I’m always stunned by the chasm between what I know to be true and how I live on a daily basis. I need the outdoors, exercise, friendship, and most of all Jesus. Yet I can go days without running, hiking, or doing a pushup; I can go weeks without reaching out to friends who live in different states; and it’s embarrassing to think of the last time I opened my Bible.
I know those things bring me life and energy, and I’m embarrassed by how easily I can forget to do the very things that make me feel alive. I suppose its second nature to follow the path of least resistance, but I’m wondering where comfort crosses the line into sabotage. Particularly in relationships.
I was chatting with my wife Susie the other day, when I realized that over the past few years I’ve never lived in the same place longer than twelve months. College was the last time I wasn’t jumping from state to state, living out of boxes, constantly thinking about what was coming next. Living like a vagabond has been hard on my friendships. In fact, since our latest move to Minneapolis, I haven’t made much of an effort to find new friends. I chose to develop a deeper connection with the people I knew, which has been a lifesaver. But it may have also been a convenient way to excuse myself from making an effort to meet new people.
Maybe you can relate. Making friends can be challenging at any point in your life, but it feels especially hard when you’ve just moved (or know you won’t be somewhere for long), or when you change jobs or get out of a serious relationship where your friend groups were closely entwined.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when forming friendships in the midst of life’s transitions:
Some Friendships Only Last a Season—and That’s OK.
Back in college, friendships seemed to come with the program; there was never a question of plans or who I wanted to see or what I thought I should do at night. There were three guys I was sure to hang out with, and like Joey walking through the door of his neighbor’s apartment in Friends, I could expect any one of those guys to walk into my place at any moment. It helped my natural fears of inadequacy and isolation to know that we belonged to the group.
Then we all left town within months of each other.
It’s true that I miss those guys, but when we split ways it was to follow different career paths and opportunities and marriages. I can’t help but think that if we were in the same town, our friendship wouldn’t look the same anyway. There is something healthy to relationships ebbing and flowing, painful as it may feel in the moment.
Friendships have a season; it took me awhile to get over the guilt of that—of feeling like I had to keep up a friendship at the same level. My freshmen year of college I spent a lot of time with my RA, Drew, and something he said to me one night by the ocean has stuck with me ever since. He said that some friendships exist in sacred spaces, and as such are timeless.
Most of my college friendships have passed, as have those from my childhood. While I miss them, I know that it is totally appropriate; some friendships are only meant to last for a season.
Savor Old Friendships and Reconnecting, But Don’t Let Them Replace Community Where You Are.
Realizing that some friendships only last a season doesn’t mean abandoning all your old friendships, though. In the midst of all the moving and seeking out new relationships, I’ve needed to reach out by phone and online to the friends I still have who are out of state. Make the effort to keep those relationships that matter. Sure, it isn’t the same as walking next door to their place like you did in college, and it may be a bit awkward at first, but real friendship takes intentionality, and you will grow into a better friend through this process.
As you attempt to keep up with old friends, though, keep in mind that though those reconnections can be beautiful, they don’t provide anything like true community.
Neither does the Internet.
Our world has gotten very small over the course of our lifetimes. Most of us were born in those years when the Internet went from being a collection of military computers the size of a semi truck to a central piece of every Western household. These are the days when information topples governments, business meetings are held face to face from opposite sides of the planet, and everyone I have ever met at a party sends friend requests so we can tote our hyped-up lives across screens through filters and camera angles.
Facebook can be a great way to keep up with people’s lives and stay in touch, but it doesn’t make up for the absence of actual people walking in my door.
Investing is Worth It, Even If You’re Only There for a Short Time.
The thing I have had to fight off most is the idea of not investing, simply because I might be gone in a year or two. But I know if I keep living that way, I’ll never jump in. You’ve got to choose against the impermanence of things, and get involved anyway.
What worked for me was joining a church geared toward small groups (we signed up for the new couples and adventure groups). Having a context for being with other people is so helpful. Joining the local rock climbing gym or running club, volunteering with Habitat for Humanity or any number of groups can be a great way to meet new people.
We all need community to keep ourselves healthy. Every day is a choice to live well—and that includes seeking out others. There are new friendships out there worth making, but you will have to make the choice to find them.
Sam Eldredge is the co-author of Killing Lions: A Guide Through the Trials Young Men Face (written with his dad, John Eldredge). He is also managing editor of And Sons Magazine, an online magazine for men. Sam currently lives in the Twin Cities with his wife Susie. Visit KillingLions.com for more information.