Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How to Make Friends: Building Your Community Wherever You Go

I've been fairly shy my entire life. The whole "putting myself out there thing" has always caused me quite a bit of anxiety. I used to get butterflies in my stomach whenever my dad would have me call someone on the phone to thank them for a gift. I'd silently wish for the answering machine to pick up instead. Just thinking about it now brings back those all-too familiar flutters.

When my husband joined the military, we knew moving around frequently was something our family would have to get used to doing. In just the past four years alone, we have lived in three different cities. I was born and raised in the same house for eighteen years, and only ventured forty-five minutes down the road to "go off to" college. To say I like being in my "comfort zone" is an understatement.

Living in a new town requires you to put yourself out there and make new friends. This is something that has never been easy for me. I get so nervous approaching people. I feel as if I'm bothering them, or interrupting whatever it is they're doing.

However, over the years, I've come to realize that people are usually just as nervous as I am when it comes to making new friends. Just like me, they're waiting for someone to make the first move.

I admit, it's definitely less intimidating to meet new people when you have a child. It's a lot easier--in my opinion--to open up a conversation with "How old is your son?" rather than "How old are you?" But my problem wasn't necessarily starting the conversation, per say, it was building upon it. I would be at various children's play places and make small-talk with other moms, but that was the extent of it. I might bump into them again at another event and smile politely, or I might never see them again. I'd come home and my husband would ask, "Did you meet anyone new today?"

I'd tell him about so-and-so, to which he'd ask, "Well did you get her number?"

Umm, no... We would joke that making new mommy-friends was like dating all over again. My husband challenged me numerous times, "Why not? Why didn't you ask her if she works or stays at home? Why didn't you ask her where she's from?" and other various "get-to-know-you" questions.

Repeatedly my response was, "Well, I don't know. I guess I was too nervous."

My husband's response was, "Don't you think she may have been just as nervous as you?"

He made a valid point. I pondered a lot about it: If I was nervous and shy about striking up a conversation that lasted more than thirty seconds, maybe other moms felt this way too?

"Make the first move," my husband would say, "I think you'll surprise yourself."

So I decided to put on my Big Girl Pants, step out of my comfort zone and make the first move. And when I did, the results were amazing.

One of my first instances of "putting myself out there" led to some life-changing and memorable events. I used to take my oldest daughter, Emmalyn, to a weekly music class. There was another little girl there, the same age as Emmalyn, named Whitney, who usually came with her nanny. One day her mom brought her. I heard my husband's voice in the back of my mind say, "Just talk. Ask for her number. Just do it." When the class was over, I found myself conversing with this mom, who was super pleasant and equally engaging. She told me she recently quit her job to be a stay-at-home-mom and was looking to meet new moms. Ding! Ding! Ding! Hello, Opportunity.

I took a deep breathe. "We should exchange numbers and get the girls together for a playdate sometime," I spoke up.

And thus became the start of a beautiful friendship.

On our first playdate, we learned that not only did we attend the same college, but were a part of the same sorority--just a few years a part! Our friendship quickly grew over the next few months, as did our daughters'. They were soon calling each other "Ems" and "Whit" and telling everyone they were "best friends." Somewhere along the way, I too, found a best friend.

As our friendship was developing, I knew a move with the military was inevitable. It would have been easy to not let myself get involved, knowing we would be moving in just a few short months. Yes, it would have been easy, but it wouldn't have been fair. Friendships don't have to be One-Size-Fits-All. I can't imagine my life without Meri and her sweet daughter Whitney, and I know my daughter feels the same way.

My relationship with Meri is just one example of how putting yourself out there can have such rewarding results. When we moved seven hours away last year, I had to make new friends all over again. It still didn't feel "normal" for me to make the first move and ask for another mom's phone number, but I knew the importance of building a community. I didn't want my only friend to be my three year-old. It took some time and a few missed opportunities for me to realize how silly I was being. "Just do it," I could hear my husband say.

So I did. I began interacting with other moms at play places, eagerly exchanging contact information. It felt a little foreign and quite random at times, but it was so worth it. I've exchanged numbers with moms at parks, in department stores in the baby section, and at Story Times. When I would come home with a new mom's number, I'd be all giddy--like I was fifteen years-old again, sometimes even throwing in a happy-dance for good measure.

Building a community with other moms is vital. I've learned a lot from them, and I've learned a lot about me through them. It's fun watching our children develop friendships, but it's even more fun when we leave the kids at home and meet for breakfast after dropping them off at school, or grab a glass of wine for Girls' Night, or meet once a month for Book Club.

I'm so thankful I decided to abandon my inhibitions and anxiety over meeting new people.

Imagine all I would have missed out on if I hadn't stepped out of my comfort zone and introduced myself? A whole heck of a lot--that's what!

loyally,
katie
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5 comments:

  1. Thank you for this post! My hubby is a pilot in the AF and we have been at the same base for 4 years but we will be moving next year! I have made friends and watched them leave here as well as had to go to socials/coffees not knowing anyone and put myself out there! I think meeting new friends is harder then dating! I'm glad Im not the only introvert out there who struggles/is scared of meeting new people but its worth making the first move and putting yourself out there to make a new friend! Now that I am a mom, I am hoping at our next base I will be able to meet other SAHMs in the military or civilian!

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    1. You're welcome :) I used to think people wouldn't want to develop a friendship with me because we're in the military and will eventually pick up and move, but thankfully that hasn't been the case thus far!

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  2. So funny! And SO true! Since we're in Austin now I always laugh with my hubby about how making new friends (especially in the mommy world) feels like dating. "So...do you want to do this again sometime?" Ha! I like your phrasing better though, "We should exchange numbers..." very smooth! I'll have to try :)

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    1. I've definitely said, "do you want to do this again sometime?" hahaha Thankfully you now have Rook as an ice breaker ;)

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