I’ve just been to yoga and am currently sat on my own in a trendy coffee shop (yes they serve avocado toast and have funky lighting), writing this blog post on a Mac Book wearing a dungaree dress and stripy top. The only way I could be more of a cliche is if I was also drinking a matcha green tea chai latte made from an organically raised fair trade llama milked by monks in a free Tibet.
I’m not, I’m drinking earl grey tea and eating banana bread, I’m not even sure what matcha is…
I digress. I couldn’t care two hoots about being a parody of myself, because despite an additional toe stub last night (which still hurts), I’m doing a mental happy dance.
I’ve been driven here today because my house is full of big men with tattoos and power tools and I am delighted about it! I’m replacing my old kitchen, which was dated when I moved into my flat 10 years ago, and not in a cool retro way, but in a 90s terracotta tile way. Remember the TV show changing rooms? Well it has a lot to answer for. But now it has FINALLY been reduced to a pile of rubble to make way for the new.
Because of all ensuing dust based the chaos and some unfortunate frogging incidents, I am behind on the crochet project I wanted to bring you today so instead I want to talk about making friends. More specifically how bloody hard I find it to do now I’m past a certain point in life. I really would love to hear from you if you have similar experiences to me.
You never realise how lucky you are as a kid, to have an endless supply of people right in front of you. There are loads of them, and you get to choose who you are friends with. It’s expected of you to make friends. One of the first things you ask a kid after their first day at school is “Did you make any nice friends today?”
It’s part of the curriculum and everyone is out to do it so it’s basically like shooting fish in a barrel.
This picture is of my oldest friend and I taken 30 something years ago and last summer. How amazing is that lino though? She lives in France so I don’t get to see her that often but she’s awesome and always reads my blog so this is for you A-L!
Once you leave school and move to university or your first job, it’s the same thing. Make friends, fit in, get on. In modern speak “Find your tribe”. I think we have moved on from the term ‘Squad’ now right? In my formative years it was ‘Gang’ (red-hand related) followed by ‘Posse’ (Steve Wright in the afternoon on Radio 1?) with a foray into ‘Crew’ (Cookie?)!
The trouble starts when those standard life changing steps stop. When life is just ’normal’; work, home, play, work, home, play. This may only be my perception but it seems there’s a point in life where you’re expected to have your established friendship group and that’s that. And if you don’t, people will wonder what the hell is wrong with you.
As a single 30 something with no children, I have seen a lot of my friendships change as friends get married and reproduce. It’s probably about 90% of them now. So suddenly I find myself in a place where those people I used to hang out with on a Saturday afternoon, go dancing with on a Saturday night and survive hangovers with on a Sunday are now looking after their kids, or, at the risk of sounding like Bridget Jones, are off on mini-breaks with their partners. It’s a left behind feeling which sometimes makes me question my life choices, but I know and accept entirely that I am someone who will always have a tendency to stubbornly reject the norm. And as I grow older, my interests and passions change too. Almost none of my friends know what I’m on about when I talk about sl st in the first ch… they aren’t interested in crochet other than to support me and gratefully receive new beanies for their kids each winter!
I’m not having a pity party or anything. Change is a vital part of life. But turning round and suddenly realising the ground has shifted without you noticing comes as a bit of a shock!
So this is my question.
How do you make new friends as an adult?
Sometimes I have this thing where I meet someone and think “Please be my friend”. Shall we call it a Friend Crush? I have one on one of my yoga teachers whom I hugely admire. I just don’t know how to take that to the next level without seeming, well, desperate! I take comfort in the fact that I am not alone in this dilemma.
Last week I had lunch with a couple of girls I used to work with, one of whom has a 1 year old. She is pretty much the first among her peer group to have a baby, decided not to return to work and is struggling to find mummy friends who are on her wavelength. She’s been going to playgroups of all sorts and has met a couple of women who she developed a bit of a Friend Crush on.
At one of the groups, one of the crushees turned around and said “Do you want to come back to mine afterwards for some lunch?”. Her face lit up at the prospect of forming this new bond, of turning an acquaintance into a friend, only to realise that the crushee was talking to someone behind her… Sods law dictated that it was the other Friend Crush… the two already knew each other. She was mortified and gutted in equal measure and a feel her pain keenly.
I’m naturally an introvert. This doesn’t mean I’m socially awkward or paralysingly shy, which is a popular misconception. It means that I process information differently than extroverts. I get much more out of one-on-one interaction than from large group gatherings and I like my own company, often needing some time out after big social events to recharge. I’m sure a lot of makers will relate to this as the creative process is often quite solitary. What introversion also means for me, is that putting myself ‘out there’ and interacting with a big group of people I don’t know is massively out of my comfort zone.
And that is exactly what I’ve been trying to do more of in an attempt to answer my own question about making new friends.
I’ve been to two meet-up style events in an effort to push my boundaries, to meet other people who may share my interests, and really just to widen my social circle a little. This was a bloody daunting experience for me but ultimately very rewarding.
Firstly. I didn’t die! I didn’t make any huge social faux pas or sit on my own in the corner crying. I actually had a bloomin great time!
The first was the Lucky Things meet up. Sunita set up the Lucky Things blog after experiencing Post Natal Depression as a way to support her recovery. She has many years experience working in HR and runs various meet-ups, webinars and coaching sessions in London, Bristol, and now Cambridge too.
The meet-up involved a confidence workshop held one evening a couple of weeks back at Novi, which is a lovely cocktail bar right in the heart of Cambridge.
A friend was going and invited me along thinking I might get something out of it. Only in the end she selfishly prioritised her family holiday instead. So I decided to be brave and go alone. It helped that I had seen a couple of local people I follow on socials were also attending and thought this would be a good opportunity to meet an insta friend in real life for the first time.
I was pretty nervous walking into the bar, but, as I pushed through the door I repeated the mantra I always use when I’m feeling anxious “What’s the worst that could happen?” because the worst is really never that bad. There was that initial ‘crap, who do I talk to first’ feeling but I went to the bar and, remembering that everyone was there for the same reasons, struck up conversation with someone else waiting for their drink. The rest of the evening kind of flowed from there.
I learned some useful tricks for boosting confidence and had some really interesting conversation with some of the other attendees about their own struggles. It was fascinating how a group of strangers could talk so openly with each other. It was kind of an honour to be privilege to that and I am grateful to Sunita for putting the evening together.
I met a couple of insta buddies too which was awesome, though it was such a busy night, I could have done with another couple of hours to chat!
I always find it easier to go to events where there is a focus, so you immediately have something in common with everyone else there. This is my tip for anyone contemplating attending something like this. I know some people find this stuff a doddle but the prospect of going to a generic networking meeting still horrifies me!
As a first meet up experience it gave me a real boost and eased my worries about going to the second one.
This was quite a different proposition. It was the Cambridge Creatives Autumn Photo Walk, organised by Claireabelle Makes and Hello Sunshine. I’d been following Claire on instagram for a few years and had seen the first two photo walks documented with a stab of fomo (feeling of missing out) in my stomach. They looked like such a nice bunch of fun, unique people, but the devil in my brain kept telling me I had nothing to add to that, playing on my tendency towards imposter syndrome. That devil is an arsehole!
Ignoring this internal argument, I decided to join the walk anyway. One again mentally repeating “What’s the worst that could happen?”. I think maybe I should get that printed on a t-shirt!
We all met in the centre of Cambridge last Saturday afternoon and, with balloons in tow and a beautiful map illustrated by Sunshine Jo, about 30 of us set off in glorious sunshine (thank you mother nature!) walking through Cambridge. We stopped at Jack’s Gelato, went and said Hi to the cows at the Mill Pond, did some college perving, bike spotting and ended up at Midsummer Common, which currently plays host to a giant crocheted flamingo named Fandango.
I spent so much time chatting that I hardly took any photos but these are a few snaps to give you a taste. You can see loads of awesome pictures and videos by searching #CambridgeCreativesPhotowalk on Instagram.
To add to the amusement, it was the craziest weekend in town because the students were all moving back to start the new term. I don’t know many other cities where seeing someone walking down the street carrying a hat stand with a bag of lemons hanging off it seems normal.
This is a great group shot from Tom who was patiently waiting for the moment between the new students passing through to their new accommodations to make their own new friends. I love how the group has accidentally lined up like a rainbow!
I met some really interesting and inspiring people from a huge variety of backgrounds and everyone was overwhelmingly friendly and welcoming. There were quite a few who had only maybe met one or two in the group before which put me at ease immediately. I also got to unexpectedly put a lot of faces to insta accounts I had followed for an age! There is something very strange about meeting someone for the first time and realising you know all sorts of things about their life because of an online profile. It feels almost a little voyeuristic, but social media is so new, I don’t think ettiequte has quite caught up with how to act in these situations. There’s a whole other blog post on that but this one is already plenty long enough!
One of my other highlights was that I got to deliver one of my crochet scrunchies to the person who had accidentally inspired me to make the pattern! In return I think she and the goodies Claire and Jo had put together for us may result in a pin collection… I am so grateful for all the work that went into organising this walk!
A final highlight which can’t go united was that I got to meet Peanut, a pug puppy in a yellow hoodie. I nearly died from cute overload!
This picture was taken right at the end of the walk (Fandango is just out of shot) and I think it’s quite an accurate capture to sum up the day!
Something I have really noticed from these two events is how much I love talking to other people about their stories and how they got to the place they are now. I think it’s all part of my inbuilt desire to learn and increase my understanding about the world and the people in it.
I think everyone has the same hill to climb when you go into any new set of circumstances, whether it’s becoming a mum, moving to a new city, starting a new job or entering any field where you have no grounding. I guess for me, it’s crochet. I learned on line and most of the people I ‘know’ who do it also only exist on line. I’ve so far been too scared to join a knitting or crochet group where I don’t know anyone but maybe that should be next on my boundary pushing list.
Going back to my original question – “How do you make friends when you’re an adult?”
I wish there was silver bullet so everyone could have the support network and social circle they crave. I think the world would be a better place if there was an easy fix.
But I’ve realised it’s different for everyone. I guess the closest I get to a conclusion is to advise you to do what works best for your own personality. If you are shy, take baby steps, if you’re the extrovert who loves these things, take time to notice the person looking scared on the periphery and try to bring them in.
Social media is much maligned but is an amazing place to meet people. Dating apps are totally accepted these days, so why not friendship aps? Meet-Up us a great site but can still feel a little formal. Social media can be a softer way to connect, and so much the better if the virtual relationships turn into real life ones too.
Just don’t force it, or be friends with someone just because they are there. I find faux closeness totally cringeworthy, possibly something to do with going to an all girls school!
I truly feel that organic and unexpected friendships are often the ones which have the most depth and longevity. There’s a saying about friendships that they are for a “reason, a season or for life”.
You know what, that’s okay with me!
I know this has been a long post but it turns out I’m pretty animated about this topic! I’d love to hear your thoughts, struggles and tips about this topic. I feel like it’s a bit of a taboo. But maybe that’s just my unwillingness to talk about it? Everyone has such different approaches so any new ideas welcome! Let me know how you met your friends!
Until next time, thanks for reading!
And in my regular renovation update, here’s a picture of the horrid tiles which are now a part of my history!