A Love Letter to Making Friends As An Adult
And how it's a difficult and amazing endeavor all at once.
In case I haven’t said it lately, I am so grateful you’re here. There is a special type of joy that comes from doing what you love, for fun, without any expectations, rules, or pressure. And there’s an additional, electrifying layer of joy when people not only support what you do but engage with it. Every week, y’all are consistently opening these newsletters and sending me emails about it (I LOVE hearing from you!)—and I swear it makes my heart grow three sizes every time. So, thank you.
Two years ago, I didn’t know 90% of the people I now spend most of my time with in Seattle.
Two years ago, as you may have gathered from last week’s newsletter, I was still relatively new to Seattle, many of us were still vaccine-less while navigating the pandemic, and I was working East Coast hours in a job I had grown out of. I only knew a few people here, and I was feeling the deep loneliness that comes from adjusting to a new city, wanting to build a robust community, and realizing that those two things sure as hell don’t happen overnight. Especially in a pandemic.
I was overwhelmed by the prospect of “making friends as an adult” in part because society (or maybe just me) makes it out to be this gargantuan, social experiment-y journey marked by superficial small talk, awkward conversations, coded body language, and judgment. Lots of judgment.
I didn’t want any of that.
What’s more, there are fewer environments conducive to cultivating friendships in our adult years compared to when we’re kids. And there’s less time now, given the many responsibilities and hobbies we try to juggle in any given day. And, even if there is available time and space, not all adults want to make new friends—especially those with already robust communities. Because of all these reasons, we often lack the factors sociologists say are necessary for making friends organically: continuous unplanned/planned interaction and shared vulnerability.
As a result, studies show that many people stop making new friends as an adult and in fact, lots of people lose friends as they get older. The latter can be good, of course (no one needs toxic people in their life), but the former can prevent us from forging valuable, in-person connection that’s essential for our wellbeing. Because, in addition to boosting our mood and reducing stress, new friends help us become more open-minded, intelligent, and resilient, according to this psychologist.
So, two years ago, I decided that I would rewrite my narrative of what making friends as an adult could be like.
I deeply valued my existing friends, but most of them lived across the country, and I knew I wanted friends I could regularly spend time with in-person. I also knew that the kinds of deep, genuine friendships I craved wouldn’t just appear out of thin air the minute I decided I was ready for them. I knew they would take time and effort and a decent level of curiosity and creativity. I knew I needed to make this effort no matter how awkward or nervous or tired I felt.
It helped that my partner Aaron was on the same page; the combination of both of us dead set on building a community in our new city meant we were going to hold each other accountable—and bring each other along for the ride. We wanted to make new friends, dammit! (I think this is actually something we said to each other).
So, we—both individually and as a couple—did everything we could think of to meet new people and cultivate friendships.
We asked existing friends and acquaintances to introduce us to anyone they knew who lived in Seattle—especially people who they thought we might get along with.
We offered to pet sit for people in our apartment building because we both worked from home.
We went to events at small businesses we liked.
We got involved in a few local organizations.
We struck up friendly conversations with dog owners (and their dogs!) on the street or at breweries.
We introduced ourselves to the farmers at our weekly Sunday market and said hi to other cool locals we met.
If someone invited us to a social gathering of some sort, we went, and then made a point to get to know other people there.
We threw a “We Need Friends!” party and invited nearly everyone we had met in Seattle so far—even the people we barely knew—and encouraged them to bring their friends. We found other occasions to throw parties, like our cat’s birthday and Friendsgiving, and welcome people into our home.
We made a point to reach out to new friends and find time to hang out, no matter how busy life got.
But the single most important thing we ever did to make new friends? We were shamelessly honest with people we met that we wanted to make new friends.
That sounds incredibly obvious, but the moment we were vulnerable about the fact that making friends as an adult is hard and that we just wanted to cultivate a genuine community in Seattle, we found that most other people admitted to feeling the same way and were relieved that they weren’t the only ones struggling with it!
What I’ve learned is this: everyone wants and needs friendship, whether they admit it or not. People want to feel like they belong, they want to find others with similar interests, they want to laugh in-person with someone sitting across from them, they want to learn new things, they want to relate to people, they want to create new memories, and they want to relish in everything that friendship is about and the meaning it can bring to our lives.
Yes, everything I did—and still do—to make friends was sometimes exhausting. But it was also amazing and quite literally, life changing. Putting myself out there—awkwardness be damned!—helped plant so many seeds that I’ve had the privilege of nurturing and growing the past few years.
In fact, just last month, a group of friends and I rented a cabin in the Deschutes National Forest in Oregon. These are people who, except for my partner Aaron, I didn’t know two years ago. Some I didn’t even know a year ago. Yet they are people who hold space for my whole self; they know what I stand for and what I love, they know some of my deepest secrets and fears, they celebrate my quirks and my weirdness, they know how to make me laugh and think and have fun—and they allow me to know them and celebrate them in the same way. That’s an incredible honor.
That weekend left me feeling incredulous about how you can meet some of your dearest friends long after you thought possible. You never know when you’ll meet them, but you can make the effort to find them.
To all my friends in Seattle and elsewhere, I appreciate you a billion times over.
Until next week,
I am so thankful you offered to pet-sit my lil Douggie <3
Miss you both & thank you for another beautiful read!
I imagine all of your friends appreciate you as much as you appreciate them!