Making Friends in a New City Is the Worst
But it doesn't have to be.
Few of us plan to graduate college and move back in with our parents. Yet after 2008, we heard echoes of “recession” and “worst economic trends since the Great Depression” during the time we hoped to hear “you’re hired.”
Months passed as I stared at the ceiling in my childhood bedroom in Minnesota, researched dozens of companies and applied for more than a hundred jobs. When one finally responded and offered me a full-time position—on the West Coast—I had already spent eight months building a new routine and reconstructing friendships in my hometown to ease the drudgery of my unfulfilling post-graduate career. At that point, I wondered: Should I leave my friends and stability here? Or should I take the biggest risk of my life, move across the country and start a job in an industry I don’t even know if I like?
Surrounded by Strangers
Since I didn’t want to get lost in the friendship-less void threatening my new solo venture on the West Coast, I took preemptive measures by sending emails to churches. I was moving to Oregon, I wrote, and I wanted to find some good roommates and a community group to plug into.
Only one church responded. A guy named Nick said he would love to meet me and see if the church could help me make some connections. He invited me to a Friday night event at his house, and despite my quiet nature, I nervously agreed to check it out the week I arrived in Oregon.
That Friday night, I gathered my resolve and walked intently down the driveway to Nick’s house. My inner introvert begged that I hesitate, but my yearning for community kept me walking right up to the open garage, filled with people my age around a ping-pong table.
When things got started, about 20 of us looked around at each other between songs and Bible study discussion points, until the scheduled portion was over and people started mingling.
I wasn’t the only one there looking for community. Especially in the transient college and mid-20s age range, many of us desire more than surface-level introductions or niceties. Millennials are caricatured in news headlines and studies, but we felt then (and we feel now) what social researcher Brené Brown explains: “Connection is why we’re here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.”
The night began at 7 and lasted a couple hours. Many lingered afterward to meet visitors and reconnect with the regulars. I talked with a few girls in the living room, then with Nick and a couple guys in the kitchen. Before I realized it, it was 4 a.m. I drove back to my hotel with a sense of gratitude, with high hopes that something meaningful had been started with these potential friends in my new city.
Making Friends in a New Place
Years before I wrestled with moving 2,000 miles from home, I talked to a friend before he flew out of the country to start the next phase of his life. He didn’t know when he’d return. I asked if he felt sad about leaving all the people he knew in the States. His reply was astonishing: “I’ve found that God provides the right friends to be around me for each different place in life.”
Even if certain friendships don’t continue through all of one’s life, a person can be influenced largely by those temporary relationships. God provides the people we need around us during each chapter, to help us through conflicts and for us to help as well.
Friendship is a crop planted by God and cultivated by our intentionality. Deep friendship is built on purpose, over time, with vulnerability, and through shared experiences. Despite the challenges of time and distance, we remain committed to each other. Genuine friends don’t just share conversations; they play an active role in each other’s stories. A friendship of the heart helps us find clarity and confidence in a world of choices.
How to Actually Connect with Friends
C. S. Lewis once wrote, “To the Ancients, friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life, and the school of virtue.”
Sincere friendships have the power to enrich our lives and teach us more about the world. To identify so closely with a brother or sister enables us to learn what life is really like for someone else, without pretense or facade.
Real friendship requires vulnerability. When you call a friend your brother, you don’t keep him at arm’s length; you learn to share his perspective, fears, and hopes. A sister doesn’t just know how you take your coffee; she knows which coffee shops you’ll never revisit because it’s where your ex-boyfriend used to work and you’re still processing some of what happened. Intimacy is the core of deep friendships; it’s when you say to a trusted companion, This is something I’ve never told anyone else, but I trust you with my secrets.
Sustaining Friendships When Your Life Changes
Looking back to each place I’ve lived, I’ve had the friends to challenge me, give me space for solitude, encourage me and keep me moving forward—and I’ve been able to help some of them, too. That’s not to say friends never vanish. Some days I wonder about the relationships that didn’t make it because we lost touch, moved away or something turned sour. Yet for a select few of those special brothers or sisters, like some of the people I met in Oregon, there’s untold reward in maintaining a relationship over time and distance despite the separation of where life has taken us.
It’s been said there are two kinds of friendship: friendship of the road and friendship of the heart. Friendship of the road carries on as long as both people travel in the same direction on the journey of life, but a time comes when their paths diverge. Friendship of the heart goes deeper than a shared path because identities connect to form a unique bond.
Having a close friend by your side multiplies your confidence and reinforces your faith. Close friends don’t just bloom because they’ve known each other for years. Some people know each other a lifetime but never gain deep friendship. Shared hobbies can’t always sustain best friends because hobbies come and go. We know sheer volume of time spent together doesn’t necessarily breed friendship: Although we spend the most consistent time around coworkers and immediate family, most of us have deep friendships outside of those categories.
Good friends draw you out of your comfortable, routine self to enter into greater possibility for who you might become.
Adapted from The Variable Life: Finding Clarity and Confidence in a World of Choices, a new book by John Weirick.