When I was young I don’t remember thinking all that much about making friends, they were just kind of there. Kids in my class who I’d been in school with for years. Kids my age at church who I saw on Sundays, during week day activities, and later on at teen dances. There were two sisters my age who lived two houses down from me, practically my entire life. We met when I was 5, our mothers had been friends for ages, and in spite of lots of differences and ups and downs, we remained constant fixtures in each other’s lives for the next 13 years while we were neighbours, and I’m still friends with both those girls today. There were a handful of girls that lived within walking distance of me as a teenager and we did lots of stuff together, and which meant we pretty much had 5x the closet between all our shared clothes! As I made my way through high school I still had my childhood and church friends, but my circle expanded to teens in neighbouring towns, as well as the skater kids, musicians and serious, artsy teens in my high school, most of whom I met through drama and acting. (For the record, acting is something I NEVER thought I would be into, and I still don’t know what possessed me to join that first drama class in grade 10, but I truly believe it changed my life.) I was never the most popular kid, but I always had friends around.
Of course as I grew up and moved away from my childhood friends, as I entered the working world and different college programs, things changed. Sure, there were people around and I would connect with a few of them, but it wasn’t quite the same. But it wasn’t until I was finishing my second college program that the first “How To Make Friends” shoe dropped.
My classmates and I were sitting around, reflecting on our year spent together in the program. One girl began sharing about how, while she’d enjoyed her time, she’d often felt lonely, so far away from her friends and family. She didn’t feel really connected to anyone and had often sat in her rented room, alone, wishing somebody – anybody – would phone and invite her to go out or hang out or just say hi. I was a little bit blown away because I’d had more than a few of those moments myself, just wishing that somebody would make the effort to see me and talk to me and want to connect with me.
And I suddenly realized that instead of sitting around waiting for a call, I could be the one to make that call! I told you these revelations were simple, but how life-changing it can be to understand that in order to feel connected you have to reach out for those moments, that they don’t always just happen of their own volition.
I didn’t know that girl too well, nor did I feel any particular connection to her, but how different would both of our college experiences have been if I’d picked up the phone and said, “Hey, I’m kind of bored and wondered if maybe you were bored too? I thought we could maybe be bored together, or else go find something to do so we’re not bored. What do you think?” Whether or not we became life-long friends doesn’t really matter, it would have been the thought and the effort and the Doing Something that mattered. And who knows where that may have led.
So I guess the first lesson I learned about how to make friends, was to stop expecting that it would magically happen by itself.