As a person who has moved three times in the past three years, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to find community in new places. Honestly, it’s hard to find community at all as an adult. High school gave us automatic community, with some friendships going back as far as elementary school, but even the new kids make friends fairly easily. For many, college is the first time we have to initiate community ourselves, but even then we find ourselves surrounded by others with whom we share a common experience. Dorms, clubs, sororities/fraternities, and even classes give us easy opportunities to strike up lighthearted conversations that can lead to some of the best friendships of our lives. But what happens when you don’t have these collaborative environments to facilitate these connections?
When my husband and I first got married we lived in the same small city in Virginia where he grew up. We had a wonderful group of friends that exceeded my hopes and dreams about what community and friendship could be. The idea of leaving this group of amazing people was one of my biggest hesitations when we first began discussing a cross-country move. Why would we leave all of them behind, just to move to a place where we knew no one? This is still a question I ask myself on lonelier days.
When we first arrived in California, we knew two people in our new home city. By the time we left over two years later, we had made approximately twelve friends…combined. While we have some great memories with these new friends, our time spent with them was sparse. A few of these new friends were really into going to bars and partying late into the night. A few of them had kids and surrounded themselves with other friends who also had kids. A few of them were coworkers who had very different lives outside of work, returning home after happy hours to families, side jobs, and significant others.
Dan and I felt a little stuck in the middle: too laid back to enjoy the raucous bar scene, but also too childless to fit in with our friends with kids’ group of other parent friends. With our only source of meeting new people being our jobs, we ended up spending most of our time either exploring our new surroundings together or just hanging out at home.
When we left California, I was determined to be better at making friends in our next city than I had been there. Looking back, I know that we are the only people responsible for our lack of community there. I also know that our opportunity for meeting new people would have grown exponentially if we had only been more wiling to say “yes.”
Saying “yes” can be really hard, especially when you feel like you don’t fit in or are intimidated by something. This is something I am still learning to do, but it has already paid off in the few short months we’ve been settled in our new home. I know I have a long way to go in following this advice myself, but here is what I have learned so far about saying yes:
— Sometimes you’d rather stay in and watch Netflix. Saying yes and going out anyway may be the start of a new weekly tradition, a new close friendship, or simply the encouragement to get out and enjoy life more.
— Sometimes the idea of a new group of people can be really intimidating, especially if they all know each other already. Saying yes may introduce you to your new best friend, or at the least give you a night out full of laughter and joyful energy.
— Sometimes whatever you’re invited to isn’t really something that interests you, or sometimes it might be something that scares you. Saying yes may prove to you that this new thing is far more interesting than you imagined, or far less scary. You may have a blast playing laser tag, or find out that your fear of heights can be overcome while rock climbing.
— Sometimes you aren’t invited anywhere at all, but are tempted to stay home instead of signing up for that new workshop or going alone to a gallery opening that piqued your interest. Saying yes will never disappoint in these situations. Both are great ways to meet new people who obviously share your interests, and you may have just stumbled into a new hobby.