“You don’t make friends after college. Just acquaintances you’re fond of.”
He said it with so much conviction that I instinctively nodded in agreement.
“Friendship is the souvenir of childhood,” he continued. That last line would plague my mind many months after that conversation ended (with someone who ironically became a post college friend of mine). We were talking about the importance of building genuine relationships in youth because it becomes a lot harder to make genuine friendships when one gets older. But what did older look like? Was it too late after 18?
After 24 when most of us are done with our college education? According to research “the maximum number of connections for both males and females occurs at the age of around 25,” and then it rapidly decreases. As someone who spent much of her youth going from one state to the next and then one country to the next (alone), I’ve always felt a little anxious about not forming lasting relationships.
As a kid I moved around often, and wanderlust stayed with me well into my early adult years. As a child/teen, moving away often signified losing a friend, but as a young adult, it became less and less of an obstacle but still an obstacle nonetheless to forming intimate relationships. Time, similarity, and proximity are ingredients that are the foundation to building strong friendships.
When you put thousands of miles and differing time zones between you and a growing relationship, you risk weakening the bond created. Adding a language or cultural barrier to the mix doesn’t help in most cases either. I knew about the potential risks of my lifestyle and so I always embraced making new connections with people. However, despite my efforts, living a lifestyle that’s different than many of my peers has taken a toll on the relationships I've formed with people.
In addition to a lifestyle that’s different from many of my peers, I’m quite the workaholic. I enjoy spending long hours in solitude studying or doing work, only to come out of those trances when other aspects of my life require that I tend to them. But, after moving for the 8th time to a city in the U.S. I wanted to work on making lasting, genuine, intimate friendships. Was it true what my buddy said? Would it be so much harder to make friends in your mid to late twenties than it would be to do so in your youth?
Well, I spent the past 8 months trying to develop some friendships and so far it’s been an interesting journey. One that isn’t finished, but I’ve met some people in the past 8 months that I certainly do hope to have in my life for the rest of my life. If you’re someone who’s been struggling to make friendships in your adulthood, I’d like to share with you how I did it.
Sometimes new friends are old friends. Getting back in touch with people you were fond of is a great way to build a lasting relationship with someone and on a solid foundation too. You’ve already met before and have had a few conversations so all you have to do is play catch up. People love talking about themselves.
Reconnecting with old friends and hearing all about where life has taken them is such an easy way to break the ice in your favor. If you’re friends on social media, it makes it easier to find a way to connect. What did they last post about? Any new achievements? Did a memory of you two pop up on Facebook? All of those scenarios create a window of opportunity. In my case I took to chatting it up with a few of my old friends in online groups we had in common.
But, reconnecting with old friends is cheating a little. I wanted to make strong connections with people I had no previous history with and doing that took me down a similar route. Connecting with people over shared interests is truly one of the easiest ways to make new friends and that’s whether you’re young or old. I mean think about it. Places like high school and college create environments where those with similar interests have a higher chance of meeting each other.
For the first 18 years of life (plus some college) society pretty much forces the opportunity to meet and work with new people upon you. Once we get older it becomes up to us to create these experiences that were once forced upon us. MeetUp.com is a website that makes it so much easier to link up with those who share similar interests to you. The pandemic has made social gathering a tricky subject, but with restrictions relaxing, the opportunity to meet up with people becomes a possibility again.
And the pandemic doesn’t have to throw rain on your parade. Interestingly enough, my attempts to make new friends has been better received during the pandemic than before it. Now everyone’s a little bored and craving human interaction. Despite how easy it has become not only for others to welcome you into their lives but for you to welcome others into your life, it’s still important to practice discernment. You don’t want to be desperate for human interaction.
Doing so invites the opportunity for just about anyone to walk into your life. Your time, energy, and home are all things that should be considered sacred by you. Yes, the thrill of living alone wears off after the first week and sure being on lock down has you itching for adventure, but now more than ever is the time to be careful about who you let into your life. Your safety has always depended on it but with a pandemic going on, it makes even friendly people a little dangerous. The possibility of contracting a virus raises the stakes to socializing, but it is still possible.
Being careful and a bit more guarded is important during these times, but true friendships require a level of vulnerability. There are plenty of others who feel just as you do and are craving for new connections. Take advantage of that. By letting down your guard at appropriate times and levels, you make it easier for new people to come into your life. Making friends in adulthood certainly does carry a different feel to it.
Most people are busy with children and work and so downtime becomes them-time. Socializing with the wild abandonment of youth certainly becomes harder as you age but it doesn’t become impossible. By reconnecting with old faces, connecting with new faces over shared interests, putting myself in environments to meet new people, and being as vulnerable as a doe-eyed freshman with in certain crowds has given me the chance to make some truly intimate friendships. Only time will tell if they last, but if even for a moment, these exercises in socializing have put the threads of destiny into my hands and allowed me to intertwine my fate with others.
Lilith is a blogger with an emphasis in writing and reflecting upon social agendas that effect black women. When not at her computer writing she is more than likely still at her computer, programming. On the rare occasion that Lilith isn't at her laptop you can attempt to find her exploring the Chicago food scene or attending workshops in creative writing