Remember at school, how easy it was to make friends? You would go play in the playground and instantly have a best friend. Sleepovers and play dates just sealed the deal. Moving around you learn how to make friends quickly and to be honest it’s pretty easy. At schools, particularly ones laden with expat kids, we all get it and are willing to make friends quickly.
The real world?! That’s a whole different ball game. It’s difficult and daunting. I’ve spoken about moving to Glasgow and struggling with depression. My Mum can attest to the number of phone calls in tears, of another weekend with no plans, no friends, no afternoons arranged. So often, I would drive up to Aberdeen just for the company. Mum was insistent that I would make friends, it just take time. Spoiler alert, as always Mum was right.
I was walking home from having dinner with my work wife and her sister and smiled and suddenly realised I had plans for the next few days with different groups of friends. The last few months I have ironically now craved a weekend with zero plans, or a mid-week night with nothing on. The irony has not been lost me. It took me a good few years (nearly three), but I finally have a great group of friends that I would be lost without.
Let me just say, it honestly takes time. A lot of time. More so than when you were at university or as a kid. People are busy, people work different hours/shifts, so making plans and arranging to actually meet up with friends can require planning weeks in advance. It’s not like university where everyone lived within a two mile radius of each other, friends are now all over the city. So my advice to combat this, it’s ok to sometimes choose not to drink at someones house, so you avoid hefty taxi fares, or overly early last trains home. Equally sometimes just pay the price.
With time, you aren’t seeing your friends as often as you did at school. At school you saw the same people, day in, day out, 5 days a week for the majority of the year. So friendships gather momentum a lot quicker. This doesn’t happen in the real world, you can go weeks between seeing friends and often don’t work in the same place, so don’t just bump into each other on the street.
How you make friends can happen when you least expect it. Talk to the people who are always next to you in the gym class, even if it just starts with how did you find this weeks class. Make sure you eventually make out-of-gym plans, even if you are just getting a coffee in the cafe. It took me too long to actually consolidate friendships in the gym, for fear of being shut down. The fact you are at the same gym classes, regularly can be a solid start to a friendship.
Events and classes are another great way of meeting people. Yelp helped me meet a great group of people, that love what I love, eating and drinking and instagramming all the food. Sadly, Yelp doesn’t exist like it used to. So many sports shops hold a variety of yoga, fitness classes that tend to be free. Restaurants and cafes hold gin evenings, or cookery courses. It’s the perfect place to again meet people. The website meetup.com is a great site to find regular ongoing events. Bookclubs, whilst cliche are a great way of meeting people.
Join a run club. Join a few run clubs, find the one that suits. (Note, this can be changed to any other sports or games activities.) Find a group that suits you. The best piece of advice – just get talking. It took me a solid year of gaining my fitness in the gym, solo, to being able to go to a run club and having the confidence to talk to people.
There are 24 hours in a day. Make use of it. I’ve started running regularly with another female technologist pre-work, so 6:30am we meet at the angel. It’s brilliant, we either do sprints, hills or just an easy run. By the time I get to work, I feel like I have already achieved something. Making plans with someone so early in the morning, also guarantees (broadly), we will both always turn up!
What is weird in this modern world of having however many hundred of friends on Facebook, but how many do you actually consider to be your friends. With making friends up here in Glasgow, it’s a bit of a blur as to when people I knew became friends. It varies, from friend to friend. Just because we added each other on Facebook or started meeting up, doesn’t automatically make you friends. For me, I know someone is a friend, or value their friendship when they remember the mundane details, of a meeting, or a family event and get in touch regarding it. Or just send a text/message whatever to say hey, how are things, or saw this and thought of you.
This is all a bit full circle, during my CBT, I had to write out hour by hour what I was doing. Tears would ensue, my lack of plans laid out so clearly on a sheet of paper was like a stab in the back. To the point, I had to ask to stop doing it. I was in a bit of a downward spiral, going to the gym far too much to just have something to write on the sheet of paper. How different that sheet would look now. Having friends, who get in touch, who want to meet-up, who can help me through my problems means the world to me. It helps when I start to feel crap again, there is a host of people I can ask for help. Who know me well enough as to when I am starting to having negative thoughts and actions again.
To all my friends, throughout the world, whether I saw you last week, 5 years ago, in the sunshine or the rain. Thanks.