By moving as an adult, I mean moving when you are moving for a job rather than to go to school. Or I guess you could be going to school but not living on campus. I’m talking about when you’re moving somewhere on your own, as an independent person, and have no set structure in place to give you an automatic social and personal life the way a full time school setting would. Here are some things to remember:
Everybody is insular (everywhere)
By insular I mean they like the people and places they already know. Even in New York, do you know what my friends there do? They hang out at the same bars with the same people that they have been hanging out at and with since 2002. I’m not saying that’s a good thing or a bad thing. It’s just what they and everybody do.
The difference between bigger cities and smaller cities and towns, where most people either never leave or leave and then come back, is that in bigger cities you have a lot more people who understand what it’s like for you as a new person to the city, and may make more of an effort to reach out to you. But at the end of the day the people who have been there longer than you have are going to have established social connections and you’re not.
It’s nobody’s job to be your friend
I was pretty disgruntled for a while when I moved to Cincinnati years ago because I really liked my work friends and we would all hang out and do lunch and happy hours and stuff but then once the weekend rolled around, nobody invited me out. A holiday with no family around? Nobody thought to invite me to join them. I was like, “Aren’t these people my friends?” And I would wallow in my misery and read and write lots of self pitying blog posts about how making friends as an adult was so hard.
What I realize now is that it is on me to make friends with people and not the other way around. If you want more friends you have to be a friend. Be the inviter. And if you do that over and over and people never reciprocate, eventually you have to call it a wash and look elsewhere because the fact is that if they really liked you, they would start including you. You have to do the work though. That’s just the way it is.
You have to join or start a ton of groups, even if it’s dumb stuff that you would totally never do in your normal life
I think the only new group I joined for years in Cincinnati was my book club which I found on Craigslist, and which in the end turned out to be the source of some really wonderful friendships (and some bat shit crazies who were good gossip fodder). But it was not enough. I didn’t join a running group until over 3 years there, and what the hell was I waiting on? I think I was probably waiting on having someone to do it with. Dumb.
When you’re new in a place you need to put yourself out there in every way imaginable. You’re not going to find awesome new friends in a lot of the groups you join but it’s a numbers game. The more things you do, the more you increase the odds that you will meet someone cool somewhere. So get your ass to that Dungeons and Dragons meetup.
The internet is your friend
There places like Meetup.com and Craigslist for a reason and that reason is because it is hard to meet people as an adult. Anybody who is going to judge you for looking for friends online is someone who you are better off being rejected by anyway.
Throw all shame/self-doubt/inhibitions out the window and make people be friends with you.
You don’t want to approach people to be your friend because you think it will make you look lame or pathetic or friendless? Well guess what, you are lame and pathetic and friendless so get over it. The only way to fix the situation is to force yourself to approach people.
Are you at the bar and there’s someone cool there of your gender who you want to talk to, but you’re afraid they’ll think you’re hitting on them? Who cares? If they get weirded out, then you will have dodged the bullet of befriending a homophobe.
Do you want to start some type of club or group but think posting on Craigslist is scary? Get with it, your email address will be hidden and it’s a lot safer statistically than walking out your front door after 10 pm. Actually I have no idea because I just made that statistic up but seriously, some of my best friends are from craigslist and I haven’t been raped or murdered yet.
Did you meet someone who seemed cool who would have lived upstairs from you while you were looking for apartments, and do you remember the address of the apartment they lived in, and do you want to hang out with them? Send them a letter! They’ll definitely write back and want to be friends and not think you’re a crazy stalker. To be honest this is not true, I tried this and the girl never wrote me back but it’s no skin off my nose. Who cares if someone I will never see again thinks I’m weird? And who knows, maybe her grandma died or something and maybe one day she’ll write me back and we’ll become BFFs.
Don’t move somewhere where you literally know no one
At 33, I’m old enough where I think it’s just crazy to do that. I know enough people in enough places that I can pick from. I really can’t imagine starting up totally from scratch at this point. But if you have to, then take these other tips and suck it up.
I’m for real. Meditation will make you realize that a) being alone is not so bad and b) you have a lot of other issues to deal with in your head so maybe this transition/solitary time is going to be good for you. Plus meditation groups are a great place to meet people (not while meditating though please).
Take (legal!) drugs if necessary
Are you like super depressed and unable to leave home because you are so lonely and/or anxious? Get your ass on some Prozac or Xanax or Lorazepam or whatever the hell you need and keep it moving. I mean it, get over your shit however you need to. Nobody is going to want to make friends with Debbie Downer and then you are going to be all in this vicious cycle of, “I can’t make friends because I’m depressed and I’m depressed because I can’t make friends.” I guarantee you that you like at least one of your friends solely because they are properly medicated and you don’t even know it.
Force yourself to go out at least once a week
Going to a movie by yourself is actually really fun, and in fact I prefer it because you can sit wherever you want and nobody will try to talk to you in the middle of it or eat your popcorn. Going out to eat by yourself is also super fun because you can stare at people and Facebook the whole time and again, nobody will try to get you to share. Personally, I’m not really into the whole going to bars alone thing because I always feel like that is an invitation to get raped in an alley somewhere, or at a minimum get stalked by some weirdo. I do like going to coffee shops and reading and listening to people’s coffee shop conversations though.
You need to do these things and get yourself out, otherwise you’re going to become some weird recluse. Also, you need to have something to talk about for when you do actually end up meeting people. Nobody wants to hear about how you sit around and watch the Harry Potter movies on repeat every weekend. Trust me, I know this.