From 1975 to 2001 we moved for my husband's job and had a lot of company. In those days about 20% of Americans moved annually according to the December 31, 2019 piece in Axios. When we last moved in 2015 from the midwest to New England, fewer than 10% moved annually. In our age group over 60, it was a microscopic 4%.
I understand many of the reasons. When I Google "moving and stress", depending on the algorithm you might get the 293,000,000 hits I got in 46 seconds. So can we agree? Moving is an anxiety-ridden, stressful event! And truly as I can attest, if you plan to move in your retirement years--do so sooner than later. It only gets harder, it's damn hard work.
After the boxes are unpacked, shades up and most things sorted at home, the question is how to meet new people and find new things to do? It's actually so easy I no longer think about it, given it's a skill I've had lots of opportunities to practice during our 18 moves here and abroad. So let me share a few easy tricks.
To begin the job of meeting new people, put your ego aside and your fear of talking to strangers. Worried about what 'they' will think of you? People will think whatever they want, so get over yourself. Not everyone will greet you with open arms. Like Cary Grant was told by Audrey Hepburn in the film Charade, she apologetically said she already knew an awful lot of people and until one of them died, she couldn't meet others. Some people will turn their backs on you, which is their problem-don't make it yours. On the island of Curacao, one woman married for years to a local turned up her nose at meeting any 'newcomers'. Her view was, why should she invest the time to get to know them when they'd just move in 2 or 3 years?
So what can you do?
- Go to any and all events to meet people, it's a given all will be new people. Whether cultural, political, religious, the gym or sports, show up and talk to strangers. Make a conscious effort to remember and use their names. As others have said, the second most beautiful sound to the human ear is hearing your name. (My first most beautiful sound is a child's laugh.)
- Subscribe to a local newspaper, magazine or go online to learn what's happening in your community. Read the advertisements, coming events and plan to attend what interests you. You'll feel a lot less lonely, if you are surrounded with people who enjoy what you enjoy. If there is a program at an event, take it home and study of the advertisements. Numerous times I've been asked "how did you know about...." It was there, in a program, email, advertisement or tourist information office-even in our current small town of 29,000.
- Have business cards with your contact information listed to share people of interest to you, then ask for their contact information. Then follow up with some of these people afterwards. Cleanly printed business cards get a lot more respect than a scribbled name on a paper napkin.
- Stumped for conversation? Fall back on the classic advice I learned from my mother-in-law. Ask strangers about their lives. Think journalistically of the who, what, when, where, how and why. It's a rare person who doesn't like to talk about themselves.
- Ask your new acquaintances over for a cup of coffee/tea, a casual dinner at your home or whatever else comes to mind. Be proactive. If you're the new kid in town and wait for them to call you, you'll be waiting a very long time. Remember this isn't a Julia Child moment. Whatever you do to prepare, keep it simple. It's a first date, a chance to get to know them better and for them to get to know you. What you serve is unimportant, who you serve is center stage.
- Volunteer at cause you support, the payback can be massive. I've always met people while volunteering while living on desert islands like Curacao, banana republics like Ecuador or in at the Art Institute of Chicago. And if you join too many things, it's not a job-no worries, you can quit.
- And above all, manage your sensitivities. If you feel someone ignores or disses you, or just isn't responsive to meeting a new person, move on. It's a big, full of humanity filled world.
So if you're feeling lonely, friends left behind have forgotten you, take time to do one thing to meet others today. Not tomorrow, today. After all, in this chaotic world of 2020 the only time we have is the now. So look outside yourself to get out of your own head. Others will give you a shoulder to cry on, a shared laughter at absurdities. It's a lot easier to carry life's loads, with another.