I grew up as an Air Force dependent, so we moved on average every two years to a new school. I went to three elementary schools, two middle schools, one secondary school, and three high schools. Being the “new girl” was an advantage when I was growing up because everyone wanted to get to know me. So, while it sucked that I had to leave your friends, it was fairly easy to make new ones.
I think that one of the more difficult facets of becoming an adult is making friends as you get older. Even as a woman in my late twenties, I still struggle with making new friends. I met my best friend during my sophomore year of high school. Her name is Jordan and she is “my person.” I can count on one hand the number of friends that I still have from high school, which is probably true for most of us. In general, friendships can be complicated, beneficial, important, unhealthy, stressful, gratifying, supportive, damaging; I could go on. My point is that no single friendship is the same. Each one of our friends brings out different characteristics in us.
- When you’re growing up, it is fairly easy to make friends. -
In elementary and middle school there are ice-breakers on the first day. You are in classes all day, interacting with different students. You are in an environment that encourages collaboration and communication. When you're young, you have fewer values or principles with which to evaluate your friends. Therefore, you get along with pretty much all of your classmates at this point. Looking back on it, I can’t really think of too many kids who I went to school with at that age who made such a negative impact on me that I remember their name today. l like to think of it as everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Unless someone specifically does something to you, i.e. cuts you in the lunch line, picks on you at the playground, or steals your unspoken crush, there are no issues. Ages five to around fourteen consists of incidents that probably don’t have any lasting impacts on your future. As you age, the relationships with your friends become more intense. This is when you find yourself in unfavorable and potentially destructive situations. When your parents tell you to watch who you surround yourself with, you aren’t listening to them. What do they know? But as you get older, you find that you may have become involved with the wrong crowd. It takes some self-awareness to assess these circumstances in order to make a decision about whether you want these “friends” to continue to negatively impact your life. You would think it would get easier from here, but it doesn’t.
- As you age, you realize what qualities you want in the people you spend the majority of your time with. –
Do you want to hang out with someone who does drugs? Or with someone who got caught shoplifting? What about someone who cheated on their significant other or stole a car? Sometimes you can feel pressured to go along with these activities because everyone else is doing it. You want people to like you. If you let these relationships persist, then your personality may begin to change. Who you are as a person starts to shift. You start to do some self-reflection and consider that these people are probably not who you should be associating due to their negative influences on you.
As you get older your priorities change, too. Activities you once did with friends like playing Xbox or riding around on bikes is something that you’re no longer interested in. This is where a truly dynamic incident happens – your friendship either further develops as you find other common activities to enjoy together, or it fizzles out. It is the people you truly have a connection with that will grow with you and not away from you. In my case, I grew up in a time where cellphones and social media were not what they are today. If you didn’t call your friend across the country once a week for life updates, you would quickly realize you no longer had a connection. Ultimately, the friendship would dissolve.
Then you get to high school and most everyone has established who they are friends with because they have grown up together for the last 10+ years. This is where it started to become difficult for me to make friends. I ended up finding a group of four girls who had all been friends since middle school. Essentially, I had to prove my worth in order to join their group. This is when I met Jordan. We just clicked. You meet those people sometimes that you just instantly vibe with. I can’t even begin to recount all of the memories we have together, but she is the most genuine, loyal, happy, intelligent, and sassy woman. I love her with all my heart.
- If who you surround yourself doesn’t promote the type of person you want to be, you’re associating with the wrong people. –
So, let’s fast forward to being an adult. Our priorities change as we get older, and we have to make some tough decisions regarding our friends. We decide whether we want to continue to associate with them or if we should to cut them off. What about making friends as an adult? I have a few tips. I do what I like to call a trial. What do I mean by this? Here is an example: I recently started a new job in Atlanta. I quickly became really close with the girl who trained me for my position. Makes sense, right? I was spending the most time with her at the office. We would make jokes and get lunch because we were on the same schedule. So in order to see if she was really going to be more than just a circumstantial friend, I did a test. We would get coffee in the kitchen in the morning together before our shift started. At the time, we were using those awful single-serving creamers. One morning I brought in creamer and told her that she could have some: this was my test. We used the creamer all week until the bottle was empty – four weeks went by and I bought a creamer for each week as we ran out and she never returned the favor. She didn’t reciprocate my selfless act. This was the answer to my test. If she wasn’t going to contribute to something as small as a bottle of creamer, then when we got to bigger issues further down the road, she most likely wouldn’t come through at that point either. I remained cordial with her but didn’t allow the friendship to develop into anything more than that. I felt like I would eventually end up like putting more effort into the relationship without any appreciation.
Here’s another example: I met a girl at a horse stable where I used to ride. We instantly clicked. She would always make me laugh whenever we were together. It was goofy and fun every time she was around. Sometimes she would flake on me, but I overlooked it because we got along so well. We would get lunch, go get our nails done and ride our horses together. I was usually the one to reach out to her, or drive to where she was because it was more convenient for her – I should have read the signs. Once I moved away, it took about two months for her to completely ghost me, almost as if she fell off the planet. I was heartbroken because I had been investing more of my time than she was. In the end, I guess she didn’t feel the same way about me as I did about her.
Making friends as an adult is one of the most difficult things we experience. It’s a struggle. It’s trial and error. It all starts with effort though. Put yourself out there and do something nice for someone. You can usually gauge their effort of reciprocation as an insight to the kind of effort they will put into the friendship.
- Marie W.