As a child, I lived in the same small town from kindergarten through my senior year in high school. So the same 120(ish) students surrounded me throughout my entire childhood/adolescents. When I left for college, I moved just three hours south where my best friend at the time also chose to attend. Not soon after, I met a boy and thus my comfort zone had been established. I had a boyfriend and a best friend, what more could a quality over quantity introvert like myself need? After I graduated from college, I moved with my boyfriend (now husband) to Nebraska. This was definitely an anxiety provoking move, but luckily I wasn't yet joining the jarring "real" world just yet. I soon began graduate school with a small cohort of eight, meaning that once again I had to expel very little energy to establish a few quality lasting friendships.
As is the case for others, I'm sure, I've always had friendships occur organically, as they typically do through high school, college, and graduate school. I've never been one to want or desire a gaggle of partially acquainted friends, but rather a few true blue solid friendships, and for much of my life up until this point, that has just sort of happened.
So when my husband and I moved to the DC area this past year, I was a bit of an emotional wreck. I had friends now in all different midwestern area codes, but none within arm's reach. Sure, I had my husband, and he's great, but I wanted and needed some female comradery. After weeks of weeping intermittently, I knew I needed to figure something out. I've always been someone who "tends to need a lot of alone time," but I quickly began to realize that "alone time" feels quite different when it isn't a choice. But how was a mid-twenties girl supposed to meet friends in a new city? I had yet to start work at my new job and wasn't positive that I wanted work to be my primary source for friendships anyways.
After numerous failed dog park attempts where I creeped on unsuspecting women forcing casual and awkward conversation that I had hoped would lead to them saying, "Oh you're new here? Oh my gosh, Here's my number! Let's be friends!" (that never happened). I was faced with the fact that I had no idea how to meet other adult women. Do I go to a bar by myself? A library? A grocery store? If I meet a girl that looks nice, how do I even start a conversation without her thinking that I'm potentially hitting on her or appearing to be a sad desperate weirdo. Even if by a miracle I've established a non-awkward conversation, at what point does one adult woman ask another adult woman for her number? All questions that plagued me. Clearly, my years of minimalistic friendships that "just, like, totallyyyy happened organically" had not prepared me for socialization as an adult woman.
I finally took to the internet on the night of my best friend's birthday, and Googled, "How to make friends in DC."
One of the first things that greeted me on the screen was an article about Meetup, which I soon realized was somewhat like online dating for friends. I scoured the hundreds of groups until I stumbled upon several that seemed like a good fit. One was created by a young woman around my age that had moved to the area somewhat recently and was also missing her friends. She hosted numerous events per month, and one happened to be that very same evening at a restaurant. I nervously RSVP'ed and heard from her promptly inviting me to join. After sharing with my husband my plan for the evening, he was shocked. As I think I have clearly established thus far, this was very uncharacteristic of me. Bemusement soon followed as he watched as I changed clothes 10 different times for my group lady dinner date. It went well, and since the initial first gathering, I've attended numerous events with this group of fantastic ladies, (although fewer recently due to my work/stress meltdown). In fact, I will soon be traveling to Ireland with one of them (more on that soon). Most recently they surprised me with a birthday cake on my birthday, to which I responded by crying... because it was my birthday and I could cry if I wanted to.
I have two main points that I hope you have gleaned from this post.
First, like one of my favorite episodes of HBO Girl's indicates, magic happens outside of your comfort zone. So be brave. It's so worth it. Secondly, If you are new in town, or even if you aren't, you should seriously consider trying MeetUp. Meetup is an easy and (usually) free way to find people who share common interests. Maybe you like to go on hiking trips, love indie music, you write code, love to bowl, are newly divorced, or newly widowed, a single mom, or a stay at home mom, or a person who loves brunch, or photography or you're a baby boomer who likes to write sci/fi books or you want to join a feminist book club, or you want to find people to get really really drunk with on a semi-regular basis.
You name it, it exists (at least in the DC area anyways). I doubt my experience has been a novel one. In this group, I have found the type of ladies who showed up at my marathon to hold signs in the freezing rain, and also those who ran 26.2 miles by my side. Overall, it has been a pretty great experience. Sure, I've heard that there is a stigma to meeting your friends online, and I've also heard hilarious Meetup failures. So, maybe I just got really lucky on my first try, but regardless, I'm so happy that I put myself out there. I've not only expanded my social circle, but I've also grown in my ability to handle social situations, like being in a room with 15 strangers.
But Maybe MeetUP Isn't FOR YOU
I struggle a bit with social anxiety, which is precisely why Meetup has been such a good thing for me. It has forced me to become a better conversationalist in social settings. Not all of the groups are set in bars or restaurants, in fact quite a few are activity-based as well, but If this is far too intimidating of a prospective way to meet friends, there are so many other activity-based options! This past year, I also volunteered for a really awesome organization. Volunteering is an amazing way to find fulfillment, explore possible new interests, and to meet likeminded people! Check out this site or this one for various on going or one-time volunteer opportunities in your area. I've also recently looked into joining a soccer team. In the DC area, I've heard good things about intramural sports like those that can be found at DC Social. I think especially for guys, this seems to be a more organic way to make friends. I've been working out at a kickboxing gym this year, which is less focused on interactions with others, but I know that many people have met great friends in fitness groups that meet regularly like Crossfit-esque gyms or running/cycling clubs. Lastly, there's quite a few other apps, other than Meetup, that I cannot personally vouch for but seem intriguing. Especially if you prefer 1:1 conversations or have shared interests like a dog!