On Friendship

This was originally posted as an answer to an anonymous message on Bed Crumbs.

Anonymous Asked:
I know this is kind of silly to ask about but you seem to have a really good head on your shoulders and you seem really confident and awesome. I’ve been having a hard time finding like-minded friends. I’m a pretty introverted person and I’ve always had a difficult time meeting new people. I have a handful of really best friends but we all live far from each other now. I am wondering if you have any advice on how to find people with similar interests in college, at work, or just out and about? I wanted to ask you about this because I feel like we have very similar interests and I was wondering if you also find a struggle with this, since not many people our age (I’m 20) are into the same kind of music, movies, television, etc. Maybe I’m not trying hard enough but I’ve just been feeling down about this and thinking I’m just totally alone over here.

Hi sweet pea,

I’m going to call you sweet pea instead of anonymous because when I get messages like these, I clam up a little. I wonder how or why any of you think I am qualified to give advice. But I know you need an answer, and you trusted me enough to ask, so I desperately want to give you one. This is where I think, “What would Cheryl Strayed do?” Cheryl Strayed would call you sweet pea first, so I am starting with that.

I am flattered that you think that I have a good head on my shoulders. But I like to think that’s the product of how my parents raised me and the people I associate myself with. As far as being “really confident and awesome,” I have to laugh a little. Maybe the Internet Carrie is confident and awesome, but for Real Life Carrie, that’s not always true. We all project on the internet, myself included.

You and I are not so different, though. I’ve learned how to fake extroversion, but that doesn’t change the fact that I am an introvert at heart, someone who really needs alone time. I, too, only really have a handful of best friends, and most of them live far away. I’ve always been a small handful of friends kind of girl, and college didn’t help that.

I made a lot of friends at NYU, but no best friends. Lots of let’s-grab-drinks-and-talk-about-our-careers friends. I went through school so intensely focused, so driven towards over-achievement, that the time to cultivate friendships just wasn’t there. I wanted to intern for major publications. I wanted to write for the newspaper. I wanted to blog and run and take full course loads of challenging classes and work part time. Friends, boys, a social life — that all took a backseat.

So I understand what you are saying because I struggle, too. The friends came, eventually. I don’t think you’re not trying hard enough, sweets, because if I have learned anything, it’s that not all of us are blessed with the gene that makes us great at making friends right away. It’s not a matter of trying or not trying. Friendships should come naturally; they shouldn’t be forced by trying too hard. And letting things coming naturally takes some time and patience (something I am learning to practice on a daily basis). And it takes knowing that you are not so different, and you are not so alone.

People are weirdos. Let’s just get that out of the way. We are all weridos, every last one of us, in our own special ways. We develop our circle of friends based on mutual weirdness. It doesn’t matter if your tribe rallies around nights out at Le Bain or nights in jammies watching Mary Tyler Moore. We’ve all got our thing and it’s just a matter of time before we find someone else whose thing matches ours.

I found my people through social media, mostly. At first, I felt a little weird about it, putting this stigma on internet friends as people met in chatrooms about Pokemon or something. But one of these very good friends put it this way: we sought out friends based on mutual interests and passions, and so we happened to meet on the internet and not in a yoga class or something, and people think that’s weird. Yet people throw two strangers in the same dorm room who have nothing in common and expect them to be friends. Which one sounds weirder to you, in premise?

Don’t reject social media as a way to connect with people and to make friends who like the same things you do. When I found my dearest friends, I felt such joy. There were other people who liked what I liked. They are out there, after all! But — don’t think that it’s the only solution. There is a whole world of people! One of them is bound to like something that you do. You just have to ask.

When I transferred to NYU my sophomore year, I knew no one. I mean no one. At least as a freshman at Temple, I had a few friends and acquaintances from high school there with me, people who could help introduce me to friends. But here I was at NYU, in the dead of winter, knowing absolutely nobody and feeling so cold and alone and wondering if I made a mistake transferring, wondering if I would be able to fit in.

But there was hope. A wonderful girl from my transfer orientation ended up sitting next to me in French class. I remember I really envied her collection of hair bows and J. Crew riding boots (this was during my preppy Blair Waldorf elaborate headband-loving phase) and felt relieved that she was just as hopeless at the subjunctive as I was. We became class friends, the kind of friends who gossip and joke about the teacher behind his back, who trade notes and study for tests together, who compliment each other’s outfits each day.

The more I got to know her, the more I wanted to be real life friends with her. But I was afraid. What if she thought I was totally weird and didn’t want to be my friend and believed that we were class acquaintances and that was it? One day, not without some encouragement, I realized that I had nothing to lose and asked her if she wanted to get coffee or go shopping sometime. I remember how she said yes immediately, enthusiastically, how she gushed that she wanted to ask me the same thing for so long, but was too nervous to.

We were roommates the next year. She came home with me when we evacuated the city during Hurricane Irene. She was sitting by my side at graduation. We may have drifted apart, but it was a good friendship while it lasted. My point is, some of us are really good at talking to other people and making friends. Some of us, not so much. I am sure you’ve been in a similar situation — there’s someone you want to get to know, but you think they are unapproachable. You overhear people talking about something you have an opinion on and desperately want to join, but you’re too nervous. Try them. You might be surprised, like I was, to discover that they are warm and welcoming, and sometimes, just as scared as you.

You’re not alone. It’s just taking you longer than some people to find friends. But you know what? It’s not a race. The best thing about it taking longer, I hav found, is that these friends you find in your 20s are your friends for real, they want to be your friend for you. They’re not your friends because your parents were friends, so you automatically grew up together. They’re not your friends because you all struggled through middle school together or because you had similar schedules in high school or because you were in the same sorority in college. The friends you make in your 20s are the friends who want to be your friend for the same reasons you want to be theirs. Because you’re weird, but cool in your own way, and so are they, so why not be weirdos together?

Yes, it takes time, and yes, it sucks. But I promise that it is not hopeless and I promise you that you will find friends and I promise you that it will be worth it.

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