I’m relatively new to the city and am having a hard time finding my tribe. I don’t go to school or work in a traditional workplace, so I’m not meeting people in typical “new city” ways. It’s awkward befriending people at events since many of them are already there with friends. I’ve also tagged along with some people I know and their friend groups for a while, but they’re not really a good fit. I’m starting to feel like there’s something wrong with me. How do you make new friends as an adult?
I’m happy to report there is nothing wrong with you.
Struggling to make connections once out of a school setting is a common issue many adults experience. Add in moving to a new city and you have even more of a challenge ahead of you. There is hope. I promise you aren’t destined to sit at Sunday bottomless mimosa brunches alone for the rest of your life.
The challenges for dating and making friends as an adult have many similarities. We are more guarded and picky about who we let close to us. Our time is limited so we don’t want to give it to just anyone. Also, meeting someone at work isn’t always ideal as we climb the corporate ladder, wanting to keep our personal life separate.
I moved to New York City eight years ago. I knew 3 people upon my arrival and spent months not feeling as though I fit in anywhere. But, slowly my social circle fell into place. It has evolved considerably over the past few years (and will continue to) but I now feel like I have a family here. A tribe, as you say. How did I make it happen?
I kept doing what I love.
I went on a hunt for the yoga studio that felt like home. I searched out fashion events. As my interests evolved, I got myself out to art openings, poetry readings and open mic nights. Maybe for you that means going to events, getting a museum membership, volunteering, finding a church, attending fitness classes or educational seminars, etc.
I tried things I wouldn’t normally do.
I was introduced to a club promoter (who is now one of my dearest friends) and went out to the club whenever I felt lame because I had no one to hangout with on a Friday night. I had never been to a club prior to moving to NYC and it didn’t really feel like I belonged there but it got me out of my apartment and kept me from feeling sorry for myself. This might sound shocking, but I met so many amazing people while out on the dancefloor.
I didn’t fall in love.
Having a romantic relationship masks the loneliness of not having friends. Yes, your Lover should also be your best friend (as all the cheesy Hallmark cards have taught us) but expecting them to be your everything is completely unreasonable. When we have someone already there, it is easy to focus on them and not connect with others. Being alone forces you to face the need of platonic relationships.
Why not give technology a try?
There are many websites and phone apps that are geared towards helping to make friends. Continuing on the idea ‘keep doing what you love,” there are websites that take what you love and make an event out of it. Meetup.com is a great place to look for other people who are out there also doing what you love. Maybe try swiping your way into friendship with Bumble BFF or Hey Vina. We are already trained to swipe with dating apps so it seems worth a try to do it for friendship.
Sometimes meeting people isn’t the problem. It is making the connection stick (once again, similar to dating). From my research on this, I found out there are three main elements defined by sociologists 60ish years ago that need to be satisfied to create the bond of friendship: Proximity, Repeated & Unplanned Interactions and Meeting in a Setting that Evokes Vulnerability.
So basically, you need to be close by (or live along the same train line), bump into each other regularly (so you don’t forget about how awesome each other are) and be somewhere you feel comfortable opening up and being your true self (and dip your French fries in mayo without fear of judgement).
One realization I had from dating is that staying home ordering Seamless is not going to help you meet anyone (the odds of the delivery guy being your soulmate or future best friend are highly unlikely). So get yourself up and out! Read a book sitting in a cafe or bar rather than on the couch. Go see a movie at the theater instead of on your laptop. When you get invited to something, make sure to say yes as much as possible because you never know who you will meet along the way. Sometimes the initial person you meet might not be the friend for life but someone they introduce you to will be.
Also, don’t compare new friends to the ones you had back at home. You’re creating an impossible expectation. Everyone offers something different so stay open to what these new found friends are bringing into your life rather than trying to recreate your past into your present.
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My Life in Yellow is not a licensed psychologist or health care professional and the advice within this column does not replace the care of psychologists or other healthcare professionals. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a health/medical professional. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.