Last week I talked a little about homesickness, and how the best cure is to make new friends. And this week I have been so convicted, because I feel like I wrote that off so easily as just one tiny step in adjusting to a new place. When, in reality, it is the most difficult. Especially as an adult.
I changed schools 5 times from fourth to twelfth grade. One of those times was even across the world to finish high school in South Africa. Each new school came with an expected adjustment period, but I always quickly made friends. It is easy when you are a kid, in school. I found each of these new environments an exhilarating challenge.
This ability to make friends quickly spilled over into early adulthood, with moving to North Carolina, California, and Florida. I was taking college classes, working in social industries, and thriving in my most outgoing phase of life. Making friends during this time took a little more effort than when I was in school, but that effort was rapidly rewarded. Each new friendship fed a fire in my spirit. And friendships were abundant.
Then something happened, that no one ever warned me about. Suddenly I hit a time in my life where I was losing friends more rapidly than I was making them.
I let go of friendships for a number of reasons. I grew into new priorities for my heart. Deep, meaningful connections were of more importance to my soul, so I let surface acquaintances slip away. Old friendships, that had caused continual disappointment or hurt, were set free. Most importantly I gave up on one-sided relationships to focus deeper on my closest friends. And, on top of it all, I was making less effort to initiate new friendships.
Last year, when I moved to Germany, I found myself utterly exhausted after coming home from meet-ups with new people. Where once, meeting five new people from all over the world would have left me beaming with excitement, I now was drained from having the same introductory conversation, over and over again. I struggled through the initial stages, found a couple close friendships and held onto them.
Now I am back in Germany, with the challenge to make friends in this new, big city. And you know what, making new friends isn’t as easy as I made it sound last week. There are options, there are resources, there are classes and organized meet-ups, but all of those take an amount of effort. We’re not just kids, thrown in the sandbox any more. It takes energy to muster the courage to step out of your comfort zone, to have those same introductory conversations again and again, until finally you find a few that you click with.
Even with those meet-ups and resources, making adult friends can still be almost awkward. It is like dating, because there is an amount of insecurity and uncertainty. Do they like me as much as I like them? Am I talking too much? Do I smell? Should I ask her out to coffee? Is that too bold? But it is completely unlike dating, because you can’t just be forward with your intentions. You don’t have DTRs in friendships. And no way can you just walk up to someone in a cafe and ask for their number because they look cool and you want to get to be their friend.
Like an arduous treasure hunt without a map, it takes courage, it takes initiative, and it takes patience. It can be awkward, and you will probably take a few wrong turns. It takes time for friendship to be found. But it is always worth it.