So ill I had to restart it. Uprooting your life for a year to move across the country certainly is a restart if I ever heard of one. It was as if Penn gave me the classic advice: “have you tried turning it off and back on again?” Before I knew it, my year long reset brought me to Tucson. No college, no water, no car, and no friends. Contrary to Drake’s words , “no new friends” isn’t the move when you move. I would literally have no collective “we” to be in the club screaming because dogs are not allowed in most clubs, sorry Ellie.
I have called myself a “shy extrovert” or an “outgoing introvert” or some other middle-of-the-road social category. On one side, it is very rare that I feel like I require alone time and want to be by myself. However, I am also the person who takes solo trips to D.C. or Atlantic City when friends aren’t able to come along. I don’t mind being alone and independent, but I also think that being around others brings out the best of me. When I moved, I made a resolve: I would push myself to make friends.
A new city, a new experience, would not be the same without someone to share it with, someone to grow from. But I underestimated the difficulty of making friends as an adult without forced socialization that had been part of my life for the last 23 years. Sooo…. How?
A wise young woman once said “I wish we could all get along like we used to in middle school. I wish I could bake a cake made out of rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy.” Turns out, she doesn’t even go here, but I still think she was on to something. As a child, you’re fearless and rejection or social norms aren’t even on your mind. So putting yourself out there is easy peasy lemon squeezy.
But by the time you’ve gone through the terrors of middle school awkward phases; high school breakups and college rejection letters; and sub 30% grades on exams and papers, you’ve seen some shit. We can sometimes become calloused, cautious, and covered in disappointment. Then before you’re ready, you’re labeled an “adult,” even if you still drink juice boxes and watch cartoons. You weren’t taught how to do taxes, how to finance a house or car, how make massive career movies… or how to make friends in this foreign world.
So there I was, drenched in sweat from 100+ degree temperatures, car-less, and looking around for friends. All I saw was dirt and cacti. This was going to take some creativity.
I won’t claim for this to be a “how to adult friend” article, but below is my friend search journey and a list of experiences I will never forget.
From No New Friends to Knowing New Friends
Working through it
A lot of my friends who have entered the adult world have found their new friends at their work; co-worker turned co-life-adventure-person. Those people are usually those who work in larger companies. After searching the 20+ acres surrounding my office, I did in fact find (limited) civilization. I also found workaholics. two lefts don’t make a right. Also, they don’t do other “aholic” things with me.
Highschool is Cool
I work at an awesome school that also has some amazing and inspiring students. After adjusting to the area, I realized the second-family vibe, the late night work laughs, meme excitement commonalities, and so much more with the high school students I am blessed to work with.
I also realized high school was more years ago than it feels (maybe that’s why my aging body can’t bounce back from the late nights, soccer games, and greasy food like theirs can). The stories and connection we share is special, but it is difficult to extend beyond the school. It’s awkward to bum rides off 17 year olds to the movies while simultaneously needing to proctor exams, break down their papers with my red editing pen, and suppress the desire to laugh at their immature jokes.
3. Rideshare There
From the fifth most populated city in the U.S. to one that has less than a third of the people in double the land size. From no need for a vehicle because of busses, trollies, subways, and other public transportation to one with only a central bus system surrounded by rolling hills of cacti. The need for a car shouldn’t be surprising since I grew up in Idaho, but I must admit I missed the ease and access of public transportation. Even using Uber and Lyft required much more time and effort (and money) than I wanted to put in. However, on this one I’m glad I did.
One day I let the ambitious person inside get the best of me. I decided that I was going to walk to the grocery store… that was about 4 miles away… in 90 ish degrees… and no water. A word of advice: just don’t. Less than a mile into my walk I caved and ordered an Uber to pick me up instead (who was deeply concerned about why I was wandering in the desert). After shopping, I’m waiting outside Walmart for an Uber to return me to my new home. In drives (and self parks) a Tesla. Twenty minutes later I had finished my first non-work Arizona conversation, offended a long-time resident by bashing their arid state, brought them to the outskirts of town for what could have just as easily been an introduction to a horror movie… and made my first new friend (who later showed me Arizona isn’t so bad). Several deep conversations about life, countless amazing food bites, poor tennis matches, haunted houses and escape rooms, and a meteor shower later I said see ya later to a new life-long friend as he left (in his Uber) for Florida for his own new cross-country adventure.
We are often taught to fear strangers and new things. Don’t. Talk to them, ask them about their life, see if they have recommendations on a new place, laugh with them, for goodness sake be more than a flesh-like robot hooked to their cell-phone-life-line with them! Sure, be smart and cautious, but I truly believe in humanity. Most people are good. The are craving the real connection that you are – we all are. Put the phone down and talk.
4. The Facechat bumbling bagel thing.
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction… right? I had sworn to never get a Tinder – meeting people through an app is just weird. There’s the awkward attempts at pick up lines, people can be less authentic, it takes a lot more effort to type, and I don’t know how to pronounce your name just by reading it. Call me traditional, but what happened to the days where we would do you know, that human thing, where you interact with other people with our words and body language at the grocery store while picking up ice cream?
Oh, and I’m horrible at responding in the electronic world. Really horrible.
But, desperate times call for desperate measures, but not desperate enough to get a Tinder. So I started with Bumble. I thought this whole thing was completely ridiculous, but starting with an app whose developers really focus on healthy relationships – your choice between dating, friends, or networking – with the goal of empowering others was (in my opinion) the best route to go.
So I went through the anxiety of encapsulating myself in 300 characters and a handful of pictures. I liked that Bumble gives you the option of “date,” “BFF,” or “bizz”; I don’t like that these apps really are the epitome of judging a book by its cover. Commence swiping right as quick as when someone is looking over your shoulder and your self-conscious about your glorious selfie spread.
It’s all fun and games until someone sends you sex invitations in the most romantic way – “Are you opposed to sex?”
Couldn’t do it. Pun not intended.
Crazy Carl Changed Things
5. (hu)Man’s Best Friend
When all else fails: doggos to the rescue. As man’s designated best friend, they are easy to talk to, they don’t judge, and they love cuddles and adventures. Perfect friend. Also, Ellie needed friends, too. After purchasing Carl (my old man POS car), we started going on friend/dog searches.
For Arizona having nothing but dirt, there are some great dog parks in the area. Great people go there. Great grandparents.
My nightly escapades gave me the unexpected friendship of a gentle, intuitive elderly man who swears I’ll soon live in Puerto Rico; a pleasant ex-top-secret-government agent; a medically induced cloud nine karaoke fanatic; and a traveler who helps me work on my communication skills as we connect despite their deafness. Meet my new squad: the 60’s and up club + one lost millennial.
6. Real Connections
At the end of the day (or really towards the end of my Tucson stay) I have learned so much about myself, the world, and connections. It has been exhausting to attempt to connect by repeating life stories to those who don’t know you. It has been draining to introduce each new potential human relationship with enthusiasm and vulnerability. It has been worth it.
I’ve found a home in the adventure, and even picked up a few adventure buddies along the way. I can’t describe what it is like to be engulfed in the chaos of life’s turbulence and meet others who are in the same. Together, you experience, bitch about, and grow through the struggles together.
Shout out to the dog dad of Duke who made me reflect on the past, the present, and the future after a sunset motorcycle ride and the unexpected trial of grief following the lost of a loved one; to the friend who despite her young age, has conquered an age old enemy of cancer while being positive, real, and a blessing; to the engineer who inspires me to challenge myself to learn coding and immerse myself in new cultures; and to the sarcastic and silly economist who encourages never-ending witty banter, wanderlust, and blooming ambitions.
To all these friends who accept that I am a lost adventurer that spends most nights doing puzzles, playing cards (often alone), and reflecting on the drive to push for more meaning of life. Thank you for giving me me not just the “more”, thank you for sharing with me the “most” of life.
Human connection is a wonder and a gift.
But I still ride with my day one.