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.
I love this article and the timing is perfect for me. Eleven years ago, at the age of 49, I became disabled with migraines and had to move from my home to live with my then 74 year old mother 75 miles away,
Over the years, I have longed to have friends and have tried some of the things you suggested. Frequenting a local restaurant, is one example. I went at the same days and times each week so as to increase the likelihood of having the same employees working and or having the same patrons. That is indeed what happened.
Yet I had difficulty making a connection. I fear it’s because my life revolved(s) around my health. Now, at the age of 60, I have a little more serious health challenges. Because that’s what my like has revolved around around, I don’t know how to meet someone without talking it.
I love what you said to your potential friend suitors, “Im new in the area & trying to learn my way around.” Do you have any suggestions for what I could say that may help me feel a little more comfortable?
i was 57 when i got a divorce – had no single friends, only married ones – it was alot like the woman who moved away. My salvation was i love to dance, always did. so i went to a place near me that had oldies – the ones i danced to as a teenager (line dancing) i met a few that nite and some were new to the dances. Over the years, I have sorted out the good friends vs the acquaintences. We love to dance and there are some in the group who enjoy shows, movies, dinners, so there is always someone to go out with. also, as single seniors, we all keep tabs on one another to make sure we are ok. I wouldn’t change a thing about the past twenty years!
I love to dance also, thanks for the idea of seeking out a dance class!
I moved to a small town,after 25 years in a city, right before COVID hit! I want friends. This is wonderful advice. Thank you.
I hope something helps—I know how difficult it is.
I like the “baby steps” approach. I have been living in Utah for a bit, but have been caretaking my husband and now he has passed. I spent so much time focusing on him (as I should have).
Now I am a bit lost but can’t use “I just moved here, etc”.
I don’t want to say first thing “I am a widow” ( that seems to scare people as if me being a widow could somehow rub off on them)
I’m sorry about your husband—so tough. How about “I’ve been caring for my husband these past few months/years, but now he’s gone. I’m ready to get out and do things again.” Does that work?
Those first little steps were so productive in bringing friendship in…very thought provoking….thank you!
I hope it helps!