The other day I was listening to “D’Yer Wanna Be a Spaceman?” by Oasis, a song about a guy running into his old friend and growing up. His friend dreamed of being a “spaceman” but grew up, had kids, paid bills and abandoned his dreams. It happens to all of us.
Up until our college graduation, our entire lives have basically been structured. From age 4 to 18, we were in school for seven or so hours a day. Everyone knew everyone, and there were sports, after school programs and clubs out the ass. Making friends was easy and thanks to Mark Zuckerberg, we can keep up with who had kids, got fat or whatever to get our fill from our high school days.
Many of us went off to college. I went away to school where I knew no one. It was pretty awesome having a fresh start because life in a bubble in the ‘burbs isn’t real; it’s a fantasy land where you can leave your doors unlocked, and law enforcement’s entire payroll is funded by writing high school kids tickets.
With this territory comes the issue of making friends. Apart from my dumbass self dating the first girl that showed interest in me for over a year, making friends was easy between class, clubs and the wonderful “pay for friends system” many refer to as Greek life. I remember upon graduation, sitting on the fire escape, talking to all my soon to be graduated friends as we heavily imbibed, ruminated and reminisced (while also tricking passersby with poop dollars) about what life might be like in a postgrad world.
Most of my fraternity and college friends moved back home or found a job in a faraway land. I stewed in grad school, the halfway house of the adult world, and made some more memories and friends. The thing is, everyone leaves, but whether you stay where you are or not, and it’s not easy.
Think about all the people you’ve ever met. Now think about high school. How many do you keep close to? For me, it’s maybe 5-10 people. Similarly, from college, I keep in contact with 20 or so. The thing is, I barely see these people as life has taken its toll, even though we both try to see each other as much as possible. If you use what I like to call “the Groomsman barometer” (people you’re close enough with to be in your wedding), it has changed vastly over the years. People I thought I’d be lifelong friends with have come and gone while others that I thought were acquaintances have stepped up and become like family.
Making friends as an adult is often difficult. Between working, keeping one’s house somewhat clean (a task I never have and likely never will be good at), trying to find time to work out and having alone time to collect one’s thoughts, the prospect of finding new friends in a new place is difficult. I’m lucky that I’ve been in the same place for 10 years but I’ve often spoke to those that have moved away and they lament the same issue: moving to a new place makes it hard to find friends.
People come into and out of our lives constantly. As a dutiful boyfriend/girlfriend or husband/wife, you’re often at the forefront of your respective “better half” bringing new friends into the circle. It’s almost like a pledge process and even if you end up liking the guy (or girl), powers that are higher up than you make the final call. There are always those friends that should anything bad happen between myself and Mrs. Madoff, or with any of the others in our group, it would be like a friend divorce. Likewise, I honestly feel bad when I see someone get paraded into our friend group that ends up being like Andy in the 40-Year-Old Virgin.
Relationships aside, making friends isn’t exactly the easiest and I’m a pretty outgoing person. You never know what the other person thinks of you. Sports has always been my go-to since you’re obviously into the same stuff.
Yet, how do you make an acquaintance into a friend? I’ve played sports and done many like things with many now forgotten people. Do you ask for the guy’s number? Who adds who first on Facebook? What do you do if you go out and it’s awkward, you have nothing to talk about or you’re just not feeling it? It’s like dating. For me, most of the time, I just go by what feels right, which I have come to find out is a psychological term for “thin-slicing” or “first impressions.”
Humans are social creatures who long for shared experiences and companionship, whether that be romantic or not. There’s plenty of research that breaks down the ill effects of not having a social network. It’s part of the reason we got my dog, Tank, therapy certified. Like anything in life, if you overthink things, it will eat at you. It’s tough to put yourself out there. Being friendship rejected hurts just like getting turned down, but at least you know and if you don’t put yourself out there, you never will..
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