I recently read an article about the disintegration of American society and the fact that few of us have many close friends compared to other countries that have greater opportunities for forming friendships like outdoor cafes.
I’ve thought about this a lot. I moved to Santa Fe in 2016 and really did not make any friends in the five years I spent there. Work provided a social atmosphere since we dealt with cafe and chocolate customers, and I went to plenty of business networking events but no one really became “after work” friends. Part of that is my fault. I didn’t go do yoga or join a meetup group, because work consumed my time.
I’m sort of an introvert. I like being social but always feel awkward when I first meet people. So many people just chew your ear off when you first meet them and I don’t want to be “that person”. So instead I’m a good listener, and if appropriate I’ll jump into a conversation. I feel self -conscious because I didn’t live a typical life. With my mom passing away when I was 10 there was no guidance during the teenage years to tell me how to dress or act. No one to champion me to go to college or help me find my interests. I got married in my mid- twenties but didn’t have babies, so with women I often feel awkward or left out as they talk about their children. Dog moms are more relatable. It’s my own problem, feeling that way, but it’s more effort to overcome that and be more outgoing.
I had the good fortune to travel the world during my work years and experience a lot of cultures. I’ve had interesting careers- a diamond/gem buyer, a chocolatier, an innkeeper, a homebuilder. It feels awkward to reveal all those things when you are amongst people that took very traditional paths in life. It might seem like I was scattered but I wasn’t. I stayed in one career for over 25 years and ran a business on the side. While other people sat and watched stupid sit-coms on TV, I learned new skills like spreadsheets, or gardening or cooking. So there are a lot of facets to my personality (no pun intended) that got developed.
I pride myself on maintaining some key friendships throughout my life. I don’t really have family relationships, except with my cousin, so friends are very important to me. My friends go as far back as kindergarten. My close friends are scattered across the US and I actually don’t get to see them much. We text and email in between and when we do connect we just pick up where we left off, which is great. I miss them terribly and long for those shared adventures of travel or sitting around a fire or sharing a meal and having meaningful conversations. I realize that in some of these relationships I’ve been the one to make more of the effort to communicate over the years. My friends will acknowledge and appreciate that, but why are people so lazy? Do people not want new friends? They often seem to stay in their social circle and never extend an invite to a stranger.
Why do those Europeans think nothing of hanging out at that street café, and embracing each other in the street. Why are Americans so unfriendly and absorbed in their small worlds?
I moved to Texas not having any friends here and hope that changes over time. As you get older it seems harder to make friends but perhaps that’s a misconception. Surely others are looking for the same. It’s one reason I chose to live in a 55+ tiny home community. Off the bat we have something in common. Being older and not distracted every day with children needs. A desire to live more simply and sustainably. Hopefully to replace “stuff” with connectivity and conversation. My guess is that some of those people live tiny to have more money to travel or pursue a hobby. I’m excited to discover and get to know the people in my tiny community who may already have a lot in common with myself.
I already plan to extend an invite to my neighbors to hang out on my porch and try some chocolates or sip some wine. I’m far better at being the host than the guest and it’s the easiest way to overcome my shyness.
Please join in the conversation. Do you have a large or small social circle? How do you meet and make new friends? Do you keep up with your old ones? What makes you feel awkward or self- conscious when you meet new people?