One of the most difficult things about growing up is keeping in touch with the people you grew up with. Friendships are hard to maintain as you grow older, not because you drift apart from people on an emotional level, but because life prevents actual interaction with the people you were once closest to.
Every time I left school – primary, secondary, college – I left with a new set of friends. To put it another way, every time I started somewhere new, I had to do it without my friends there by my side.
When I started my Masters, I was faced with a fresh dilemma: how do I make friends as an adult? Here’s what I learned.
1. Be yourself. Obvious right? But what if the person you really are doesn’t fit the “socially accepted” version of “normal”? What if, like me, you’re completely obsessed with comic books, science fiction, pop culture? What if the things you’re most passionate about aren’t all that well known, and the things everyone else talks about have no interest to you? I worried about that starting afresh once again, but I shouldn’t have. It turns out, if people can relate to your interests in any way, the tendency is to make an effort. Because the next thing you need to do…
2. Compromise. When you meet a lot of new people, it’s unlikely that everyone will have the same interests. The most mature thing you can do is allow everyone to talk about what they’re interested in, and for the sake of friendship take some interest in it as well. This doesn’t mean you need to go and read all the same books, watch all the same television shows, listen to all the same music, etc. Simply listen, engage. Talk about what interests you that’s similar.
3. Respect others. By the time you reach your 20s, you’re officially too old to treat people poorly just because you don’t agree with them. Social Media might try to convince you otherwise, allowing you to say what you want to whomever you want from the other side of the planet, seemingly without repercussions. However, in face-to-face relationships, it’s not that simple. You need to respect other people’s opinions, allow their voices to be heard. You can’t resort to name calling, bullying, or even to simply ignoring what someone because you don’t agree with it. It might seem odd that friendships can involve arguments, but that’s the reality of it when big personalities come together. It’s best to be prepared, and not let an argument – or debate, as they’re so often called – ruin what is otherwise a good friendship.
4. Pick up a hobby. Preferably one that allows you to meet other people. The first hobby I picked up properly was writing, and that’s a fairly solitary experience. (But don’t worry, we’ll get to that.) If you can, pick up a sport. If, like me, that’s not your cup of tea, find an interest that involves meeting new people. Working in theatre or film can help with that, and picking up some of the basic skills for each can be done from your home. Any hobby will do, however, so long as you can find some way of talking to others about it.
5. Join a group. The choice is yours: “real life”, or social media. Personally, I prefer something that involves meeting people face-to-face, at least occasionally, and that’s where social media helps pick up the slack. Online, I’ve been able to meet other writers and other YouTubers, and in two groups on Facebook, meet-ups are not uncommon. Having a hobby, whether it’s writing or video making or baking or a craft, is the perfect way to meet like-minded people, who share at least one interest.
It’s not easy, especially if you’re not ongoing, but even when you start out somewhere new – or you don’t, and that’s the problem instead – it’s possible to make real and lasting friendships.
What are your tips for those who are struggling to make or maintain friendships as they enter adulthood?