Aged four, you're popped into a school uniform, given a lunch box of ham sandwich goodies and brought to the school gates. This is your first day of school and so begins your educational career. Some love school, some hate it and some (like myself) fall somewhere in the middle of a love / hate school relationship.
Where ever you fell on the love / hate spectrum, the one thing we all had in common were the friends we made during our school years. You and your classmates were the same age, were experiencing the same 'first day of school' angst and tears, but together you would overcome it, learn your ABC's and play kiss - catch in the school yard at break. Life was good, even if you didn't realise or understand it at the time.
I would hazzard a guess and say your current batch of friends are made up as follows:
- A small handful of friends who you attended primary and secondary school with.
- A small handful of friends who you attended secondary school with
- A small handful of friends who you attended college / university with
- Other friends you met via other friends, work, travelling, grew up with or are related to.
My group of close friends is primarily made up from the above categories but the total number comes about 10 to 15. Maybe less, maybe more. Before I left Ireland, I would see some friends once a year, others, because I worked with them, I would see daily. Either way we all enjoyed each others company, got on well, had the banter, enjoyed nights out together and generally were there for each other.
Making friends as a thirty something adult is a different ball game altogether. Your priorities and those of others your age have shifted. Perhaps some of the people you've met are married, perhaps they have children or perhaps they're in the process of buying a house and don't have the socializing funds they possessed as a go-getter 27 year old. I'm none of the above. I'm not married, have no plans for children and I am so far from buying a house, I'll probably be 50 by the time that's a possibility.
So, how, in a new city do you make friends, real friends? How do you meet like minded people that you would like to call a friend? A friend that you can call in an emergency, when you're having a bad day or perhaps you're feeling weepy and you just saw the John Lewis Christmas ad and you now need a good shoulder to cry on.
The obvious answers are to take up a class of sorts, join a team of something or other and just get out there and engage with people. But, for me that still falls short of the kind of friendships I'd like to make. So far (and I do realise it's very early days) I haven't really found obvious ways of meeting the kind of people that I know a) will like me and b) that I will like in return. My school / college / old work friends get me and my personality quirks. I can be myself around them and together we can recount random nights out, funny incidents and laugh until our sides hurt.
Starting afresh is different. Scary almost. Similar to a first date, you want to come across as a new potential great friend in waiting. You've lots to offer, are available for the middle of the night emergencies and you are willing to help stalk you new friends ex on Facebook. All standard friend tasks and duties, I'm sure you'll agree. You want your potential new friend to rave about you, tell his / her friends about you and invite you into their close circle. You want to be part of something bigger....or at least I do.
Or maybe there's an easier solution, to go out there, chat to everyone and anyone and generally not give a sh*t about what someone thinks of you. If it clicks, it clicks. If it doesn't, move on, and find a new potential friend to audition for and maybe, just maybe, by this time next year you'll be the one dishing out 'How to make friends' advice to some other poor soul.
For now, you'll find me at work, in random coffee shops and browsing every charity shop Manchester has to offer. Maybe I'll bump into you, my new B.F.F, there!