I knew I was alone when I started to get closer to the disheveled man who always seems to be posted outside my neighborhood CVS.
” What is your problem ? He asked gruffly as I rushed to my car one afternoon. I slowed down and watched.
“Do you really want to know?” I asked, stopping. Before he had a chance to say no, I got into my rant.
“Well, so I ate the booster hummus, and I’m pretty sure I have listeria.” He sat in silence as I continued, “But I don’t know what listeria is and I’m too scared to google for side effects.” “
“I have crabs,” he replied in a neutral tone.
“Yeah, so you understand.”
One thing no one tells you about being an adult is how lonely you will be. People tell you about the responsibilities, the hard work ahead, damn it, they even tell you about all the possible STDs you can get from having unprotected sex. But for some reason people seem to ignore the fact that making friends in adulthood is really, really hard. And, as a result, many people I know feel lonely.
Romantic relationships are arguably easier to find because there is a physical attraction – or at least the promise of one. People are motivated to find romantic relationships, so they are more open to talking to strangers in restaurants or in kickball leagues that they find intriguing. But if I’m in a dimly lit bar on a Saturday night and see a woman my age across the street, and want to get to know her (strictly on a platonic basis), what should I do? Buy him a drink? Compliment her outfit? Trying to get her number?
For some reason, people seem to ignore the fact that making friends in adulthood is really, really hard.
What do you do when you move to a new city, all your friends leave your city, or worse yet all your friends get married and you wonder if four cats is one too many?
When I moved to Los Angeles in 2016 with my boyfriend for a new job, at least I had it. And although I love him dearly, my life couldn’t revolve around him. Instead of just taking a risk and exposing myself, I first clung to my old Florida friendships through phone calls, texts, and chats, and made no effort to find news. The only social interaction I had (other than talking to my boyfriend) was watching other people’s friendships unfold on TV.
“Tamra said the funniest thing today,” I said to my boyfriend as we sat down for dinner, pretending I wasn’t referring to star Tamra Judge. The Real Housewives of Orange County. “She and Vicki are in this huge fight right now and sh-“
“Who are these people?” my boyfriend would ask.
“Just a few people …”
“Are these women on television? “
In a world full of #squadgoals and selfies, it can be hard to admit you’re alone.
I moved to five different cities in five years for different jobs, often without knowing anyone. I wallowed in my misery; I spent Saturday alone in my apartment; I even cried to my mom countless times over the phone. She often had to cut our conversations short – she went out with her friends.
But what I’ve learned is that despite it looking uncomfortable and scary, other people want friends too, and most people are more than happy to chat or exchange numbers. if you just ask them.
The only social interaction I had (other than talking to my boyfriend) was watching other people’s friendships unfold on TV.
I have tried to drive away the fear of being outside my comfort zone and letting relationships flow, even when it seems a little strange. I messaged old acquaintances, joined continuing education classes, and stayed alone in bars while checking out a band or comedian I wanted to see. I struck up conversations with complete strangers – some of whom even turned out to be really great friends – and unabashedly invited myself to parties, including a time when I found myself at the family’s New Years party. from my friend and I had one of the best meals (and craziest dance parties) of my life.
Most of the time, I’ve learned that in order to bring people into your life you have to be open to receiving them.
Last summer at my departure party in Fort Lauderdale it was interesting to look around the room and see all the people standing there. There were friends I met in comedy classes and friends I met after joining a women’s journalism group that I found online. There were work friends, kickball friends, friends that I met through friends and college friends. Little by little, in all the cities where I had lived, I had really managed to (eventually) make friends.
Each of them brought something rich to my life, and as we all got lost in my pool, the fear of leaving them and moving somewhere else started to fade.
“Are you afraid of making friends?” A friend asked me before embarking on my new journey.
“Yeah,” I say. “But I think it will be fine.”
It just took me a while to realize it.
This story originally appeared on Mowed, a site that shares personal essays from 20+ years that explore experiences often overlooked in neatly filtered and curated social media posts.
Kate Jacobson is an editor and writer living in Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.