This morning, as I left for work, I cycled past somebody I knew and said a cheery ‘hello’ as I rode by. Shortly afterwards, I passed somebody else I knew. I did the same thing. It was a slightly more breathless ‘hello’, but a ‘hello’ nonetheless. Then I passed somebody else. Another hello. This one was both breathless and sweaty but, I mean, don’t live up a huge hill if you don’t want to see suffering cyclists on the reg.
My point with all of this is twofold:
- I cycle every day and it never seems to take any less effort and I would really like to know why.
- I’ve realised that I’m actually not that bad at making friends.
As adults, I feel like making friends is something we think we’ve forgotten how to do. Like, for the most part we definitely know we have had the ability to make friends at some point in our lives, because we have friends to prove that hypothesis. But who can honestly remember how they got there?
This is starting to feel like the build-up to some life-changing advice that’s really worth something, so I should quickly confirm that it absolutely is not that. What I did is exactly what the thousand other articles you’ve probably already read have already told you to do. But sometimes it helps to have something super-obvious reiterated one last time. So:
1. Get comfortable doing things alone
If it takes a couple of weeks to get your new-and-improved, bustling social calendar into gear, it doesn’t matter. But if there’s a show you want to see, or a film, or one of the crazy cinnamon buns from the cafe down the road that looks like they’re on white chocolate steroids (just me?) – do the thing. It might initially feel like everybody’s looking at the loser on their own, but that is absolutely not the case. Try to count how many times you’ve been out with your mates and spent the entire time focusing on the person having a quiet hotdog in the row behind you in the cinema instead of watching the film you paid through the nose to see. I bet it’s literally never.
2. Join a club
Or any other kind of regular event that happens locally. If you move from a big city to a small one, you might not think there’ll be much happening, but there’s probably something. All places are not created equal, but within walking distance of my flat in Falmouth there’s a paddleboarding club, a surf lifesaving club, tap classes, yoga, and a choir. And I have joined them all. I’m doing more extra-curricular activities than some middle-class children. But now people would notice if I died, and isn’t that all any of us want?
3. Ask people out
Nobody knows you want to hang out with them if you don’t tell them. So if you want to try the great zumba class your colleague keeps talking about, you’re probably going to have to say something. If you want to try a new bar, and you don’t want to go on your own (remembering all the time, however, that that would be fine because we all read and absorbed Point 1) invite someone else along. Remember that nobody is a mind-reader, because the world is not X-Men. Are there mind-readers in X-Men? (Probably also stick to references you know things about while making conversation)
4. Believe it will happen
Guess what? For the first couple of months, you might find yourself sitting at home in the evening scouring Meetup.com for anything that isn’t another night of speed-dating for over-fifties divorcees (seriously, how do they not all have seventeen partners by now?). You probably won’t even notice it happening, but all of a sudden the calendar starts looking a little bit busier. Then there’s a couple more numbers in your phone. Maybe you end up in a Whatsapp group or three.
And then, one day, you might find you leave your house and see someone you know. Maybe you see more than one person. You give your best cheery wave. And then you suddenly realise, just like that, that you’ve made it.