Friend Tryouts

I moved to Muncie after graduate school, after my now husband of 6 years proposed to me. To be completely honest, I never thought I would live in Muncie, IN. After attending Ball State University, it was pretty much the last city on my list; however, living abroad for several years made me realize life is a lot more about who you spend it with than the town you live in and attempts at finding a job in my hometown of Fort Wayne did not pan out for either of us, so Muncie it was.

In the beginning years, we still had friends from college living in town and we had lots of friends in the Indy area and no children, so it was easy to be social and we went out to dinner several nights a week. After career changes for both of us, adding children to our family, and some friends moved away, our social lives definitely changed – as they do for most. We joked that we were having “friend tryouts” over the years and trying to get to know people because let’s be honest, making friends as an adult is hard work. It can feel lonely not having social time, especially for women. The easy days of dorm life and making quick friends in school in not the same when you have a job and come home to children.

I think we women especially crave some good, true girlfriends to share time and life with, I know I do. After an especially difficult and stressful summer and fall about two years ago, I decided to really try and cultivate some good, true friends, not just acquaintances. I feel like I have been really successful in doing this looking at the circle of ladies I’m so happy to call friends now. I have a small “tribe” of women that I would readily call or text with important decisions or life events, not just someone I randomly hang out with at social gatherings. I will be honest though, it has taken time and a considerable amount of effort. More than likely, life will continue to change and friendships will evolve and I will have to keep working at making and maintaining friendships, but it is so worth it!

Since I’m a systematic nerd, here’s how I now see this evolution taking place over the past few years. I’m hopeful it might help others who need some great friends to do life with too because again, it’s genuinely hard work making and maintaining friendships as an adult.

Define what you need. This sounds so selfish, and it kind of is, but it’s true. What kind of a friends are you looking for and what kind of things do you want to do with these people? I really wanted some close friends, I had a lot of acquaintances, but I craved time with ladies that I could share the real stuff of life with. I didn’t need 30 friends, I wanted maybe 3 or 4 great friends. I also really, really needed to “find a bit of me” again. I know this sounds so cliche, but it’s true, there is a huge adjustment to motherhood and career changes, and so some of the things I loved the most, fell to the side. I love to read and I love to run, so I started a book club and I reached out to other runners.  If you try and accomplish both what you need and find people to do it with you, this is a recipe for great success in friendship.

Initiate the action. Sometimes it takes one person initiating action for it to take off. You cannot wait for others to invite you to things if you’re not willing to invite them yourself. I realize for an extrovert like me this is much easier for me than for others, but it works! With the advent of text messages and Facebook messages, it’s a lot easier to reach out and not feel quite as vulnerable putting yourself out there. When I reached out to other women who I thought I had things in common with, guess what, we did! Pretty much every single one of them wanted the same thing – a shared passion and time with friends. Absolutely no one rejected me!

Be honest and share openly. I honestly told people my intentions. For the book club it was something like this, “Hey, I miss reading and so I’d like to start a book club so I can read more, but also I’d like to make some more close friends. I’d like it to be one where we meet once a month and discuss one book. I’d like to host it at women’s homes so we get to know each other better, if you don’t want to host – no worries, I will! Is this something you’d be interested in?” I don’t think it gets more forthcoming than that….I wanted/needed friends and I wanted/needed to read and I had a vision of sharing about books – a true love of mine.

This way, if this wasn’t someone’s thing it wasn’t a big deal – no hurt feelings – or maybe their schedule didn’t allow for it or whatever else but I’d prefer to just be honest with people in order to attract the people that wanted the same things I did. Guess what? Most of the women I texted wanted the same thing! We’ve now been meeting for about 1.5 years now. Not only has this small action has led to multiple friendships, I now average about 4 books a month when previously I wasn’t reading any! The momentum snowballed. Choose something you love and you’re bound to have something in common with others that love it too, and it will immediately bond you and fill your cup.

I was also pretty vulnerable on the running side and reached out to someone that was way better and more experienced at running than myself. I slowed the group down on the first run that I joined in on, and I kind of felt like an idiot for the first few runs, honestly. Praying while I ran, that they wouldn’t be too annoyed with how slow I was. However, over time, I ended up getting faster and then that led to inviting other runners and made for more friendships. Honestly, I don’t think you can really get much closer with someone than running at 5am multiple times a week. What if I had been too afraid to ask to run with them or I had let my pride get in the way of not wanting to be the slow one? What if I gave up after the first run because I was too embarrassed? Honestly, it’s a scary thought because these women are so important to me now!

Make it a priority. Especially in the beginning! It is hard to keep a friendship going in the beginning especially if you always have a reason you cannot attend the thing you’ve decided on. It is totally understandable that life has seasons and it is hard to work it all in, but I have found that if I want new friends, or I want to maintain friendships I have to make them a priority. I am extremely lucky that I can find a grandparent to watch our children if my initial plans of my husband watching then doesn’t work out due to his job. If I didn’t have this option, I’d like to think I’d still hire a babysitter or I’ve often planned lunches with friends during my lunch hour when I know they will be in daycare to make sure I get “friend time”. I personally feel very strongly that my social life is a priority and friendship and sharing with good friends fills my cup and makes me a happier mom, wife and employee. On the flip side, being patient and loving with friends if they do have to reschedule is so important! I know I am so lucky to have grandparent help nearby and a flexible job schedule so I get it when others don’t have the same. There are seasons to everything in life and so part of friendship is walking with friends through it all! Maybe move the “event” to their house if childcare isn’t an option or brainstorm to get it to fit in their schedule.

Here we are about 7 years into life in Muncie and I now feel pretty confident in the community we have grown and developed. I have some amazing friendships and lots of beautiful acquaintances that I hope will blossom over the years into more friendships. It has truly taken this long to feel at “home” in a different city, but I feel strongly that each city is what you make of it and now I have some lofty goals to make our community that much better with the friendships and future friendships that are developing as we step into the next 7 years and beyond. Take that first step and initiate a conversation with someone you’d like to get to know better, you just never know where it will take you!