I grew up in two “All American” TV sitcom kind of wonderful neighborhoods where kids rode bikes and roamed free delighting in imagination driven adventures in the days before cell phones. The connections were started by proximity and forged in laughter and skinned knees. College was much the same way but with more diverse options.
I treasure these friendships and hold them in a sacred place in my heart. However, time, miles, and maturity can stretch and strain these relationships. We grow as do they.
As we age, we build new friendships through work, partners, volunteering, hobbies, church, and kids. Again, proximity plays a role. So as friends move away and life remains hectic, the bond is there but the connection changes.
Over the past few years I’ve found that while I maintain a lot of friendships – we are no longer physically close which leaves a gap. Those who I most want to spend my time with are hours or several states away. And yes, there is Facetime and texts to keep the connection. And yes, there is space, a void, that technology cannot fill.
So, although I keep my friends, I find myself wanting – and needing – new ones… but well, it sure does feel awkward to make them as an adult. I’m here to share that the friends I most recently made during/post COVID have been soul-filling and worth the funky feeling first moments.
My newest friends know a more well-rounded version of me. The me of now, not of the version of me that was in such formative years. I also feel we value our relationship more because of life perspective, and we respect our time together through candor, quick laughter, and empowering support. The relationships also formed quickly as we know time is limited and precious. I also learned that you can have friends for different reasons. I’m not looking for a new “bestie” with which to run around town, but rather people I can truly connect with on various aspects of my life. More niche relationships rather than all-around buddy.
Here are a few ways I recently made some friends as an awkward 50 year old:
Accept the offer: During COVID lockdown I began working with a new government client. In Zoom meetings I was drawn to her positive energy, quick wit, and creative thinking. At times she said what was in my mind which rarely happens. When the work ended, she politely said, “It was nice working with you we should stay in touch.” Hmmmm. I’d heard this before and I almost blew it off as professional politeness. But instead, I thought about for a bit. Did she mean it? How weird would I look reaching out without work to talk about? Would I look desperate, as if I had no friends? But I reflected on how I felt with her and thought, “What the hell. She offered. I’d accept.” It’s been over 2 years and we talk monthly and even met up to spend a day at the Virginia Fine Art Museum in her town; looking, eating, and dreaming together. I always leave our chats refreshed and recharged.
Make the offer: I met a younger coworker who came to me for some coaching on an issue. I reflected after each call how much I learned from her in the process. So, I asked if she’d be my mentor. After a few chats we talked about our new friendship, and settled in for deeper discussions. We talk about religion, family traditions, and recipes. There is a casualness in our conversations. Authentic and no fancy airs. Just two women appreciating their personal journey, together.
Trust the vibe: I completed my mindfulness facilitator certification in a global program, fully online. The work was vulnerable and a bit lonely done remotely, coupled with culture, time zone, and language differences. Via Zoom, I dropped into our pre-determined small workgroup and saw her smile. Warmth and comfort. When we needed to pair up and find a class “buddy,” I pounced on her solely due to how I felt in her presence. Over a year later we talk and text regularly, share tips, listen intently, laugh hard, and hold space for each other to express what’s in our heart – the joy and hurt. She then pulled me into her network which led to a global network of like-minded kind folks.
Share your network: As the cloud of COVID descended, I texted two friends together, made an introduction about how I thought they should know each other and what they had in common, and shared something I thought they’d both like. The conversation has never stopped … continued through hundreds of texts with lots of memes, photos, article links, celebrations, and prayer requests.
These new relationships taught me that when you sense a connection — explore it! Forget the inner anxious voice of your 13-year-old self. Ignore proximity as the folks you most need might not live on your street anymore. Be open to a new type of targeted connection rather than a single end-all-be-all friend.
And most of all, remember we all need friends… and someone is in need of you.