It’s been a year since I moved back home after being away for ~12 years.
Probably the biggest challenge I’ve faced has been finding and developing meaningful friendships.
Here’s what I’ve learned…
We always need a family
If you’re a fairly balanced human being, you need connection with other humans.
We do this by making friends with people.
You’re normally close to your family when you live at home, if only in proximity at least. You have an easily accessible zone to “be”, and to exist. You can tap that source of human connection at almost any time.
Imagine you leave your family to live in a new city, country, or continent. The need for connection is still there, so you now need a replacement.
How do you do that? You find other people who live there without their family too. You go out and connect with them, and you connect hard.
This is exactly what I did while I lived in Japan. I had 2 core friends. I saw them each at least 3-5+ times a week and would’ve been in touch almost daily in one form or another. In many ways they were my family, and I was theirs.
I had other close friends of course, but nothing quite in the same way.
Family = people you are deeply connected to and who mutually want your company regularly and often.
Things move on when you’re not there
Forming deep connections quickly becomes an imperative while you’re living away. You just have to do it. You seek out people just like you and you form some of the closest bonds of your entire life.
But when you come back “home” you might think it’d be easy to create new friends. It’s home after-all, how hard can it be?
Take a moment and consider who most of your friends are… you grew up with them, you went to school with them, or worked with them at some point. The majority, if not all, fall under these categories.
If you’ve been off gallivanting, every one else living at home has been getting on with it. They have their family around them. They have their circle(s) of friends already. And you’ll soon realise that you’re just another face in the crowd.
When you get back home, you’ll find that most people have moved away, or moved on, depending on how long you’ve been gone. It’s time to start making new friends the old-fashioned way.
Making new friends is exactly like dating
Have you ever started dating someone and fallen for them too quickly? No? Bullshit. But I’ll explain it anyway.
You start trying way too hard when you fall for someone quickly. You suddenly need this person in your life. They’re your salvation and you want them in your life as much as you can get.
But that other person doesn’t need you in quite the same way. The last thing they want is your persistence and you’ll soon become a bit of pest.
That imbalance plays out in 1 of 2 ways. You will eventually cop on to yourself and sort your head out, or the relationship will die.
Making new friends is actually no different (except for the sex).
A friendship is formed from a gradual realisation that you like this other person. You want to integrate them into your life bit by bit because they add so much value. Until months later, it’s as if they’ve always been there.
If you try to short-cut this process the friendship will, as when dating, balance out naturally or fizzle to nothing.
Which falls faster – a stone, a feather, or Paul?
Anyone that knows me will know that I always fall like a brick – both for girls and for friends. As soon as I get an inkling that I’m connecting with someone in a good way, I gorge myself on them.
The honest truth is that I find it hard to meet people who are on the same wavelength, and when it appears to happen, I can easily get intense. It’s taken a few heart breaks to realise where I was going wrong.
So I’ve learned to tame it and hold back, to not appear to try so hard and to let things take a “natural” course. This unfortunately backfired because for a long time, and even now, I go too far the other way and I don’t outwardly show any interest.
Whoops! But it’s fucking hard. The prospect of finally connecting with someone in a meaningful way suddenly takes over and I lose my emotional footing.
What are we all so afraid of?
I’ve never worked out the problem with connecting quickly, I just know that most people don’t like it. Let’s face it, this wasn’t an issue when we were kids. Things like this were easy back then.
But why’s it so hard just because we’re all grown up?
Is it because we’ve been let down so often? Is it because we convince ourselves we don’t really need it? Is it because we don’t want the responsibility that a meaningful friendship brings? Are we scared of being stood-up at the friendship alter?
I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s a mix of all these things. Or perhaps we’re all too busy… or we prefer the relative safety of Facebook and Snapchat.
Wanting to create good friendships quickly could be interpreted by many as “needy”. And we all know how horrible that is, right? Who wants a needy person in their lives?!
I’m being sarcastic.
I think it’s okay to be needy – to outwardly demonstrate you want something “more” than the run-of-mill crap. I think it’s okay to want better relationships; to want to connect with people in a more meaningful way than randomly clicking ‘Like’ on their latest Facebook dessert/nails/beach/cocktail photos.
Does wanting something beyond superficial bullshit mean that I fundamentally lack something important that everyone else already has?
Isn’t it a compliment to want to hang out with the same person more than once in the same week? *gasp*
Of course, piling on your efforts to someone where it isn’t reciprocated, because you just gotta have it, isn’t the best approach. You need to check-in with yourself and re-evaluate your self-worth.
You don’t need to be pushing yourself on to other people. If they don’t return your efforts, that’s okay and you need to let it go.
But, and I think this is crux of what I’m getting at here, it’s okay to try. It’s perfectly okay to be vulnerable where others aren’t. It’s okay to demonstrate to other people you need them, and you want to connect with them.
And it’s okay to not have it returned in-kind. This just means you want it more than they do.
But don’t worry, there are plenty of us who do need it and, most importantly, that recognise we need it.