by Christy Gualtieri
It’s always been my experience that making friends was much more difficult as an adult than at any other time in my life. Maybe it’s been yours, too. It’s easy for young children to make friends; they just kind of tag along with each other on the playground, and they’re usually easily accepted by their peers. School and even college provide an easier way to make friends as well, especially if you’ve known the same kids throughout the years. But when my husband and I were first married, we barely knew anyone in town except ourselves. When we’d go out to bars or out to dinner, we’d think of ways to try to make friends…and fail miserably.
“I got it,” I’d tell him. “You should just go over to that group of guys over there and ask to be their friend.”
The look on my husband’s face was one of bewilderment. “I’m not doing that!”
“Yeah! Just go up and say, ‘Hey, you’re watching the game? We’re watching the game, too. Want to be friends?”
…“You’re out of your mind.”
“Well, I can’t!” I protested. “I can’t go up by myself and ask to be their friend! It would look bad; I’m a married woman!”
“So go up to a bunch of women and ask to be their friend!”
“No! That’s weird!”
We’d try and think of other ideas, but we’d always come up empty. Eventually, we made friends through the church we attended and the job I got a few months later, and now we’re proud to say we are friends to many wonderful people in the Pittsburgh area. When I became a mom, the Internet was invaluable to helping me find other moms to meet up and socialize with.
All of those friends have added a great richness to our lives, and maybe they mean more to me because I’ve had to become more vulnerable and work a bit harder to get them. They’ve been there to listen, to give advice, to share laughter and perspective. They’ve boosted my spirits, gave me a lot to think about, and helped me look at life in many different ways.
My family went for a hike this past weekend, and at this park there’s an area reserved for toddlers and young children to explore. Two large above-ground tunnels stood in the area, their bottoms dusted with sand. The last time we were there about two months ago, and my son had no trouble heading right into the long tunnel and playing until we had to practically drag him out. This time, though, he was hesitant; and it wasn’t until another little boy, around the same age, ran into the tunnel completely fearless that my son followed suit. It didn’t matter that my son had never met this boy in his life – within minutes, he’d made a new friend. How do the friends in your life help you get through your fears?
When you’re having a bad day, it helps to reach out to your friends. Doing so will help you feel less alone, will help you blow off some steam, or will help you get some new perspective on your troubles. But even when you’re having a good day, shooting them an email or a text reminding them of how much their friendship means to you can do so much to help their own day get better.
Medical studies have shown that having friends not only helps your social life, but your physical and emotional health too. People who have friends who are not family members live longer, have less stress, and report higher self-esteem. If you have trouble finding friends outside of your family (completely understandable), try going online to find different meet-up sites for people with interests like yours. There are meet-up groups for pretty much every interest out there, from outdoor activities like hiking or biking, to film and literature groups, to dancing groups, and even groups that are interested in the paranormal! They may be able to help you step outside your comfort zone, and, who knows – might help you see a better checkup at your next doctor’s visit, as well!
Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at openthoseojos.wordpress.com, and tweets @agapeflower117.
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