Finding Friends in New Places

A week of living in the apartment with crooked floors, cracked walls, and a seemingly endless supply of meandering fruit flies meant that I had a lot to complain about.

I was new to my job, and didn’t feel like I could let my guard down around my coworkers. I didn’t know any of our neighbors (I knew more than I wanted to about our upstairs neighbors, but that wasn’t conducive towards a budding friendship.)

Unlike [REDACTED], I didn’t have any place to go for built-in social interactions – like classes and student networking events.

[REDACTED] was my only companion. Not only did he have to serve as my husband and roommate, but I suddenly found myself looking to him to fill all of my needs for social interaction. Don’t get me wrong, I love [REDACTED]. But sometimes I need to complain to someone about [REDACTED] and how his stupid idea to go to law school forced me to abandon everything I know and love.

I needed friends.

Did I know how to make friends as an adult? No. The last really close friends I made were my suitemates in college.

I guess I could have spent hours at coffee shops, gone out to local events, or become a regular at the local dive bar. Maybe I could resort to my friend-finding strategies from kindergarten and go around asking strangers who looked vaguely interesting “will you be my friend?”

I felt like I was back in middle school. I went everywhere with uncertainty and a constant inner monologue of “Do they like me? Do they think I look cool? Do they think I’m funny?”

I did have one friend in this strange new place. A friend from college who grew up in the area and moved back a year or so ago. Their work schedule was pretty much the opposite of mine, but we were able to squeeze in lunch some afternoons. Counting my blessings, they were one.

But you can’t put all of your emotional eggs into just two people baskets.

One weekend, after a particularly long and lonely Sunday of laying on the couch and playing Lego Harry Potter on [REDACTED]’s X-Box, I vowed that in the next week I would find friends.

So, I turned to the internet. Specifically, I turned to Bumble’s friend-finding algorithm, Bumble Bff.

[REDACTED] and I got together just before dating apps really entered the scene and (from what I’ve heard) ruined everyone’s dating lives forever. I had never actually used a “dating” app, but I was desperate.

I created a profile, uploaded several photos of myself in various stages of my adult life, wrote a brief bio, and was off to the races.

I think Bumble BFF works pretty much the same as “regular” Bumble. You see a picture and swipe left or right depending on whether or not you think the person looks like someone you would want to (in my case) be friends with.

I am a fairly outgoing person, I generally like most people, so I didn’t set many standards at first while swiping.

I later learned that I could scroll down and see the person’s bio, which is where I could get a little more specific. If the person said they had a dog or were married, that was a bonus. If they said they liked reading, art, or theater, that was good too.

I shied away from anyone who implied an interest in being “more than friends,”, but otherwise swiped away on the mani/pedi & mimosa fans, the hikers, the bikers, the bakers, the candlestick makers, and all the other people who (I assumed) were just as lonely and desperate to find emotional support as I was.

By the middle of the week, I was surface-level chatting with fifteen or so female-identifying people (Bumble BFF only offered women to be my BFFs, go figure.)

After typing the same intros and basic questions fifteen different ways, I was convinced that Bumble – and probably all other dating apps – had been spawned in some unknown recess of hell. There was no way I would ever be friends with people I had to type out mini emails to regularly before building up enough rapport to awkwardly meet face to face and go over the same awful introductory conversations.

I sent one final message to all my potential new buds.

“I’m sick of Bumble. I’m going to host a movie night so we can skip the awkward messaging stage and just get together in real life. Send me your email address if you’re interested.”

I got a solid seven positive responses. Plenty of people for a relaxed gathering of strangers.

I chose “Lord of the Rings,” a childhood staple from when I was growing up. I figured it was just nerdy enough that it would weed out anyone “too cool.” I also figured that since it had been out for over a decade, most people would have seen it before so it would be ok if we wound up talking over the actors on screen.

I sent out my invite. Five out of the seven confirmed. Operation Friend Finder was a “go.”

It was only then that I realized what a crazy mistake it was to have invited people over to our crappy apartment.

What would people think of our crooked floors? Our inexplicable cadre of fruit flies? Would they hate the way we decorated? What if one of them was a murderer and I had just invited them into my home!?

Luckily, the excitement at having “friends” over for a movie night overpowered my nerves. [REDACTED] and I cleaned the apartment the best we could. We stocked up on snacks – including gluten free and vegan options. We even rented a Rug Doctor and cleaned our carpets AND our couch.

I sent out a final confirmation email, reminding everyone the when and where – and to take allergy meds if they were allergic to cats or dogs.

The night was fun. At times it felt a little awkward – I don’t think any of us would have been in the same room together without the power of Bumble.

I didn’t feel like any of the ladies I met would wind up being my “best friend,” but we talked a lot and we laughed a little. We didn’t wind up watching the movie. I had it on in the background, mostly just to follow through on my promise of a “movie night.” We did just talk, and that was nice.

At the end of the night, we exchanged phone numbers and agreed to meet up again.

Meeting new people is easy (we do it every day) but turning those new contacts into friends is not.

Some things I have learned from my quest for friendship:

Get offline.

Gather and bring people together.

Give it your all.

Those are things I am looking forward to doing with friends when I make them.

Until then, I’m keeping in touch with old friends over the internet, via phone calls, and texting. I’m reaching out when I can, and responding when I remember to.

It is hard to make new friends and it is hard to keep in touch with old friends.

[REDACTED] and I have been here for almost two months now.

As much as I have left behind, and as many people and places that I miss from before we moved, there are bright spots in our new place.

There is a breakfast spot here with the best scones I have ever eaten.

I get to watch the sun rise over the beautiful lake on my morning walks with our pup.

This morning, I checked out an electric bike from a charging station near our apartment and got to work in fifteen minutes.

I still miss my our old home.

I miss my friends.

I miss my old job.

Sometimes the “missing” feels bigger than the “got.”

It took some time, but I did make a new friend.

It is reassuring that it only took two months. That isn’t very long.

It felt long.

Then again, we have a lot longer to go before law school is over.

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