Making friends as a kid is easy. You toddle over to someone about your size, introduce yourself, play a bit, maybe share something, and that’s it. You’re friends.
Maybe it’ll last, maybe it wont. You don’t worry about any of that, because for now you have someone to share things and experiences with. You have a buddy!
Somewhere along the way we lose that magic.
As we grow up we become infected with the fear of rejection. We project our own worst thoughts about ourselves onto others, we judge each other and imagine they’re judging us. We write people off for the smallest things, we ask too much of people and when they don’t measure up we take it painfully personally.
What if you could go back to making friends like you did when you were little?
What if you could, just for a moment, put aside the fear of things going wrong and concentrate on what could go right? How would you live your life differently?
Would you go after your dream job? Declare your undying love for someone? Maybe just say “hi” to someone who looks like they might be fun? Where would these things lead you?
We all imagine living our best life, the one with the job we love, the partner who adores us and a handful of friends we’d do anything for. The thing is, the only thing stopping you… is you.
Let go of the fear of what could go wrong and start thinking about what could (and probably will!) go right.
Starting with making a new friend.
You could say hello to that person with kind eyes at your coffee shop. Strike up a conversation with someone on the train. Chat to the person on the cross-trainer next to you. Just look for a conversation, rather than the relationship of a lifetime! If the conversation goes well, extend it.
My best “Mum Friend”? We met in the park! I’d given birth earlier that week and went out for a walk. I didn’t make it far, just to the closest patch of green with a bench. I took a seat (tentatively!) and a deep breath. Not long after a girl walked by and sat on the next bench over. She unbundled herself from her big coat and revealed a bump, I said “oh, that was me last week!” and we started chatting. I suggested we get coffee sometime, we traded numbers, she gave birth a couple weeks later, and now we walk for hours and hours, chattering all the way. We hope our girls will go to the same school and have grand plans for them to be the best of friends too! A friendship based entirely on two people toddling up to someone about their size.
I’ve made friends in yoga studios, breaking the ice by chatting about something inane like leggings, which led to “are you free after this? There’s a great juice place around the corner if you fancy one?” I’ve made friends in queues for restaurants, at weddings, sporting events, in bars and in offices. Have they all lasted? No. Not all friendships are built to last.
“Friends for a reason. Friends for a season. Friends for a lifetime” as my mum always says.
Friends for a reason, maybe you sit next to each other at work or workout together at the gym. A lighthearted friendship based on convenience.
Friends for a season, a lot of people’s university friends fall into this category. People you can’t imagine life without, but when your life moves on, the friendship stops working and sort of fizzles out.
Friends for a lifetime. These are rare, and come out of nowhere! I found one of these when she asked me for a light and I looked at her in complete disgust (apparently). But we kept chatting and “friends for a reason” (it turns out we were taking the same class) blossomed into a friendship I’m thankful for every.single.day. Valentina stood beside me on my wedding day and I consider her a soulmate.
Another blossomed from an introduction through a work friend. Julia and her husband Thomas were visiting London, didn’t know anyone and I said I’d take them to tea. Little did I know I’d accidentally booked us a “foie-gras afternoon tea experience”… and they were vegans! Despite the rocky start we fell into a friendship that has taken us around the world together, Thomas was my husband’s best man, and they’re expecting their own little girl any day now.
I could do this all day! But my point is, the lasting friendships, they come out of the strangest places. You never know when one will pop up, so don’t go looking for them. Don’t put that pressure on it. Just make a new friend and see where it goes.
Pressure can be a big thing in friendships. It’s easy to expect too much of people, to expect perfection.
No one friend can be your everything. Just let them be one thing, and find someone else to fill the gap that they don’t.
To put it in the simplest terms possible, maybe you love tennis (topical!) you live for it, you want to play as much as you can, watch it on tv, go to Wimbledon with your autograph book and pour through every autobiography you can get your hands on. Someone you thought was your bestie just doesn’t get it, they don’t want to talk about tennis, watch it, play it, and they certainly don’t want to fork out for tickets to the final. Don’t take it personally. Go alone, you’ll probably make a new friend at the tennis that way! Someone who loves it as much as you do. Maybe you won’t have much else in common, but that’s fine.
Not all friends tick every box. Just love them for the ones they do tick and let the rest go.
Pressure can also be tricky as adults because everyone’s so busy all the time. We forget birthdays and miss milestones. Not because we don’t care, but because life tends to get in the way!
The best thing you can do is just let it go. Whenever you see each other start where you left off, just have fun rather than hashing out old resentments.
Don’t be the “you never text me…” person, just text them instead!
Two of my rescue dogs are actually a great example of this.
Hector is a real guilt-tripper. If he wants attention he’ll glance sideways at you from his bed. If (god forbid) you don’t notice, he’ll sulk. Mope around staring daggers at you and then go off and do something fiendish in the garden.
Teddy is a lover. If he wants attention he’ll run at you as fast as his legs will carry him, bounce all over you, lick you on the nose and say “Hey! Cuddle me!” If you stop, he’ll do a quiet little growl and remind you to keep tickling.
Who do you think gets what he wants? Teddy! Because he says “hey, I love you!” rather than “you don’t love me”.
So as the old cliché goes, if you love someone set them free. Let them be busy, then get in touch and say “let’s do something!” rather than “you’re always too busy for me”. You’re much more likely to get what you want that way.
Toxic friendships however are not worth holding onto.
You deserve good things and you are wholly responsible for your own happiness. Friends are supposed to make you feel good. If you don’t walk away from spending time with someone feeling like the best version of yourself, better for having spent that time with them, then something’s wrong. Sure, everyone has off days, even off weeks! But if someone consistently makes you feel bad, you are under no obligation to keep that friendship going.
Don’t “ghost” anyone and just disappear.
If they’re not a good friend maybe just be a little less available, still friendly but without going out of your way to hang out one on one. Eventually the friendship will just naturally drift away because it’s not being nurtured.
If they’re close to you it’s harder. If you have history then I think you both deserve closure, like the end of a relationship. If someone’s hurting you, you need to tell them, give them the opportunity to fix it. If they continue, it’s up to you how many chances you give them, I can’t tell you what’s right. I’m guilty of giving people far too many chances. I forgive too easily, I forget too! I just remember the good things and fall into that circle of abuse where you believe the “I’m sorrys” and then it all happens again. I’m getting better at it though. I think it’s something that comes with growing your own self respect, once you value your happiness and time, you’re less likely to let people fuck with it! To put it frankly.
Everyone gets lonely. I’m sharing this post with you because it is by far my most requested blog post. You are not alone. Every time you feel as though you are, remember that there’s someone two doors down feeling just the same!
“There’s a wonderful old Italian joke about a poor man who goes to church every day and prays before the statue of a great saint, begging, “Dear saint-please, please, please…give me the grace to win the lottery.” This lament goes on for months. Finally the exasperated statue comes to life, looks down at the begging man and says in weary disgust, “My son-please, please, please…buy a ticket.” Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love.
Don’t sit at home praying for a friend. If you want to meet people, you have to go and meet people. Join a club, go to a class, travel, walk, adventure.
Be a Teddy, not a Hector and get out there. Take that huge terrifying bungee jump that is risking failure. The more you do, the more you succeed, the more you fail, the easier it’ll get, the more fun you’ll have and the more friends you’ll make along the way.
You never know which ones will turn into family.