Growing up, making friends was not all that difficult for me. Between close-knit school classrooms and endless hours at the ballet studio, I had a nice circle of girlfriends. Merge into high school, the cliques start to form, but I still had my close friends, based mostly within academia.
Here’s the thing: no one prepared me for what would happen when I moved across an ocean and knew no one. Adults are supposed to have their stuff together, right? Growing up, parents led the way. Extracurricular activities led the way. Finding myself as a young twenty-something spread across London, New York, and Paris, I learned quickly that loneliness comes quickly.
Even as an introvert, connections with acquaintances and friends were a large part of my well-being. I began having conversations with Uber drivers, my laundry lady, the numerous boulangers, or the nice girl who restocks drinks at CVS.
As someone who likes to have a few close friends rather than 100 acquaintances, it’s hard moving somewhere where your few close friends don’t reside. But here’s what I had to learn in New York:
Be uncomfortable, speak up, and find a way to put yourself in the pathway of friendship.
I became close with my baristas just by striking up conversation every time I was there. I became close with the girl that worked at the skincare store in my neighborhood, and we went to the ballet together a few weeks later. I became friends with a random stranger at a coffee shop over mutual disdain for something I had voiced. Even the smallest of conversations with strangers made a difference on my mood and overall well-being, and that’s because humans are wired for connection.
Being an anxious human to begin with, it’s just not easy. There is not an app for this. What am I supposed to do? Go to a bar, see a girl that looks normal, approach her and ask if she wants to be my friend?
Really. Go easy on yourself. Remember that other people are in the exact same position you are. Most importantly, open yourself up to receiving people into your life.
I’ve been at the depths of loneliness but also at the height of connection based on two seconds of vulnerability. You’ll find people simply need one another.