Making Friends in Your 20's: What I've Learned and What I'm Learning
As I’ve gotten busier with my adult life, I feel like I’ve gotten good at a lot of things: being professional, getting better at wearing heels (kinda), exercising, half-assing college courses, FULL-assing college courses (that’s my very classy term where I actually find myself learning something in school...yes it happens), indulging in my hobbies, and most importantly--developing a clear and productive plan to move forward towards my career and goals. But a couple of things have fallen by the way side as I've entered the bustling years of my 20's; my mental health, managing my stress, sleep schedules, and I definitely don’t drink enough water. Those are all things though, unfortunately, that I assumed would happen and was ready to deal with. But what I wouldn’t expect to happen is that I suddenly stopped trying to make friends, or even stay in touch with old ones at times. Sure, it’s natural for old friends to drift apart, and I have a lot of amazing friends that I’ll know will always be important to me, but are just preoccupied with their own beautiful busy lives or are not physically close to me anymore, but something changed in me when I became an adult. Life started moving faster, and I got really tired, and I wondered if I had become too tired to make new social connections?
At one point this year, I started to panic a bit. For a while I kept telling myself I didn’t have time to go out or be with my friends. But then a free weekend came and I had gotten into a funk where I didn’t want to see anyone, or I assumed nobody wanted to see me. Luckily, I’ve made some new friends recently that have taken the time to take me out and text me and remind me that they’re there.
Probably one of the strongest values my father ever instilled in me is the value of friendship, and keeping friends around as much as that. But I’ve been slipping at it. And a scary things has happened: I’m 22 years old. And I feel like the game has changed, for making friends. It used to be, you make friends with whoever you go to high school with. For me, some of my closest friends came from a summer camp I went to each summer, or my long time friends were family friends--so they were always there. But high school is over and so is camp. People move away and start college, finish college, start new lives. I'm in college now, and it's obviously assumed to be a great place to make friends too, whatever your path is: joining sororities, clubs or just meeting people in class. But these are also the busiest years of your life. I've noticed making friends in my 20’s has become difficult, and I've heard other people agree with me on this. I don't know if its because as we get older, we get smarter and trust people less. Or simply because we have started to prioritize our studies and careers. For me, it's also a combination of my anxiety and over-thinking. I tend to make friends with other people with busy schedules too, so it gets difficult. And the worse thing is probably my low-self confidence--assuming that people don’t want to talk to me or won’t like me. I’ve gone through some toxic friendships in my past, right in the middle of teenage hood. It doesn’t help that girls are taught to pin each other against each other, and there's a culture in high school where being "one of the boys" is the better option (but that's for another article...)
But I’ve learned a couple things from these ups and downs. Ultimately I've learned that as you grow up, a lot of things change, including how you make friends. We're all evolving people with different interests, different stages of life. Like only recently did I realize that I'm definitely somewhat of an introvert, but who's also able to be extroverted as well. I.E. I honestly enjoy being around people and socializing, but lately I've become more honest with myself on how I genuinely get exhausted after being around people too long, and I need break--I talk about this more about my other post from last summer where I talk about being an introvert.
Here are a couple things I've learned, some advice I've crafted for myself for making friends in your 20's. These are all things I'm still currently re-learning and adapting to, as I'm growing up and meeting new people, and cutting ties with old ones. Take these as you will, but don't forget that there is a whole world of people out there that are just waiting to hang out with you!
I. Don't Force It
First thing I’ve learned that you definitely can’t force friendships. I’ve met a lot of people in my life where I thought “Wow I should be there friend!” And I tried, and I didn’t work out--and then that made me scared to approach people after that. But sometimes it’s the opposite--where I meet someone, I feel a connection, and I never have the courage to make the first move. So we shouldn't’ force it, but a little nudge wouldn't’ hurt. If you hit it off with someone at work, ask them out on your day off. If you met someone who you really have fun with but you haven’t seen in awhile because of busy schedules, try to plan something ahead of time--and meanwhile, send cute animal videos to each other. Before you know it, you'll find a time to hang out or even run into each other by accident. The most important thing is to be real and genuine about who you want to spend your time with and why. Getting so obsessed with having friends that you're not being genuine, that's never a good place to be in--make sure the person you're hanging with someone you really want to be around.
II. Reconnect With Old Friends
After high school, I cut a lot of people out of my life --some intentionally some not. Same thing after I left a lot of places. I grew up in two different places (Lithuania and the U.S.) so I was used to being forced to letting go of old friends. But some were easier than others, and I've learned now, in my third year of college, but some of the best people you'll ever know, you might already know! If you still feel a spark with the people you went to summer camp, keep messaging them and find opportunities to see them, or if there was a good friend from high school that you stopped talking to, maybe give them a call and ask them to coffee (pro-tip: getting coffee is the easiest and low pressure invitation, everyone can use a day at a cute coffee shop). And I know, time in your 20’s gets very scarce, but somehow there’s always a weekend that opens up. If you look for it. And another thing that goes with this--if there are people in your life you remember were really good you, like honestly good friends to you, don't’ be afraid to re-connect. Because just as important as it is cutting toxic people out of your life in your 20’s, it also very healthy let some of the wonderful people back in.
III. Making your Move
Alright. This is the hardest one. And I feel so cliche and saying just "go for it", but that's the big part of this: not caring what people think of you. Yes, it’s scary and intimidating, and yes I know you’re tired and you rather just sit on your couch and watch Netflix instead of going through the gut-wrenching feeling of crafting the perfect casual/cute/fun text asking someone out for drinks, but you got this. I'm surprisingly more scared to make friends in my 20’s then when I was in middle school, and it's a weird thing for me, but it’s a new challenge to work through.
I've learned you need to know yourself and what you look for as far as social interactions go. I you're introverted, let yourself be introverted, and hang out with people who will be OKAY with you being introverted sometimes! Nothing bothers me more than when certain people don't understand when someone is just not in the mood to hang out, or is too tired or drained for whatever reason. This creates lots of stress and even shame for people who are introverted, anxious, etc. It's not good to push people into hanging out and then getting mad when they don't have the time--that's not what a friend is about. And it took me a while to realize that those people, no matter if they meant well or not, aren't great people to be around. Part of being in adult friendships, is understanding that life gets so much busier a lot faster, and a little empathy goes a long way. And as we get older and more in tune with our careers/goals, we deserve a circle of friends that appreciate us and support us and don't make us feel stressed.
Also: take the time to be alone and unplug out of social media and don't let the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) get the best of you. I've found that making platonic friendship are sometimes just as hard, or even harder than making romantic connections--especially in our modern age. And it should be at that same level. Lastly, the thing with making new friends, it's good to remember that they're more afraid of you than you are of them. I mean, some people are naturally talented in talking to new people and socializing, but we all get cold feet once in a while (or more than once in a while). Everyone has the same fears as you do: will they like me? will I say the wrong thing? Socializing and making the first move will be hard, and you will mess up, and that's a very real anxiety to have. But it all ends up being worth it when you find some long-term (or even short-term!) friends that you can make some awesome memories with.
Thanks for reading!!! Keep a look out for my posts every Saturday and Wednesday this summer!