Wouldn’t it be nice if you could step outside your body and be able to objectively observe yourself so you could know how to be better at the things you suck at? If I could do this, I would examine why I’m consistently bad at making friends and being a friend. In theory, I know the things I need to do to make and keep friends, but I’m not good at any of them. Here are some of the things I’m really bad at:
1. I am the worst at initiating time with people.
I am a task-oriented person and my brain is constantly filled with things I should be doing- whether they be work or house-keeping or fitness related. Along this vein, I’m an “input” person, so I prefer to be collecting “relevant” information (most of this has to do with Saturday Night Live or improv these days, but a few months ago it was Battlestar Galactica). So, if you can track with me and nerd out on the things I like to nerd out on, fantastic. Or, if you can do tasks with me, yippee! The problem is, most people don’t jive that way. Most people I know are great at sitting in a coffee shop and chit-chatting with no further agenda. I envy you, you coffee shop chit-chatters.
2. The older I become, the less I feel like I have common ground with others.
Even though I swore it wouldn't happen, being married has changed the nature of my relationships with single friends. I really wanted to be the cool married person who could just crash on a friend’s couch. As it turns out, that’s not restful for me. Ending up next to my husband at the end of the day is.
On the other end of the spectrum, I feel like I don’t know how to fully relate to my friends who have kids. I don’t want to talk baby. I am SO tired of talking baby. I am so sick of text message threads of baby pictures post milk coma. I have nothing to say on the matter, except sorry, all of my friends with babies. Don’t exclude me from the threads, but know that they’re one of my least favorite things ever.
3. I don’t easily connect with most people.
I don’t find comfort in being surrounded by a posse of giggly girls. It makes me feel lonely and sad (talk about Debbie Downer). I totally get why girls surround themselves with other girls. It just happens to make me feel awful. So, for those of you who know me and wonder why I was so grouchy at the bachelorette party, that was why. Kind of like the text message thread, don’t leave me out of it- just know it’s not where I thrive.
4. At some point in my life I actually became an introvert.
In college, I was an extrovert on crack. Or maybe I was in introvert who had convinced myself I was an extrovert. Do I love working out alone? Could I possibly go for days without seeing another human? Do I sometimes pretend I don’t recognize someone I know at the grocery store? Would I be awesome in a zombie apocalypse (I wouldn't mind a pet in this scenario). The answer to all these is YES. In my ideal life, I would get enough sleep, drink enough green smoothies, and go to spin class every day so I could feel 100% awesome when I have to be around people. The reality is that when I’m done teaching 4th graders, interacting with their parents and my co-workers Monday-Friday, scrambling to think of what to cook for dinner and racing to get that spin class in, I’m not necessarily in the mood to “hang out” with friends.
I know, I know. Not a lot of hope for this old 28-year-old gal. But Erin, the title of this article is “How to Make Friends When You’re 28!” While I have some strategies that might help you, obviously I need them to help me too. Here are some things I’m going to try to do in the new year. Baby steps are key. But this is the goal.
1. Eat in the staff lounge 2-3 times a week.
As a teacher, it feels far more responsible for me to NOT eat with my co-workers. But, I have pretty nice co-workers, and I don’t connect with them enough. BUT they’re the people I’m in the vicinity of the most. I’m going to hang out with them even though there are papers to grade, parents to email, lessons to plan, and papers to copy. (Update 9/8/15: I still have FAILED AT THIS MISERABLY)
2. Be intentional about interacting with 2-3 people every week.
This is going to be hard. This will probably happen on my weekend. This will probably require an occasional dreaded coffee date. But I do dinners better, so maybe it will be just that. Maybe it will be sitting with someone at church (yep, I go to church, and absolutely, it gives me social anxiety). Or lunch after church. We Christians love post-church lunches. (Update 9/8/15: I still have FAILED AT THIS MISERABLY)
3. Check my attitude.
I hate that I just wrote that. I love having a bad attitude about interacting with people, but obviously it’s not getting me any friends. I will go to that bridal/baby shower with a smile plastered on my face. I will figure out a way to give myself rest before that dinner party (just enough to curb my resting bitch face). My husband, who is an awesome and loyal friend, constantly reminds me to check my attitude. But it’s time I do it myself. (Update 9/8/15: I've improved about 5% in this area. But I think this is mostly because I haven't been able to attend any bridal/baby showers recently.)
4. Think About Others.
I think this looks like a text message, email, or nice note. I don’t do this nearly enough. But it can mean a lot, and it can tell someone they’re important to you. I sure know it makes me feel nice. I’m going to shoot for 1 of these a week, because I’m afraid my introverted brain is going to explode if I venture into much more social self improvement. (Update 9/8/15: I think I've improved about 10% at this.)
I don’t like articles that give me “5 Ways to Cure my Acne,” or “30 People that Look Like Marilyn Manson.” So I’m not putting my 4 meager suggestions for making friends in the title of this blog post. But, take them to heart if you so choose. I know I will, because as the Ringo said, “I get by with a little help from my friends.” And, to be frank, I’m just not quite getting by right now.