I gotta hand it to my mom.
Even though I mailed her Mother’s Day gift late, single her out fairly frequently on this blog and moved 1,688 miles from my hometown, she still sends me interesting articles.
With a crazy-ass name like “A 75-Year Study Said This Is the #1 Thing That Leads to Happiness – A Stunning New Study Says Americans Just Can’t Do It,” you know you’re in for a treat.
Do YOU know the #1 thing that leads to happiness? If not, I’m about to blow your mind.
It’s friendship! As it turns out, making friends brings us more fulfillment and happiness than money, sex and weed combined.
But we’re all really shitty at it.
This is, apparently, because we’re all way too busy working and raising kids, or so sayeth the author.
He may be right on that point. But I’d go even farther and say we’re ALSO concerned about things like:
- Being in control / knowing what to expect
- Looking stupid
- Feeling uncomfortable and out of our element
- Having to face up to awkward truths about ourselves (like maybe that “making bread in your pants” story is a tad played out by now)
It’s unbelievably weird making new friends as an adult. The only way to do it is to force yourself to hang out in new places, try new things and insert yourself into the lives of strangers.
All of which suck a big fucking fat one.
When Nick and I set out earlier this year to refresh our friend roster, we had no idea what to expect or even where to start.
But we knew in our respective guts it was time for a change.
At first, it looked a little something like this: I’d be at the park with my kids. Another mom would nod and seem friendly. I’d swoop in and press for her Facebook details, ultimately scaring the shit out of her and guaranteeing I’d never see her at that particular park again.
For Nick, things were even weirder.
It seems that dudes are exceptionally difficult to befriend. Despite what they’d like to think, they’re every bit as cliquey as women. And if you ask for a phone number? Forget it. You may as well pull out your dick and wave it around.
But we kept trying. And failing. And trying again. And, as a result, we got better at it.
Because meeting new people and making friends is a muscle we’ve all exercised at one point or another; it just takes a little time to build back up after sitting dormant all these years.
And making new friends is your lifeblood, people – you need to do it at least once every decade.
Science shows that our cells turn over about every 7 years. This means that every 7-ish years, we literally become new people. Kinda explains the whole “7-year itch” thing, huh?
If you’re paying attention, you may notice that your insides shift within a similar time frame.
You develop new interests, hobbies, curiosities. You decide that you drink too much or that working out is the only thing keeping you from hormonally-driven homicide.
You make the necessary changes. And by making these changes, you can piss off a lot of your friends, who like things just fine the way they are.
Before you know it, your old relationships start to feel like a Birkenstock left out in the humid jungle rains – not a great fit.
I’m not saying “be a dick to everyone you don’t like anymore,” but it sure is nice to get around some fresh faces and new perspectives… not that you’ll agree with all of them.
Your new friends probably won’t do things the way you do them.
They’ll throw fancy-pants dinner parties with wine that costs MORE than $10. Their idea of “fun” will be hosting game night, which makes your competition-averse skin crawl.
What if you embarrass yourself? What if your mean streak comes out and they catch a glimpse of your bitchy side? What if you make a joke about “Scooby snacks” and your weed reference is less than appreciated?
All of these things will probably happen. They have happened to us on our journey to dig up new relationships.
At the time, it sucked. Our discomfort led us to question ourselves, our insane need to jump from the safety of our known group, and (at the worst moments) our value as humans.
The kaleidoscope of feelings that wash over you during the Friend Quest is dizzying: rejected, adored, pushed out, welcomed, judged, connected. And so on, and so on.
And that’s not even the worst part.
When you seek new horizons, your identity as you know it will undoubtedly blur. It’s terrifying and shocking to feel un-anchored like that. We aren’t designed to like it.
But if you want to change, grow and discover the best parts of yourself, you have to put yourself into new situations – opportunities to test your mettle and uncover new depths of courage.
We forget so quickly after elementary school, high school and/ or college that the intersection of uncomfortable and uncertain is exactly where the magic happens.
We grow up, we barricade ourselves in our respective homes, hang out with the same old friends.
(I’m not knocking old friends. Old friends are the best. They help us connect with parts of ourselves we fear losing and remind us what NEW friendships can one day feel like).
But you have to get out there and grow, dude.
This past weekend, my husband and I hosted a barbecue and invited everyone we knew. About 20 people showed up, and it was a delightful mix of friends old and new.
Were we nervous that folks might not get along? Sure.
Were there a few awkward moments? Well, yeah.
But I have to tell you, the amazingly colorful conversations that occurred among a group of varied backgrounds, economic situations and life choices was priceless.
Dare I say, it’s exactly what we need in this day and age of over-engagement with technology and under-engagement with real-life humans who are different from you.
So go! Introduce yourself to someone. Awkwardly ask for their number or Facebook or email.
Think of it as a service to your country – new friends are the antidote to the perspective and political homogeneity that is killing us.
Or, if it’s easier, think of it as a service to yourself. None of us want to feel stuck in an old routine that stifles creativity and excitement.
Start your journey. See where the path leads. What if, in meeting someone new, YOU become someone new?
At the very least, you won’t be labeled one of those “Americans [who] just can’t do it” by Inc. magazine.