In the past 20 years, I have moved 3 times. Each time, it was a VERY long distance and twice it was over an ocean. There was no easy drive on a weekend to see old friends. In each case there were huge geographical changes. All this mind you, after living the previous 20 years in the exact same location.
Even though I am one of those folks who considered her nuclear family to be her closest friends, I still need social interaction and friends and support and in each case I was starting from scratch. The expat overseas experience was a little bit different because it was a fairly small community where everyone eventually met everyone else, but there were still challenges. Not the least of it was rank and file and the knowledge of where everyone stood in that construct.
Now, I would not say I am an introvert as such. I can be content at home and have hobbies and interest to keep me busy, as I think everyone should. Once I get to know someone well, I can be fun, conversational, and even opinionated on occasion. It's the stepping out of the box, putting myself out there, walking up and introducing myself to people that kills me, and could keep me home if I let it. A handicap my second kid has in spades.
When it comes to the meeting people and the group thing, I see a couple distinct types of situations. The first type of group is when you are doing things together, around each other, with not a whole lot of conversation. Exercise groups of all types some book groups, some group sporting events are just some of the things that apply here. I say hello to many of the same people in my exercise class every time. We may make a joke or an aside or a comment, but at the end of the hour it's a "That was fun, see you next week!" kind of thing. Worthwhile and fun, but not leading to deeper connections if you will for the most part. My Olli classes come to mind as I write this. Active, engaging but not particularly social in the traditional sense. Except for the one time I took a morning and afternoon class in the same day and occasionally ate lunch with those who did the same.
The other kind of group is the type where people who enjoy doing the same kind of thing actually engage in conversations and getting to know you talk. You may or may not get more deeply involved with any of these folks, but your conversations are regular and not just on the surface. My knitting group meets weekly for two hours. Other than politics nothing is off the table. We have been know to discuss families, kids, our various hobbies, travel, retirement, plays and museums, things that frustrate us and so not more. Within this group of fourteen or so, some closer relationships of two or three have developed for some and not for others. However we get along well enough to occasionally go to craft and yarn fairs, have quarterly lunches, sometimes do happy hour and do other things as a group, with all or part of us.
Obviously, many social groups are a mix of the above. And both types a groups have value, just in different ways.I recently have been considering an evening book group that rotates among various wineries and brew pubs and has an obvious social part. Except that in my lazy retirement I'm finding more and more that I prefer to do stuff during the day.
So.... Meeting people from the semi-introvert perspective.
I need to be honest here, because this is my life and not an advice column. I cannot have this talk without the "C" word. Many of my readers are non churchgoers or are atheists. But I cannot talk about either socializing or volunteering without mentioning church, and I have an equal number of readers of faith. So here it is: In each place I have been lucky enough to find a church that both meshed with my scary progressive left wing hippy chick beliefs, AND had social and volunteer things that I was interested in.
Don't get me wrong. Finding these churches was not always as easy as it sounds. I did online searches, went to a bunch of churches and even crept out of a few before the end so I wouldn't have to do the new girl thing. But eventually I found the right place. It wasn't always the place closer to my home or where I expected to end up. And even after I found the church of course, I still had the old self introduction issue. Which is why I say if you are like me, said church has got to have a welcome newcomers place on the website. And if you stand at coffee hour and no one speaks to you, move on. Eventually, in each location,some approached me as and asked me about a volunteer idea and I said yes, and someone else invited me to the book group or some other thing and relationships were born. Here in Colorado I now am part of a Wednesday morning discussion group a monthly book group and various other things in addition to Sundays. While we literally discuss everything, since the Dead Sea Scrolls are now in Denver, that is our current topic. Without turning into one of those people, I will only say that there are tons of churches that let you show up, don't care if you know or say the prayers, won't ask to to say what you do or don't believe and still welcome you into the proverbial fold. At least everywhere I have lived.
Another way I met people each time I moved was through neighborhood connections. Here in Colorado I am part of my local Next Door online community. In addition to the "Whose dog was barking last night?" and "Does anyone have a landscaper they recommend?" type posts, there a various groups and meetings including bunco, walking, craft and book groups. While I'm not a regular attendee at any of these but just an occasional one, is been a chance to meet new neighbors beyond the wave as I walk by or brief over the fence commiserations. In Texas, my home owners association had a pool which had water aerobics and other group activities. I still had school aged kids in Germany, so some of my associations were parental in nature. But the town home association where we lived had regular picnics and events allowing me to connect with German neighbors, and on base newcomers groups were lifesaving.
The last (and most fun, and most difficult) way I have met people is to find folks who like to do stuff that I like to do. And yes, this is MUCH less easy than it sounds, especially for those of us who have introvert tendencies, let me tell you.While Meetup is a great resource, when someone is very outgoing tells you to "just check out Meetup", they don't get that introvert thing. I mean, my knitting group mentioned above (which meets at our local independent bookstore ), was on Meetup. The first week I admit I just walked around the store, smiled and looked at the group and left. The second time, I asked if this was the group, smiled and sat down and introduced myself. People talked around me, included me in the conversation but also let me converse at my own speed, which was huge for my comfort factor! It took a week or so before I was fully into the discussion of where I was from, how long had I been knitting and so on.
Now, some of the group or social experiences I tried were duds from the start. Some worked for me right up until they didn't. The structure changed, the folks in charge changed or I just realized that this group or the people weren't worth leaving home for if you will. And for all the talk above I actually limit the amount of social interaction outside of home, more than others (waving at fellow blogger Tamara) might. I do a knitting group, a discussion group and a volunteer thing each week. I also exercise including pool aerobics alone but around other people, if you will. I also admittedly have a things scattered throughout the month( a book group, occasional lunch groups, a drawing group if I am in the mood). When I am alone it is almost always by choice.
In other words, I found my comfy place. Enough outside stuff that I am both not lonely and also challenged mentally, socially and physically, and yet plenty of at home and alone time. Your social requirements may be different. The bottom line is that if we are the new fish jumping into the pond, we are the ones who need to step out of the box and take the reins of life. Because of a move, life changes or whatever.
And it isn't always easy. Sometimes it's hard. While were looking we can be lonely, bored, sad or all three. But I'm convinced that except for the most rural locations, we all will find the right people and activities for us. It may be slow. We may have to proverbially kiss a few frogs along the way. On occasion we may have to adjust our expectations especially in terms of things like geography. But we weren't meant to be alone, even the introverts among us.
And if I can build a social life from knowing nothing, knowing nobody, and not even knowing where I am....well, you can probably do the same.
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