Saturday, July 10

The Art of Making Friends

When I was a little kid (back in the 1880s), it seemed like making friends was easy. If you were a three year old at the playground and saw another three year old, you simply went up to them and said, "Hi. Want to be my friend?" And then they would shrug, and off you would go to play together. Then you would later return to your parents' side and announce you couldn't possibly leave to go home because you couldn't leave your Best Friend Ever.

But then, once you hit school, it was a little harder. Even in kindergarten, there's evidence of cliques. The paste eaters, the readers, the kids who can swing without being pushed. How do you figure out which people are likely to be your friends? But eventually, you figure it out. Someone shows up with a Hello Kitty lunchbox just like yours and it's the playground all over again. Best friends for life.

High school is harder still. By then, people have gravitated toward the things (and people) they mesh with. Sports teams, certain clubs, people you work with. And there's the subtle difference between true friends (the people you can call at 2am when your car runs out of gas on your way home from a midnight movie and give you a lift to the gas station) and acquaintances (who would respond to said call by saying, "Dude, do you know what time it is???").

One true friend is worth the weight of 10 acquaintances in my book.

College is a little easier because, at least as freshmen, everyone is new to the school. Unlike high school where most of the people have been going to school with each other for eons, college is fair game for new friendships. Often times, friendships result from dumb luck: getting assigned to be roommates, meeting someone who shares your sense of humor in your orientation group, etc.

What's interesting to me is that it seems that making friends in adulthood is sometimes the hardest of all. Sure, you have your work friends. And sometimes those are true friendships rather than just someone to grab a beer with on Friday night. But when you change jobs, those friendships often fade into the background. Same goes for neighbors you're chummy with. Once you move, staying in touch takes real effort. It's the whole proximity thing again.

Add to that the whole family aspect--parents at different stages of the game with different family obligations pulling on their time--and no wonder it's hard to build real and true friendships at this stage of the game. Is it okay to call them after 8pm when I finally get home from work and finish dinner or will it wake the baby? Should I ask them over this weekend or are they out of town for the sixth weekend in a row for their son's traveling baseball team? And for adults who have multiple kids going in 19 different directions all at once, when they finally ARE all home together, I almost feel guilty extending the invitation because they deserve some quality family time once in a while too.

It's the friendship conundrum. It seems that making friends, no matter what your age, is always one part luck.

Fortunately, I've made some wonderful friends over the last few years in our new town. Both fellow writer chums (who have become my friends in real life too) and neighbors who we still keep in touch with even though they've moved across the country. And I don't take that for granted. We've moved around a lot as a couple and it's a rare (and wonderful!) thing to have finally settled in and made lasting friendships.

That hasn't always been the case for us. In our last house, we were surrounded by people who were almost never outside. Seriously, NEVER. We never saw our neighbors unless they were mowing their lawn. Which isn't really the ideal time to stop for a chat. And the people we worked with were at different stages of their lives (or had vastly different interests) than us.

So today, I'm sending out some karmic love for our great adult friends and all the wonderful childhood friends who helped shape who I am over the years. Big smoochies to all of you.

What about you? What do you think is the hardest part about making friends as you get older?


Megan Burke said...

Lovely post!

Really interesting observations too.

I do think it gets harder as you get older. As you rightly said, it's sort of by default at school and somewhat easy.

As I've gotten older, being a part of things - like volunteering etc - and that's a great way to meet like-minded people.

Alyson Noel said...

What a beautiful post!

Definitely gets harder when you get older, and as a writer, without kids, I tend to spend A LOT of time indoors in front of my computer. Yet, I've managed to make some great friends over the last few years in spite of it--and I truly do cherish them!

Melissa Walker said...

When you're older, making a new friend becomes a little like dating. When do you call? What kinds of plans are appropriate? Does she really like me, or just acquaintance like me?

Great post, Kay!

Kay Cassidy said...

Megan - Volunteering is such a great way to meet people you might mesh with. Shared passions are such a lovely bonding moment!

Alyson - With your crazy deadlines, it's amazing you have time to breathe fresh air at all. :-) Cheers to you for making time for your personal life too!

Melissa - That's such a great analogy! It IS a lot like dating, isn't it? Only without the need to obsessively ponder my wardrobe before each outing. ;-)