It’s pretty easy to make friends… when you’re eight. When you become an adult, it gets a little bit more difficult. Growing up, I had no problems making friends. I was involved in fifty million sports teams, there were a ton of kids that lived around me, my cousins included, and I was well-liked in school. I never really made an effort to make friends until I went to college and suddenly realized that making friends was not as easy as it had once seemed.
My first semester of college sort of sucked. I met people, but it took awhile to find anyone that I could really connect with beyond classroom discussions. I had never had to make friends so I didn’t know how to go about it. I tried talking to people in class and though I had good relations with classmates, I couldn’t find anyone to consistently hang out with outside of class. My roommate was amazing! I loved her, but she worked a lot and was from the area so she already had her own group of friends.
Finally, I met Katharina, an awesome basketball player from Germany. I was tutoring her in History and I remember asking her, very awkwardly, to hang out. She invited me to dinner at the cafeteria and to a men’s basketball game with her friend Monica, who later become one of my best friends. From there, I found myself thrown into the international athletes group and many of them became some of my best friends. Still, that took me four months to accomplish which is far too long to be without friends.
And then I moved after undergraduate school to Oklahoma for graduate school. I was once again without friends. I had a full-time job and I was very close to the people who I worked with, but I was bored on the weekends and evenings. The people in my graduate program were great, and I did become very close to two of them, but that took a semester or two. I finally got fed up with having no close friends — for nine months — that I did something so awkward and embarrassing.
There was a girl my age that would come to the bank that I worked with every week and share stories with me about her friends or her weekend. Eventually, I found enough courage to ask her to hang out when she came through the drive-thru one day. Yes, it was super weird and awkward to ask a girl to be my friend, in a drive-thru no less, but thanks to that small bit of bravery, my days of being friend-less were over.
But you guessed it, I moved again half way across the country to Los Angeles in 2014 after graduating from grad school. I was once again alone, even more so than I had ever been before. But I was determined to do things differently this time. I was not going to wait to make friends.
My co-workers were amazing people and I became very close to many of them. I even went out to a country bar once with a group of them. However, I was the youngest in the entire company by at least five years, and I knew that I needed friends that went beyond work. I had a great roommate too, and we did become close but she was in school, worked full-time, and had a boyfriend, and I couldn’t have just one non-work friend.
So I googled: “How to Make Friends.” Yes, that’s a true story, despite how embarrassing it is. My google search eventually brought me to Meetup. Meetup is an app that allows you to join groups that host different events. You go to the event and make friends. Groups range from art lovers, sports fanatics, workout groups, religious-based groups, spiritual groups, beach lovers, nightlife groups, and even single ladies groups.
I joined the single ladies group. I was determined to meet people my age that were in the same position in their lives: single, child-less, and focused on their careers and aspirations. And that’s what I found. I went to three meetups and in those three meetups, I met some amazing friends and I did all of this in less than a month of living in Los Angeles.
But that’s not to say that Meetup isn’t awkward in itself. You have to find the courage to go to a group event alone and then have the courage to talk to strangers within that Meetup. I’ve known many who couldn’t push themselves to do what I did, and sadly, they’re more comfortable with being lonely most weeks than with feeling awkward for a less than an hour.
Because that’s the cool thing with Meetup — everyone there is in the same awkward position as you are. They don’t have friends either and they’re desperate to meet like-minded people. So all you have to do is say, “Hey.”
In 2015, I’ve moved again, this time to Dallas. (Yes, I know I have a problem with sitting still). And I had to make friends again. When I moved to Dallas, I knew that there were people in the area that went to high school with me or people from my hometown, but I honestly love making new friends, so I signed back up for Meetup. Unlike in Los Angeles, it took me awhile to find an even that looked interesting enough to go to.
So I decided to look outside the box. After surfing the web, I discovered that a nearby park held free classes every day from yoga to boot camp to dance classes and more. I decided to head on out to yoga and see if I could make a friend or two. The yoga was super hard, but there were a few girls that were around my age that attended the class. I spoke with one girl after yoga and discovered that she lived nearby also. I returned to yoga the next week, but never ran into her again. However, it showed me that I could make friends through fitness classes. Just turn to the person sitting next to you and say, “Have you taken this class before?” and you’re one step closer to making a friend after that.
If yoga isn’t your thing, find another type of class that is. Take Spanish lessons, a DIY crafting class, go to seminars and book readings at your local coffee shop, or check out networking events. Find the type of events and experiences that you are interested in and you’ll find like-minded individuals that are more than happy to connect with you by friendship.
Soon after my yoga experiment, I went to a happy hour with one of the Meetup groups. There were about eight of us and all of the girls were really nice. Some were married or engaged but there were about four of us that were single. In a weird twist, one of the girls grew up in West Monroe, which is the city right next to my undergraduate college. Even weirder, another girl in attendance was in Los Angeles the same time that I was there and she lived in a suburb that was 10 minutes from the suburb that I lived in. I exchanged some numbers with a few of the girls and just a month later, I had friends.
Since that Meetup, my friend group has grown. I reconnected with a few people from high school who live in the area. I also made friends through other friends, and became friends with their friends! I even tried Bumble BFF. The best way to describe it is that it’s like a dating app, only for making friends. I met a few interesting women on there, but I never ended up hanging out with them. However, I did have a friend who has successfully made friends on Bumble BFF, so that’s not to say that you can’t.
I’ve just moved into a new apartment building with only 16 apartments. I was determined to get to know my neighbors, so I’ve been sitting outside on my porch and working and each time someone walks past, I say hi. I also invited my next-door neighbor over during a brunch I held on Sunday and it seems I may have made a new friend in her.
It’s not easy making new friends when you get older or when you move to a new city, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t. Yes, I know it’s awkward asking a total stranger to hang out, but it’s so worth enduring a short amount of awkwardness to gain a friend. Whether you choose to make friends through Meetup, fitness classes, Bumble BFF, or by talking to your neighbors, I wish you all the luck, for it’s far too important to make lasting relationships with individuals off-line, especially these days. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about — I’ve done this a time or four.