Its that moment when you wake up, look at the ceiling and life feels stale. You have been successful in your education and your career. You are financially comfortable. But there is no one to be comfortable with. Your relationships may have had to take a back seat to your material and outwardly success. When you think to reach out to those back home or old college friends, you don’t know where to begin. Its been so long. So much time has passed.
When we were younger, it was so much easier making and keeping friends. We were forced to be in social situations all the time – school. As adults, we aren’t forced into those same social situations as much. It is also harder to make friends at work due to the standard of American corporate culture.
So, what do we do?
Well, much like school where we had to keep schedules to stay on track with our studies. We, now, have to keep a social schedule. As adults, we need to be intentional regarding our friendships. We have to make time for those we care about.
A simple way to keep in touch with friends is to create reminders in your phone to reach out to them. Scatter your friends throughout the month and send them a message or give them a call when their reminder comes up. It is very easy to lose track of time with everything going on in the world, we can easily forget to get in contact with someone. Before we know it, it will be a year before we will interact with others again.
If you’re a little bit more outgoing, create larger outings like informal college reunions with your group of friends from that time or get together with a group of old colleagues from your previous job.
Create social goals for yourself. I will go on this many outings a month that are not work-related. I will send birthday cards to my cousins to keep in touch writing meaningful messages inside and not just what was prewritten by Hallmark. Think about the vision of how you would like your social life to be. Then write down two or three goals and make them time measurable.
Sparking New Friendships
Sometimes, because we let too much time go by, we are not able to rekindle those friendships that we had before or maybe we just don’t have the same things in common anymore. That does not mean there are not other people out there to make friends with. Even though you may feel that your schedule is extremely busy, make it a priority to join a group or club that gets together. If you go to MeetUp, you can find an array of get-togethers that are around certain points of interest that the group has in common.
Volunteer! When you put positivity into the world, it will come back to you. See if there are opportunities through the park district or google search nonprofits that support solving issues that you are passionate about.
If you are particularly spiritual, check out the events that are at your center of worship. These spaces are usually very active in sponsoring social events and volunteer opportunities.
Breaking Down the Walls
When rekindling old relationships or starting new ones, it can be hard to open up to others. Either we don’t tell them anything about ourselves and our friends think we are good, when we may not be. Or we overshare to a point where people don’t even know what’s bothering us because of information overload. It may be easier to talk about neutral conversation topics like the weather but you are not creating deep and fulfilling relationships if you don’t allow people to get to know you. You can be around a million people and still feel alone if you don’t learn to put yourself out there and speak when you need to.
Don’t worry, I’m not telling you to expose all your little secrets. But if you are actually stressed out by work or are feeling nervous or awkward about a situation. When someone asks you how you are, tell them. It will make the conversation more fruitful. If the other person does not actually want to know how you are when you sit down with them for coffee then maybe that is not a relationship you want to make time for in your busy schedule.
It’s hard to put yourself out there. And it can be scary at times. But sometimes we sit with the uncomfortableness in order for us to grow as people. Think of becoming more social and creating more friendships as a skill. Even if you are naturally able to bring more people to the table to talk to you, you still need to practice that skill to keep them in your life consistently and to be able to rely on them when you need that friend to talk to. You may feel awkward at first to send that initial text or leave that voicemail when it has been a long time but, again, it’s a skill that will get easier and feel more natural with time and as you gain more experience.
It’s already hard to keep friends when you are living in the same city. It’s worse when your friends live around the world. Again, we have to set the intention and make those we care about the priority. With friends abroad, utilize social media to keep in contact. Set chat dates so you can talk on the phone. Try to meet up in different countries when you are on vacation. Stay connected. Create a practice of it. So, when you finally see each other again, it will feel like picking up where you left off.
Remember Your Why
In business, they always to tell you to remember your “why” when interacting with customers and other businesses. In this regard, do the same. Why do you want to have friends? Why do you want these specific people in your life? What about them attracts you to them? How do your friends help you better follow your values? And as always, write it down.
And By the Way!
My name is Tara. I am a licensed clinical social worker who provides online counseling services in the state of Illinois. This blog post is not therapy and should not be used as a substitute for therapy. If you are interested in talking more, schedule a free 15 consultation with me, click here!