All hustle & bustle: Friends, where art thou?
Ever feel like it’s absurdly hard to make new friends as an adult? You are not alone. As an adult our reasonings range from thinking- “I’m too busy” or - “I don’t know how to start a conversation” or - “she’s has too many friends already” or- " I'm bored, feeling like my friends don't have similar interests - I'm a burden or no fun" or- "I'm not likeable" or- "I'm afraid of judgement and criticism" - to experiencing severe and crippling social anxiety.
We’ve all faced many moments in our lives where we’ve wanted to make a new friend(s) and simply didn’t have the time, tools, or confidence to make it happen. I’ve moved to new towns, cities and in new states, without knowing a single soul, gone through breakups where I realized I lost all my friends or become estranged from them due to distance and time. There have been countless times that I have been lonely, somehow isolated, disconnected and sometimes straight-up depressed as a result. It was all too hard to put myself out there, and its fucking scary - think blind dating, now I honestly couldn't think of anything worse. FIFO life compounds all of the above, including Mental Illness, Isolation, Disconnection and Loneliness. How on earth do you combat it - when you are to the ground fatigued from working hard and long hours in remote and testing conditions to begin with?
As we all transition into adulthood (ages 18-25), we’re no longer surrounded by a group of same-age peers who happen to be in a similar life stage and with whom we have things in common, University Social groups and our Education (Primary, and Secondary) regularly puts us in connection with others our own age. But as we age our life paths begin to diverge more and more from those of our friends, and we can end up in very different places — both geographically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally. Not to mention all the gaps that come with varying experiences of working, socializing, relationship forming, family duties and life in general.
"Life gets a little more complicated when you're an adult. People often work full-time jobs and many are also maintaining romantic relationships too. What time does that leave to make friends?”
Besides the time factor and others I have mentioned above, another reason I have personally struggled is because not only is there no 'How to Adult' guidebook on how to make and forge long lasting friendships; but its really hard to actually make a good friend, live a similar lifestyle, and even find someone who is also interested in expanding their social circle to be inclusive of others. Often with relationships and friendships there is a quote coined - it should just be “easy,” and if it’s not easy, then we give up. Our society is built on items of instant satisfaction, think of getting your regular takeaway coffee from your favorite barista at your favorite café? If you don't then it doesn't feel right, right?Or in more complex terms, think the constant need to upgrade from latest iPhone or Samsung galaxy to the next... We are consumers by nature, and once an item (or friendship...) has served its purpose we so readily throw in a towel and give up. Because its not easy and it takes sometimes hard fucking work. Flip the coin though... if a relationship or friendship is emotionally draining or causing immense negativity in your life. Then it is rational and viable to cut ties. Lose the shit that doesn't serve you, set boundaries and don't be afraid to cut off dead and toxic growth. You don't need a relationshit, or friendshit in your life!In turn, many of us also simply opt out of this whole process - its too difficult to upkeep and maintain. And far easier to just regulate oneself.... leaving us back at square one - "I'm so fucking lonely..." and we again feel the need for connection and socialization. Because we are Human, and social creatures by nature...
There is no doubt in my mind, that finding and fostering real and true friendships is difficult and trying. However, the more we don’t do it, the more at risk we are for loneliness; which has actually been listed as a Health Epidemic of our time. The negative health effects are — equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Talk about scary... Research is showing us that friendships are not a luxury, but are necessary for our emotional and physical health well throughout adulthood. Feeling socially connected lowers our risk for specific health concerns including cardiovascular problems, cancers, and the common cold, as well as anxiety and depression.I know some of these figures off hand as I sit on a board for Remote and Rural Mental Health and in the latter part of 2020, a roundtable discussion around the effects of loneliness was held. Please reach out if needed, help is always there for those that ask for it.
The cruel reality is, we all use our phones as an excuse to not meet new people and spend another countless night scrolling the ‘gram and other social media feeds to fill that perceived void in our lives. But there are some forums and apps that allow you to use that interconnectivity from the extendable appendage of ours and tap into some tools to 'find your people' and 'connect with your tribe'. I hope you choose the latter, as Mental Illness (mine in particular) breeds in isolation, and leaves you muted and unable to see even the glimpse of any light or hope. Your happiness — and your health — relies on it, on connection with others. As we grow up, and we grow older (maybe not always wiser), we begin to realize that life is short and we start to focus more on things that bring us emotional balance and enjoyment. And one of those things that can help us to have emotional balance is having good, quality, and meaningful relationships. And its never too early, or too late to start forming them.
Here's a simple exercise - look at your Life as a Wheel, break it down into slices or Quadrants - allocate one for Career, one for Finances, one for Relationships and one for Fun/Socialising (add as many as you feel is necessary for you). Now, at this present instance give each slice a rating out of 10 on how happy you are currently. And then provide a second number out of 10, which is quantifying where you want that aspect of your life to realistically sit. This exercise is a great way to show imbalance in your life, and where to focus your energy towards, to gain a more balanced and content life. Obviously, to have friendships and nurture them, you need to invest time in your friends, and now with the Wheel of Life exercise you can have an idea of how much time you would like to invest and adjust your life and time balance accordingly. This value can also change naturally over time, so it is worth revisiting this exercise every six months or so to ensure you remain on track. Life changes, often affect closeness of relationships with others, so you need to keep that in mind too.
When you meet someone new, who is interesting and is ticking your boxes (cmon... everyone does this), you’ll need to spend time with them in order to form a friendship or relationship. You need to get to know them. This is 'forming'...As your friendship grows, you both experience more in life and share past life experiences, which helps in due time to understand the others personality and also to make them feel understood by yourself. In essence, you need to invest both your own time and energy. And this then needs to be balanced too, as we all have conflicting duties and interests in our own personal lives.
Friendship is super important in everyone's life: for your body, mind and soul. Investing in quality friendships is one of the best investments you can make as a human being. Ultimately, even if you’re older and searching for connection you will eventually find new friends if you’re willing to put in the time and energy required amidst the scarcer slices of time.
DISCLAIMER - Friendship is effectively Networking, its OK to be selective. Remember Adult friendships are an Investment - and its also OK to keep people at different levels and in different circles in your life!