So there I was, 28 years old, leaving my boyfriend, my job, my hopes of being an actor, to drive across the country in my ’88 Nissan Stanza packed with all my worldly belongings, to a city I swore I’d never live in again, to share a 2 bedroom apartment with my (very generous) sister, go back to school, find a new job and, for all intents and purposes, start a new life.
Totally overwhelming, but for some weird reason I felt light. Hopeful. And I remember giving myself a very clear mental talking to: “McKinnley, if you’re going to be 28 and single and living in a new city and starting over again, you need to say yes. To jobs, to opportunities, to dates, to friends… Just say Yes.”
And so I did. I said yes to my first office job. I said yes to activities. I said yes to baby showers. I said yes to parties and hang outs and concerts and movies. I said yes to dates. I told myself I would go on a date with anyone who was nice, brave enough to ask, and who wasn’t totally creepy. I even said yes when it was -30C and it meant leaving my warm house, scraping ice off my windshield, bundling up in a zillion layers, and driving 25 minutes while scraping ice off the inside of my windshield! (The Stanz wasn’t the most comfortable of vehicles by that point in her life)… and then repeating the process later to return home.
Ok, so saying Yes may seem like the opposite of being proactive, but it’s really just another side of it. I realized that being near my sisters, going to school, being a new face in certain places and getting a new job would all inherently bring new people and situations into my life, I just needed to be both brave enough and open enough to say yes. To everything. Sure, someone else was doing the asking, but saying yes definitely required me to DO, because I had to follow up on whatever I’d agreed to! It would have been a heck of a lot easier and more comfortable to say No sometimes, but that wasn’t in the game plan.
Because I was saying yes so often, it wasn’t long before I started becoming a lot more confident in being the one to initiate.
Much to my surprise, I began hosting Sunday night dinner parties. It was surprising because it required me to make plans, invite people, make sure everyone got along and enjoyed themselves, and also cook! None of those were skills that I was inherently blessed with, in fact every single one of those tasks were things that at one point would have given me serious anxiety.
But my secret weapon was a really good friend I’d made. It turned out that she and I made a great team, which helped both of us meet a lot more people and do more cool things than either of us likely would have done on our own. She had a beautiful loft apartment that I never wanted to leave, so it only made sense to try and find excuses to spend more time in it – it was perfect for dinner parties. Plus I was meeting so many people from different areas, but I wanted to start hanging out with more than one person at a time – hello, dinner parties! And because I was inviting people that I truly enjoyed, it only made sense that they would also enjoy each other, so it became less about worlds colliding and more of a merger. Add to that the fact that my friend was a brilliant host, which left me free to scrape together the food and just enjoy myself, while she focused on the guests and their comfort. Her being there to smooth things over definitely made me feel a lot more comfortable and confident in having those Sunday dinners.
If you’ve never hosted a dinner party, it’s an adventure I suggest you try. There’s something about being in someone’s house, eating food they’ve prepared for you with their own hands, and sitting around their table with no distractions that really brings a quicker and stronger sense of connection.
So if you’re one for taking notes, Friend-Making Lessons Number 3 and 4 are as follows:
SAY YES!!! (Duh)
And Find Someone To Tag Team With. Maybe it’s someone you’ve known forever or perhaps it’s someone you’ve just been introduced to, but they’ve got a skill you’re a little bit jealous of. Utilize them and their skills, and pretty soon you’ll both have double the fun and double the friends!