“You always have to be making new friends,” a friend said the other day. This friend was one of the first people I met when I moved to Michigan ten years ago; we become friends and have remained friends.
Her observation stems from some recent changes in her life—a life-long friend moved out of state, and another died—and the holes that those kinds of big changes create.
I relate to her recent experience because when I moved here, I needed to make new friends.
Making new friends requires an openness on both sides—as the new person, I need to put myself out there and be willing to try new things; and the people I am meeting need to be willing to create a space for me in their lives.
When I moved here, I tried to keep my expectations of others realistic because I knew everyone I was meeting already had full lives. I was the one who was looking for new friends, so I had to be willing to be flexible and adapt to the ways of new people. I had brought with me an understanding that it would take time to build new relationships and that no one owed me anything; I was willing to put in the time and effort necessary to create a new life.
Above all, I was grateful to and for every person who created a space for me, who reached out to me, who invited me and included me. I have been so fortunate over these past ten years to have been befriended by so many warm and welcoming people.
My friend’s comment the other day was in response to my telling her about a new friend I met on my trip last fall and how this new friend and I are planning a trip together.
One of the gifts of travel, especially on a tour, is meeting like-minded people. We share a love of travel, and shared interests are a good starting point for friendship.
New friends offer many gifts, including the invitation to look at myself through new eyes.
I remember one of the men on my tour last spring saying to me, “I don’t imagine that you are afraid of anything.”
“You don’t know me,” I replied, and I thought of some of the things I fear—starting with my fear of disappointing people and moving through my fears about being out of control and feeling vulnerable. This man, who did not know me well, saw my strength, but he did not see how my strong personality can be a mask for my insecurities.
His comment, though, made me more aware of the masks I wear and was an invitation to make myself vulnerable. I shared some of my story with him.
We often become comfortable with our current state of friendships and are rocked when something changes—a move or death or divorce. Being open to making new friends along the way can create a cushion.