong thing or mess it up. It’s also difficult to judge the other person’s intentions and to know whether people actually want to pursue a deeper connection/closer friendship.
I now have a wonderful small group of friends – but I know that to them, I am just that — a friend. To me — they’re the only friends I have nearby. This can make things tricky… it is difficult not to feel jealous or disappointed when your friends aren’t as invested in the friendship as you are. I know it’s not intentional — they just all have their close childhood/college friends…. I have no one (besides a few friends back home who still keep in touch) — besides my wonderful and supportive hubby. Being married and trying to make friends is also difficult – finding the time and energy to pursue and nurture a new friendship is not always easy.*
I think this is one reason why starting a family is so very important to me. Hubby and I both want a large family – a family that can support one another and be there for one another no matter what. I’m trying to fill that friend-void with a family….. which is not necessarily a good thing.
I think having a sister makes it more difficult to appreciate friendships for what they are – because I know what it could be….I have a couple of friends who are like sisters (and my sister of course) and there is nothing quite like a sisterly bond. Except perhaps a mother-child bond?
In case you couldn’t tell – I’ve been a little down lately, and really miss my sister and wish she was closer… we are very different people, with very different outlooks on life, but she’s my sister and I love her unconditionally. And sometimes I am guilty of being jealous of some of the close friendships I see around me… ultimately I know that I do not put enough effort in…. part of that is a fear of rejection, and the other part is just plain laziness.
P.S: The movie ‘I Love You Man’ is a perfect example of what it is like to make friends at this stage in one’s life… be warned, there are some inappropriate scenes in the movie.
*Do not get me wrong – I love my small circle of friends and in some ways they know me better than some of my longest friends know me… we confide in eachother, pray for one another, and offer emotional and spiritual support to one another…. I am a better person because of these friendships.
UPDATE: looks like I am not the only one who has had this on her heart lately – check out these (much more eloquent) other blog posts about making friends later in life :