Making friends in a new city
...as an adult.
Finding friends in a new city is never easy. Well, sometimes it is, if you already have an established group that you are moving INTO that you have a guaranteed place in. But even then, people will move around, and a seamless transition is never guaranteed.
Add the adult subtitle to this scenario and you’ve got yourself in a pickle, don’t ya!
For many people, this big life event is hard. Discovering a true connecting friendship as an adult in a city of millions that flows easily and will last a lifetime - how often do these friendships truly come along?
I always think it will happen immediately or that it should have already happened if it hasn’t. And that something must be terribly wrong if it hasn’t already happened by my brain’s imaginary timeline.
In LA, I had a group of five girlfriends. We were very close. We had a text chain and we did so much together. Birthdays, trips, housewarming parties, quarantine picnics. They were my family out there. I so badly want to re-create that here in New York. I’ve found some great friends here, but not part of a larger group like in LA. I sometimes think I am trying to find that exact same group of friends, but in New York.
And then I remember it took me four years to find those girls.
It takes time to experience life in a new city and “get the hang of it”. With each new season, each new month, the city will change, and you need to get your bearings. Walking down Bleecker in August will be an entirely different than walking down it in January. Through sunshine, wind, and snow, your city will transform and feel like a different place each season. Finding out which grocer has the granola you like, discovering when, and why, the laundromat should be avoided at certain times due to overcrowding, this all takes energy and integration, and one should not undermine that.
Time Takes Time
So what makes me a hopeful optimist? Friends can never be replaced. They can only be added upon. So, a few notes to self. To Lee, love Lee.
Be open to new friendships and people. Give yourself the delight of being surprised by who you encounter. Stay open.
Easy does it, but do it. There is a delicate balance of effort and rest when it comes to finding your social circle in a new city: we must be simultaneously gentle but steadfast with ourselves. It takes effort to acclimate to a new place, and especially those who are prone to anxiety, all this newness can make us tired and not want to keep trying. But this tiredness can look/feel like or even lead to depression1, and if we don’t try at all, things won’t magically change for us. We deserve love and friendship, and true friendship takes time to build. It can be hard, but time takes time. I know you hate it, but it’s true.
But also. And most importantly. Be so gentle with yourself. Moves are never easy and sweet one, you deserve to love on yourself. (I’ve never quite understood how some people seem to seamlessly move to a new city with nearly no issues- teach me your ways!)
Say yes to going to parties where you only know one person. You will feel worse if you say no. There are only so many times people will invite you to things if you keep saying no until they stop inviting you, period. The truth is, Lee, you won’t meet anyone sitting at home wishing you were meeting people.
Friends with Marionberries
I met one of my best friends in LA in a strange way, by, you guessed it, not staying at home. In 2015, I was asked to make some granola for a furniture popup in a studio in downtown LA. I showed up with my big jar of granola for this yogurt bar. I was standing awkwardly by my granola amongst a few dozen people, probably wishing I could shrink thanks to good ‘ol fashion social anxiety! I didn’t know what to do with my body as it took up space.
Without further ado, a man and a woman pulled up on a motorcycle. They were both wearing helmets and sleek black leather jackets. The girl took off her helmet and walked over to my granola. She opened the container and helped herself. I think I said something like, “I made that”. She smiled and we started talking about our love of food, cooking, and farming. She was heading back up to Portland soon, where she was from, and would I like any marionberries? She said she would bring some back for me to try. We exchanged numbers and I didn’t expect to hear from her anytime soon, as the usual “I’ll be in touch!” amongst adults is always 50/50.
A week later she called me and said she had my marionberries and would I like to meet up to hang and try the berries. I met up with her and she handed me a quart of room temperature, slightly bruised marionberries from Oregon. I could barely believe it. She had handpicked marionberries and actually thought to pack a quart in her carry on, bring it through TSA, and give it to me in LA.
From there, a beautiful friendship blossomed. We had both moved to LA around the same time and had similar lifestyles. We cooked weekly dinners together, texting recipes to each other and trying out different pizza doughs from scratch. We created our own salad that I still make every fall to this day.
This friend introduced camping and shared her love of nature and quiet with me. She took me on my first major camping trip. We camped so much together. She taught me to slow down. She taught me the joy of putting my phone down for the weekend and cooking breakfast slowly by the morning fire as I drank my coffee and she drank her tea.
A few years later she took me to Sauvie Island and we picked berries together.
I won’t lie, I’ve been looking for this girl here in New York. But she’s not here in New York. She, too, moved back to Portland around the same time I moved back to New York. I know I won’t find her here. She is irreplaceable. But it does not mean that there are not new friends for me to make. I just gotta keep my eyes open and keep saying yes.
My use of depression here is in the non-clinical, situational type.