As I scroll through my list of friend requests on social media, I usually ask myself the same questions: if my life was falling apart, could I call on this person? Would they drop everything and be over in a few minutes with a tasty meal or a listening ear or to watch my kids quick while I scream into a pillow?
And the answer is almost always “no.”
Today, I am “friends” with a couple thousand people, but I’ve never felt more alone.
Why Is It So Easy to Make Friends as a Kid?
When I was five years old and regularly wore a pink tutu or my beloved red cowgirl boots and pig tails, I met my soulmate. Her name was Crystal. She had hair like mine at the time: so blonde it was almost white, like milkweed silk. Kindergarten was the best because I got to hang out with her all day, play with blocks, or dress up with long, flowing princess gowns.
There is a picture of us at our annual Christmas concert in almost-matching plaid and red velvet dresses, our hair half up with ironed curls our mothers lovingly arranged around our round faces. In the photo, my hand is reaching out to hers. I remember feeling grounded. With her by my side, I could do anything. Even sing “Silent Night” way off key.
My little world fell apart when I found out we were going to different elementary schools. I didn’t know what I was going to do. So, I did the only thing I could and named my new Cabbage Patch doll after her. Years went by, and I awkwardly tried to replace her. There were birthday parties and zoo trips, science fairs and book sales, basketball practices and Christmas plays. There were lots of little girls with good intentions and fast-peddling banana-seat bikes and welcoming homes that smelled like cookies, but no Crystal.
I’ll Never Forget When I Reconnected With My Best Friend
Finally, the first day of middle school arrived. I walked super self-consciously down the hall (like only tweens can do) and saw her before the first bell rang. The same straight blonde hair. The same kind smile. She walked towards me wearing a hot pink brushed silk shirt. My face turned just as pink as I smiled and looked down: I had on almost the same exact shirt.
Over the next several years, we were inseparable. Sports, holidays, summer vacations with our families, country music concerts, and endless sleepovers. So many hours of lost sleep as we obsessed over teen magazines or how to wear our champagne eye shadow with green eye liner.
We had inside jokes that could fill a book—and we actually wrote one together, passing its tattered pages back and forth during class, making up stories about Cam and Nelson and other boys that made fun of us because they thought we were cute. All we had to do was look at one another and we instantly knew—whether the laughter was going to be the milk-out-of-your-nose kind or if sad tears were on the verge of spilling into our cereal bowls. And we went through the tough things together, like losing grandparents, break-ups with first crushes, and getting our periods. This was true friendship.
In high school, we tried to stay connected for as long as we could, but my sudden veer towards beer parties in corn fields and being felt up by senior boys at said parties started to cause a rift between us. She preferred singing in the choir and going to church youth group and continued doing what most respectable teen girls do (not sure what that is). Our bond slowly ripped apart, and she became a stranger to me like it was elementary school all over again. Only this time, I knew I lost her for good.
Why Is It So Hard to Make Friends as an Adult?
Since then, I’ve always struggled with female friendships. I’ll just say it. Friendships as an adult are hard. While there is nothing better than chatting on the phone for hours, slowly browsing stores, grabbing a latte, or soaking up some sun with your gal pal, women can also be tough to be around. We can be catty and rude and possessive and jealous and intimidated and intimidating and moody. We can be insecure and unsure and over-occupied with how we are coming across (am I being too strong? too smart? too pretty? too dull? too quiet? too talkative?).
Then there are those offer-you-sweet-tea-all-year-long kind of women, too, but usually these gems (whom I have a hard time trusting) are already firmly connected with their cliques. And breaking into an already established adult lady clique is almost impossible. Trust me, I’ve tried.
I won’t even get into how hard it is to make friends as a mom. “Play dates” as an opportunity to connect with other women is laughable as I try to get in a few words, asking how someone is while trying to make sure my kids are not rolling around in poison ivy, running into oncoming traffic, or needing a blowout diaper change. Just a guess, but I’m assuming it won’t get easier sitting in the bleachers, one eye always off trailing a child or two or three.
So, what do I do?
Today, I am “friends” with a couple thousand people, but I’ve never felt more alone.
Here Are 5 Ways to Try and Make Friends as an Adult
I wish I had some answers because this is a real problem for me. I wish I could come up with some pithy list of five ways to meet gal pals. Because right now, especially now, I need some women friendships in my life. Not Facebook pseudo-friends that will wish me a happy birthday and “like” or “love” or “LOL” my post. I’m talking about the kind that I can lean on when life gets hard.
I can’t give you this list today, but you know what—other women can. While we all have our issues, one of the most amazing things about being a woman is that no matter what, we want to share what works. Another woman has already been there and figured it out and wants to tell me all about it at Starbucks or on Grit and Grace Life.
So, I’ve done a little research and here’s a short list of some of the things you tell me that I can do to make new adult friends:
1. Explore Hobbies
Ha! I say to myself—what hobbies? I’m usually racing around like an over-caffeinated taxi driver who never gets paid. While I enjoy complaining about how endlessly busy I am, I do have some free time, and instead of resting comfortably on the soft indent in the sofa (which is my preferred pastime), I can start to reconnect with what I love. Here’s the beginning of my list (yours might look different):
Yoga (or my attempt at it)
2. Try Something New
After I’ve got my list, I can commit to trying something new, even if that “something new” is something old that I haven’t done in a long time. Joining a class or group at the local library, going to a recreation center, or checking out a local YMCA. Figure out where I can do the things on my list with other people who like to do them, too—whether that is in person or virtually.
3. Find a Support Group
For me, this one fits well because I’ve been in addiction recovery for over a decade. I’m a huge fan of support groups of all shapes and sizes because I know how transformational they can be. And in the past, I have met some great people at these meetings. Even if you aren’t in addiction recovery, there are support groups for almost any vice or issue out there: grief, divorce, physical illness, mental illness, faith, food, motherhood, the list goes on and on.
4. Volunteer for a Cause
In the same way support groups are plentiful, there are innumerable causes out there to support; and importantly, most of these causes need volunteers to support them. What is an issue I care about? The environment? International justice? Poverty? Habitat for Humanity? Homelessness? Addiction recovery? It depends on the day. There are so many causes that I have a heart for. I can pick a cause and show up, and I’ll most likely meet people who have a heart similar to mine.
5. Start a Community
If I’m having trouble finding a community or tribe of ladies to hang with, maybe my calling is to start something new. Social media, while it has its faults, can be a great tool for connecting with like-minded women and organizing parties, events, or regular meet-ups like book clubs, discussion groups, dinner groups, brunch clubs, card clubs, and community gardening meet-ups. Sometimes all it takes is to step up and realize that I too can have a hand in creating what I need. I don’t need to wait for someone else to do it.
Thinking about Crystal and my winding road of female friendships over the years, and really missing having a tribe of women these days, I’d like to challenge myself (and all of y’all) to commit to trying some or all of this list. Maybe I’m not the only one looking to make real friends off the screen as a grown woman. Maybe my soul sister mate(s) are looking for me, too.
Want to dig deeper into forming true friendships? Listen to this episode of This Grit and Grace Life: Great Friends: 9 Qualities to Be One and Find One – 031