Part of moving to a new city and starting a new life means you have to, and need to build a whole new circle of friends. When I arrived in Melbourne, I knew two people I had worked with previously and one other person who was a family friend. I was grateful to know these people, but I had to begin to build my network outside of them.
When I was kid and also at school, I seemed to have lots of friends but as I grew older and more awkward, those friendships seemed to change and I found myself living a life that wasn’t empty, but sometimes felt devoid of the friendships that others appeared to have. They say you only need a handful of true friends and I am not sure I even had a handful.
I look back and consider two relevant things that may have hindered my friendship making ability and they are one, I never went on to do further study after high school. I feel like this is a place where people begin to form strong friendships when you are working your way through those wild university years and two, I didn’t go to university because at 18 I got pregnant.
I used to joke at school that I would never be that “girl” who got pregnant and I wasn’t, but I managed to get up the duff not long after leaving school. I had so much trouble with that controlling boy who I had been seeing that I ended up leaving town, fell into a relationship and kaboom, before I knew it, I was going to be a mother.
Part of my struggle to find friends as an adult, was that I always felt like I didn’t have anything to offer. I had a child early, a broken marriage at 22, which left me feeling rejected, I was focussing on my parenting and recovering from my panic attacks and as I mentioned before, I wasn’t being a great friend to myself, so how could I be a great friend to others. And even though my world was rich with people who I would interact with, as people’s lives changed, so did the friendships.
Moving to Melbourne forced me to think about the things I was fearful of and tackle them head on and making friends was one of those things. I know some people seem to have the ability to just connect instantly with others and friendships blossom, but for me, I need to tend the friend garden for these to happen and often cautiously let people in.
I didn’t want a lonely existence, so set about finding places where I could potentially make the right kind of friends. I don’t want this to come across the wrong way, but I always want to be around people who are positive and uplifting and sometimes, I just see a world which is filled with people who are just going through the motions of life and don’t really look like they are enjoying it. I wanted to be around people who laugh, inspire, are spontaneous and feel joy – people like me….
I began researching lots of places and things I was interested in where I might go to meet other people. If it was cheap or free, I would go and check it out.
The first event was thankfully at a place close to home and it included a group of women and one man who was the organiser. I’m sure he thought he was Melbourne’s version of Fabio, but without the hair or any Fabio-ness. I wandered in, in my own cheery way and then the life just got sucked out of me. I ended up sitting next to two sisters who were out of a real-life horror movie. Whatever happened to Baby Jane came to mind. They were the real crazy cat ladies of Melbourne and as I tried to engage with the people in this group, all I began to hear was whining, whinging and negativity and after a while I kindly excused myself and got the fuck out of there.
I then went to another of their events and that was the last one for me. I’m not sure if it was a mix of people looking for dates or mates, but there were lots of weirdos there and after having to make boring, meaningless small talk, I left. This experience was only topped by a night that I decided to try speed dating.
What the fuck was I thinking! I hadn’t done organised “anything” since high school, so why would this be something that I thought would look good on my life resume. It was fucking terrible.
I put this terrible group out of my mind till a year later when they sent me a renewal notice and I said no fucking way. If I had known how terrible it was, I would never had joined. Little did I know that they offered refunds within the first few weeks. If only I had read the fine print.
I think a lot of people find it harder to make friends in adult life. We become united with a partner, have children, and then when we may find ourself starting over again. Life changes, people change and often we need to make new connections and it can be really hard.
I did make a most wonderful friend when I took myself along to a meetup group in the local area. The group met every few weeks and at that time, I still had my car, so I was able to drive there and take all my fears, which were strapped securely into the passenger seat.
My invisible passenger was talking non fucking stop. I could hear it saying things like ‘what will you say to people’? ‘How will you begin a conversation’? ‘You'll have to walk into a room full of strangers by yourself.' SHIT. Who wants to do that’? ‘What if nobody talks to you’? My laughing invisible passenger kept glaring at me and I told that chatter in my head to shut the fuck up because I was going to face my fears and get comfortable being uncomfortable.
I remember sometime
later meeting a woman who was going to the same meetup group, but her
fear stopped her from actually getting out of the car and going in.
I was determined to not to let my fear stop me and after sitting in the car for what felt like ages, and giving myself a little pep talk, I headed in, got a drink, scanned the room and headed towards a group of people who were already chatting and I did my best to engage. I quickly realised that they weren’t my people, so I went and watched the sunset for a bit, came back into the room and I saw a table of girls laughing and chatting, so I decided to wander over. Moments like this can either be sensational or sad, because it can go either way. You are either welcomed, or left standing on the edges smelling of parfum de awkward.
These ladies were indeed very welcoming and some easy small talk followed. All was going great until I dropped the F-Bomb which is something I am very good at, and from then, the conversation just got better.
When people meet me, they think I look too prim and proper to swear but I am highly versed in all the swear words. In fact, my favourite swear word is MOTHER FUCKER, COCK SUCKER. I can highly recommend letting that one rip when you are stuck for words.
I quickly connected with a woman in the group who has had a very similar journey to mine and we formed a bond that we still have now.
She is Spanish and a natural social butterfly. Her ability to form connections is incredible and so natural. From that day on, we would do lots of fun things and most importantly, we would support each other through the emotional roller coasters we were both riding. It felt so amazing to have someone to hang out with. We would go dancing, she would share all her great finds that she had discovered over her time in Melbourne, we would have our Saturday coffee catch ups, long chats on the phone. We would share and laugh about our ridiculous dating stories, and I think we both found a kindred spirit in each other.
During the time my son was working through his addiction, we didn’t see each other as much, or do some of the fun things we used to do, but we knew we were only a phone call away.
Once we were able to get our social gatherings back on track, we began to make some great plans of things we could do to work with and support women. We were going to start running workshops for women just like us. Women who were beginning again and navigating all the challenges that came with housing, work, finances, dating and all things in between. These are tough times, especially but in your late 40's seemed even harder.
We had spent hours brainstorming what this would look like and were planning for this vision to come to life, but unfortunately, due to family reasons, she made the tough call to go back to Spain and leave her Melbourne life behind.
This was so hard for both of us, but we are both grateful for the time we spent together and the difference we made in supporting each other’s growth to becoming strong, empowered women who would never put up with less than we ever deserved.
She introduced me to a few other people over our time together, who we would hang out with and one of her male friends who she met at a Meetup, was someone we would catch up with often.
After she left, I felt like I was handed an incredible friendship baton, as he too became one of my best friends in Melbourne and pretty much each weekend we would meet up for coffee at various places around the city and also share our dating fails, our life aspirations and remind ourselves of our awesome we are.
There is something truly lovely about having genuine people around you who you can spend time with and know that they will laugh with you, cry with you, give you a kick up the butt when you need it and just be there regardless. And my time in Melbourne was most definitely better because of these two beautiful souls.
When it comes to having the right people in our lives, it can happen by chance meetings, or by going to planned events. I did continue to go to Meetup groups and did meet some other wonderful women who I still keep in touch with even after travelling to the other side of the world and back, so there were definitely some great friendship moments from my time living there.
And now here in New Zealand, I find myself on the path to making new friends again, and here is some ways that work for m
- Say hello. You just never know where the conversation goes after say that magic word.
- Get involved in things that interest you, as that is a great place to meet people who share things in common. Facebook groups have linked me in with wonderful women.
- Volunteer - this has been a great thing to do as well, as I have met so many people and am also giving back to the community.