Making new friends is a little trickier when you’re an adult. In my experience, it usually looks something like this.
Stage One: A friend of a friend piques my interest. Overlapping friend groups are prime hunting grounds for new friends. We meet at my friend’s Halloween work party.
Stage Two: Online friending. Have they requested to follow me back yet?
Stage Three: “Let’s get drinks!” After obtaining Potential Friend’s number from Mutual Friend, I reach out with a carefully crafted text (one emoji, two emojis, no emojis?) suggesting the two of us grab drinks after work one night. I find I tend to do this sort of thing during times of heightened social stamina, and when the day finally arrives, I won’t really feel up to it anymore.
Stage Four: Rescheduling drinks. We maybe even reschedule two or three times. Someone will inevitably back out, and there’s a 90% chance it’s me, so we reschedule. But the act of rescheduling is a commitment in itself – we want to get to know each other. Eventually, we both make it.
Stage Five: Getting drive-thru In-N-Out, then immediately pulling into the parking lot to watch Tana Mongeau’s latest storytime on YouTube. (Oh my god, how did we get here?) Sometimes, there’s no turning point or pivotal moment. It’ll be a random Thursday night when you realize: this is it.
Of course, there are a multitude of small, defining, yet imperceptible moments that precede this, including shared experiences, private confessions and expressions of gratitude. Cultivating intimacy takes many forms. Sometimes, it is being vulnerable and accepting help. Other times, it is as simple as indulging in guilty pleasures together.
Friendship is not a binary concept; it doesn’t either exist or cease to exist. It’s a moving point on a spectrum – a special distinction that honors how we feel about a person and the way that person makes us feel about ourselves.
Without mutual maintenance and upkeep, these relationships are unlikely to survive. There’s accommodating for work schedules, scheduling around exams and appointments and keeping the rain checks to a minimum. It’s an intentional and ongoing process.
According to the New York Post, the average American hasn’t made a new friend in five years. As I get older, I realize the key to forging meaningful relationships is simple in theory, although somewhat difficult in practice. Be open-minded about who could be a friend. With age comes more developed identities, and maybe we become a little more particular about the people we enjoy or the people who interest us.
It’s not intuitive to pursue a relationship with someone we don’t immediately “click” with, but it can certainly be fulfilling. Friendship is less about shared interests and more about a shared commitment to get to know each other. And the first step is putting yourself ourselves out there – to risk feeling awkward and uncomfortable for the possibility of great reward.
In the midst of what might have originated as a selfish pursuit of friendship, we learn how to appreciate a person, not for how they are in relation to us – things we have in common and perspectives we have that differ – but how we validate each other’s identity and sense of self.
Anna Fiorino is a senior studying journalism. Follow her on Twitter @annafi0.