I have always found it pretty difficult to make friends, and even the ones I have made over the thirty years I've been alive have taken some work to gain. Ever since I was a child, making friends has always been something that has not come easily.
I was the child who everybody ran away from; throughout primary school I was bullied constantly - not physically, but emotionally. I was called Fleabag for three years. When you're age eight, and have done nothing wrong - it is pretty difficult to understand why people just don't like you.
Something weird kept happening at the time too; the same people who would name call when in the company of other children would come up to me on their own and tell me they didn't mean it - they were just doing it because the others were. Then another member of the "in" group would do the same, and another until almost everybody was doing it just to be kept in with the popular kids.
I have a distinct memory of going to my maths lesson one day, and going to sit next to one girl. She told me I couldn't sit there because somebody else was sitting there. Nobody took that seat. She was doing it to be liked by everybody else. But then she took a stand, and decided that she wasn't going to be mean like the others. Somehow we became the best of friends.
We weren't in the "in group", but we had each other and we lived in each other's pockets. We slept at each other's houses, climbed trees, played cards, watched movies, shared a love of reading and Enid Blyton's Mallory Towers series.
We crushed on the same guy when we were 11, and she outed me. We fought over another guy when she dumped him, and he asked me out. We fought over him again, when I dumped him, and he asked her out. We fought over him... well for most of our teen years for the same reason over and again. In hindsight the guy really wasn't all that, and both of us agree we have no idea what we were thinking.
But we are still friends, even now. We don't talk all the time, but I was honoured to have her present at my wedding this past April. We have the kind of relationship where we can just pick up wherever we leave off, even if it has been a couple of years, and the most commonly used words out of our mouths are: "remember when?!"
Apart from her, I made a couple of other friends along the way - who I am very close to, but adulthood is different, and none of my other friendships have become such that we lived in each other's pockets, and did everything together. Before I emigrated, I saw friends so infrequently. Not because we didn't want to see each other, but because adult lives are complicated and our schedules just never seemed to allow us to get together.
I was mostly available, and spent a lot of time home with my children. I didn't have the time to go out to see people, and looked forward to going out once a week to see friends at a bar. That was mostly the only time I would see them. I tried a few times to ask people over, for a night in, but the answer was often no, because they were busy.
Instead I stayed in, browsed Facebook, watched movies, or read books. I found myself interacting with my friends mostly via social media. It was a lonely existence, even though my friends were only a few taps away on a keyboard. It made my decision to move to America easier though. There was nobody really keeping me there. Nobody to worry about leaving behind because it was okay - I had Facebook to talk to them.
I now live 4000 miles away, but I don't feel it is much different because I am only a few taps on a keyboard away. Not that those messages come often. It's okay. Life is busy. I'm sure if I type a message on a keyboard, then they'll reply. That's the way it's always been.
So now I'm actually here living in Chicago, I intend to make things different, and have a different perspective. For too long I have met new people, and suffered horrible paranoia that people don't like me. A couple of times that's been true, but I've been wrong too.
Social media isn't all bad. It's helping me to actively reach out, looking for other moms to make friends with, not just for play dates for the Miniatures, but friendships for myself. Meetup seems a good place to find groups of like minded people, so hopefully I will meet a couple of people. I've also reached out to fellow writers at ChicagoNow, and am looking forward to meeting Jenna, the talented author of High Gloss and Sauce, later this week. Her writing is great, honest and to the point. I like her already!
I'm hoping that by making a friend or two here, it will help me settle down more. I just hope that at the age of thirty, I'm better at making friends than when I was five, and that people might actually like me.
Why should they like me? Because I am great, and have a wicked sense of humour, just ask TH!
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Filed under: The Expat Experience