Friday, April 13, 2018

Meeting New Friends When You Move

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.

Trust me.


20 comments:

  1. This is all really good personal advice . . . thank you for posting. B has found friends thru her church (a regular one, not a hippy dippy one, not an evangelical one), and we've also found friends thru our community learning center, and a local walking group. My sister-in-law, who moved to a new community when she retired, gave us the requisite advice which has proved pretty useful: Say yes to everything.

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    1. Oh yes, I should have mentioned that as well, Tom. I have a good friend who joined literally everything when she first moved here from the local newcomers club to church, and then slowly cut back.

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  2. When I was younger, making friends was not a problem (even though I am very much an introvert). As I have gotten older and my friends have left, I find in a great deal more difficult to make friends. I have two left.....and even now have problems getting out to visit one of them.

    God bless.

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    1. Jackie, I agree that you can have the same issues even if you never move.

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  3. I admire people who can pick up and move long distances. I'm not sure I'm cut from that cloth. It makes sense that forming new friendships is made easier by finding a church and volunteering. (Not my cup of tea, but I do get it.) Meeting new people is one of the hardest things I've had to deal with in recent decades.

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    1. It can be difficult. I'm lucky that I have one of those gather and chat type hobbies as wel, as the other two. And often my social justice friends cross over thethe crafty side, if you will.

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  4. It's often difficult when You live in the same place. Jobs, committment to family, and life have disrupted my time and friendships. Now with more time it's hard to pick up old friendships with deeper connections.

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    1. I also think that when we retire and others are still working, there is a different dynamic as well. While I enjoy going out in the evening on occasion, I prefer to do most of my socialization and leaving the house on the weekdays, lol

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  5. Really enjoyed this post and the good suggestions. My church (social justice oriented and liberal) is the main source for my friendships as is a place that I've volunteered at for a long time. However, I so miss my long time friend who passed away 5 years ago. Having history with someone is so special.

    Sheila

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  6. It seems that my circle of friends has evolved as my life has. There are still those long time friends but there are also new ones. Others have dropped off. I meet new people through my social activities, i.e. hosting house concerts, volunteering at the school and community association, card & dinner parties. I engage in activities that interest me and meeting people is a spin-off.

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  7. I like how you have found your comfy place and so have I. Like you I visited perhaps 5 churches 5 years ago and found a great one. I met one of my BFFs in Bible study there, and another BFF when we worked together for 10 years. I am a semi-introvert too and celebrate differences which make the world interesting.

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    1. The church search is often....interesting

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  8. I am always grateful when a fellow introvert shares stories about how they engage with others and live life outside of their comfort zone. I, too, have found that our church has been a wonderful way to participate in group activities. Several years ago, I volunteered to be a greeter and usher at Sunday morning services. After a "warm-up" period, I found that I truly loved being there and look forward it to every week. That led to other volunteer projects and group activities that have been very rewarding, and have enabled me to meet and make friends with many more people than I would have otherwise. Great post!

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    1. Thanks. I hope your allergies are also gone.

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  9. I am such an introvert! Making new friends is hard, but friends make life interesting and worthwhile. Now... I need to get out of this house and do just that.
    Thanks for the motivation!

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    1. Its easier said than done sometimes for sure.

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  10. This is a great post! And helpful. I am moving out of state in 5 months. Thank you!

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  11. Hi Barbara! I haven't visited your site in several weeks...it's been a busy month, so I'm late commenting on this post. But I believe it is an excellent one because it is very truthful and also provides good advice. As a writer I find myself isolated much of the week and I really crave interaction with other people. I think I am a combination introvert/extravert because I need downtime, but then I need to be around others too. I especially appreciate good conversation about things that matter to me. So I'm going to take some of your advice and put myself out there a bit more. And I liked what Tom S said....just say yes! ~Kathy

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Thanks for stopping by to comment. I love to hear from others, love to hear all points of view, and all comments are welcome. Just leave the profanity and insults at home, OK? Thanks!!

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