As I brushed my hair and applied mascara, the banter of the morning talk show hosts played in the background. When the women – and men – on television casually mentioned how difficult it is to make new friends, I remembered my own quest.
A few years ago, for my spouse’s job, we packed up and headed to Nashville. Although it was the right decision for us and our marriage, it was hard to say goodbye to 20 years of friends and belonging.
Book club, Bible study, birthday celebrations, dinner parties, barbecues – those gatherings in Houston, which declared I was accepted and part of something bigger.
It takes time to make the sorts of friends I used to call when I needed kid advice or wanted to groan and vent. How do I start over and build a community in a brand-new place? At my age I worried it was too late to find a group.
As the newbie – and especially a newcomer with no young kids or a job to connect me – it was hard to wiggle my way in and become part of a friend group. Gone were the days when I could rely on the carpool line or football bleachers or work or school meetings for companionship and conversation.
Except for my husband, I was on my own. And I was lonely.
And so I developed a plan. Every single day, I pledged to do one new thing to immerse myself in this unfamiliar place. I wasn’t sure where this project would lead, but I viewed it as a positive step toward friends and community.
I would set off each day with a purpose, a self-imposed assignment. A new step class at the fitness center, a coffee shop in a neighborhood I’d never been to, a different route home from the boutique I’d yet to see. Along the way, I chatted up the store clerks and baristas and florists and librarians.
“I recently moved to Nashville,” I’d say, “and I’m trying to learn my way around.”
“We have a monthly book club,” said the bookseller at a cozy book shop I discovered. A woman at the cheese store told me about an art center, offering watercolor and pottery and drawing classes.
The friendly woman unrolling her mat next to me at the yoga studio told me she volunteered at the botanical gardens. “Have you walked in the downtown greenway yet?” asked a woman at the nail salon.
Each person I encountered steered me in a different direction – another place to go or activity to check into. Each path connected me to people – and potential friendships.
Although I still craved a walking buddy – the person to call for a good chat early in the morning – I was no longer lonely.
I was simply alone. And I was okay with that. Finding a new treasure in each day gave me a reason to get up and out of the house. It kept me moving forward. At the end of the day, I was excited I’d engaged with people and learned a thing or two.
One day, my chosen “new thing” was to meander, alone, through the art museum. Amid the Houghton Hall exhibit, with furnishings and paintings from an English country home, I noticed a sign for an upcoming party at the museum.
I thought, “Hmmm, looks like a fun new thing to do!”
“Who are we going with?” my husband asked.
“Well, no one,” I replied. “But I want to dress up and go out. Besides, it’s for a good cause.”
After cocktails – where we made small talk with enough other “alone” people to avoid feeling like wallflowers – we ended up at a table with four couples.
The kind woman next to me and I chatted about our Texas roots, married children, golf, and how hard it is to move to a new place later in life. She knew – she’d done the same thing several years ago.
She called the following week. “Are you available for lunch?”
“Yes, I am!”
This was the break I’d been looking for. I had a friend.
In tiny, gradual steps, my world came together. My new friend connected me to a golf group and included me in a lunch or two with other women. I began to make friends.
It was a big day when I ran into one of my new acquaintances at the grocery store. We chatted for a minute and then raced on to other errands.
An even bigger day – a woman I’d met at book club phoned me. She asked a favor. “Will you meet with a friend of my sister’s? Her husband accepted a job, and they’ve relocated to the area. She needs friends.”
I was ecstatic and grateful that my action plan was working.
Are you lonely or alone? Can you do more to find a friend or two? Do you have the friends you want and need? What action steps can you take today to meet new friends? Please share with our community.