I am far too fond of visualizing a cut-over and a “[x] years later” overlay as a visual of my life. I’ve had to move and reboot so many times that I lack continuity. It’s hard sometimes even for me to piece together my own narrative. And lately, the cut-over I’ve been visualizing is a hot take from January of 2007 to January of 2023. This is because the common thread from my twenties is that I have to make new friends based on my own merits, as opposed to just having a kid born in 2008.
This is the weird thing about making friends as an adult who chooses to reproduce. You have a period of time where you make your own friends in your 20s, based on your college circles, or based on the people you meet randomly in your life if you move away from your college circle. Then you reproduce and suddenly, all your friends are people who had a baby around the same time you did. Then your kid becomes a teen, and suddently is an independent person, and you’re making new friends based on your own merits for the first time in decades because your identity is less about your status as a parent. Your life phase governs your identity, and your identity governs where and how you bond with other adult humans.
This is where I, and a lot of people my age, happen to be at this point in our social journeys. We’ve got teens who are their own persons. And we may have our fellow parent friends, but after a decade and a half, we may also have lost those friends to moves or personal differences or other changes that happen with time. We may have our pre-parent era friends, but similarly, they may have been lost as we went through our own life changes. So here we are, having to meet people who have to associate with us based on more factors than just their kid’s birth year. It’s terrifying.
The last time I had to make friends based on my own merits as a person and as a human was in the mid-aughts. I was in my mid to late twenties in Los Angeles, far from my friend circle in Vancouver and my family in Victoria. I had gone to seek my fame and fortune in digital media buying. And after maybe ten days in the Westside, I ran into a girl in the grocery store who kindly passed forward her own good fortune in meeting people, and invited me to meet her friends…and the rest is history. I met new friends, introduced them to other friends, helped to make connections, and always, always had something going on. My blog from that time is a never-ending whirl of work, socializing, and anarchist bike rides…which it continued to be right up until I left the Westside in January of 2007 to move in with that guy I met at Bar Sinister out east of Vermont.
And here we are sixteen years later. If my time in NYC was all about being a parent (in probably one of the least practical cities to be a parent in), then my time in Pennsylvania is going to be about the transition back out of being a parent. Ben is large! He is as tall as I am and is becoming more independent every day. He’s going to be driving in less than two years. I’m no longer making friends with other parents I meet through his school or through Scouts. I’m making friends with other humans based on being my own person. I have not had to do that for the better part of two decades and it is a very terrifying thought.
If I have a point of consolation, it is that I was still learning how to be a human in my twenties (late learner, okay?) and had yet to develop the empathy and social skills I worked on more consistently in my thirties. I have more faith in myself to be a less self-centered and insecure person now. In my twenties, I worked on blind ego (“of course people like me!”) combined with then crushing despair when I wasn’t to everyone’s taste (“there’s something wrong with me”). In my forties, I am trying to work based on self-confidence (“I am a great person to be friends with because I am kind and considerate and try my best to truly hear the people around me”) and rational consolation (“not everyone has to be my BFF and that’s okay!”) This doesn’t always mean I’m going to function without insecurity as years of exclusion and bullying are always going to be embedded in my foundations. But it does mean I’m able to identify my own insecurities and try to move past them as much as possible.
The other motivation I have to make friends is that I need to set an example for my kiddo. Just because I’m not socializing entirely based on being a parent does not mean that being a parent is no longer a factor at all. I have to demonstrate to Ben that friendships are built a block at a time. This does require the core friendship skillset I learned in my twenties in L.A., which is:
- establish contact and common ground
- ask if that person would like to hang out sometime
- get that person’s contact info
- follow-up with hang out details
- if hangout goes well, send follow-up note expressing how you enjoyed getting to know them
- repeat steps 4 and 5
- (optional) include that person in other aspects of your life, like double dating or bigger get togethers
build friend circle and throw monster house party(okay maybe replace this with “quiet adult cocktails and appetizers party”)
So here we go, with a cut to 2023. I have to reach back through time and lived experience and remember what it was like to connect with people in an authentic and genuine manner. Thankfully, I am good at the Internet so I’ve been able to use that as a springboard to make new friends so far. But it’s still a major shift and change in my life and one I have to commit to. As does Ben. Sixteen years later, I’m in a different place both in my mental health as well as my physical location and life phase. Lets see how many of these old social skills tactics still work.