they say making friends gets harder as you become an adult. i mean, sure, it’s easy to bond with someone over shared goldfish crackers and capri suns, and even years later, when you both find yourself as little fishes in the big pond that is college life. it’s easy to find commonality with someone when you’re going through similar experiences upon parallel timelines. but once you’ve entered into the “real world” and your path takes a right turn, whereas everyone else’s takes a left, it can be daunting trying to recreate the effortlessness that you once had in solidifying the other half to your best friends forever necklace.
daunting sure, but not impossible. the commonalities are there, sometimes in more ways than you could have imagined, you just have to be willing to dig a little deeper than you did before.
as we get older, i think we tend to hold our cards closer and closer to our vest. maybe out of guilt, maybe out of shame, maybe as a defense mechanism, maybe out of fear. or maybe we’ve simply concluded that the number of friends we have in our life at this exact moment in time is the precise number we need. whatever the reason, our past experiences certainly affect the way we approach getting to know new people. will i get hurt again? will this person understand my story? will they accept me for exactly who i am? i would venture to say that being emotionally vulnerable outside the confines of a romantic relationship is just as scary as it is within one. getting to know someone, and conversely, having them get to know you, is a bit unnerving no matter the nature of the bond. because at the end of the day, it requires us to be unguarded and exposed. and sometimes it’s scary to share the roads we’ve ventured down. the heartbreaks and upsets that have lined our path. the failures and shortcomings that have inevitably defined our past.
and maybe i’m unique in my love for willingly offering up my scars -both the physical and emotional ones, but as i have gotten older, the more i have found that openly admitting to the mess that is my life, the more i become i have become comfortable with it myself. somehow sharing my imperfections with others has allowed me to find beauty in their presence in my life. admitting out loud that i am and always will be broken has encouraged me to accept myself exactly as i am.
and i think that once you’ve reconciled the way you’d like people to perceive you with your true identity, you find freedom. once you begin to accept yourself for exactly who you are, and who God intended you to be, you are more willing to share that with others. some may reject it, sure. despite how awesome you think you are (and i have no doubt that you are), there will always be people who fail to see it. there will always be people who will disregard you or misinterpret you or with whom you simply don’t mesh. but that’s their loss. the number of humans who fail to see your amazing qualities will pale in comparison to those who will learn to accept you with loving arms.
somewhere between being the painfully shy six-year-old and the “but seriously, i’ll talk to almost anyone” twenty-something i’ve learned to adopt a “why not?” philosophy with putting myself out there. part of it has had to do with my profession -meeting and acclimating new members at the club has required me to take a more demonstrative approach in terms of interacting with strangers. but the other part of it i believe has come with a fostered sense of self (self-deprecating humor and a hint of sarcastic wit also helps). at the end of the day, the worst that can happen is that your efforts are not reciprocated. meaning, you’re no better off than if you had never attempted to make a connection at all. best case scenario? your stepping out in faith is just the catalyst that was needed for the other to feel person to feel safe to do the same. someone has to make the first move. and i’ve learned that it’s okay to be the one to make it.
so contrary to popular belief it really isn’t that difficult to make friends after college. the innate desire for community is just as present at 32, 42, 52, as it ever was at 22. i think if the opportunity arises for you to make a new acquaintance, you should take it. i think if an invitation is offered, you should accept it. i think if someone strikes up a conversation with you in line at starbucks, you should engage them (i mean, as long as they don’t give you a case of the creepies). we live in a fascinating world filled with fascinating people. people with unique stories and experiences. honestly, sometimes i think it would be such a neat experiment to sit down in a coffee shop and strike up conversations with strangers just to hear about their life’s adventures. can you imagine the breadth of information you’d receive?
anyway, after taking a casual acquaintance up on her offer to hike torrey pines this weekend and having a particularly splendid time as a result, i was reminded of how easy making connections can be. it starts with a gesture. it’s fueled by an acceptance. and it’s cultivated by a genuine willingness to lower those tightly held cards for the other to see. what i think you’ll find is that more often than not, your two hands are not that unalike.0