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Recently, I moved from Australia to New York City. It was, and still is, incredibly scary and challenging. While I knew a handful of people, they were scattered between Manhattan and New Jersey, and most were friends of a friend- not my own connections. I didn’t want to pity-invited along to any event. In a city of 8 million people, it doesn’t seem like it would be difficult to find, and make, friends but it was, and it wasn’t long before I started to feel a little bit isolated and consider a life where my only friends in the city would be the raccoons in Central Park.
Raccoons, and possible rabies, aside, I knew I had to do something about this feeling of disconnect from society, or I’d end up a lonely spinster in arguably one of the greatest cities in the world, known for its vivid social scene.
So I got to work. Thinking about how I’d made friends in my previous, Australian life, it dawned on me that not all of my best and closest friendships had been formed at school or work places- the two places I assumed were the time-honoured friend-making scenes. So, I put together a list of ways to meet great friends in my new city. Here are some things that worked for me:
I discovered that going along to meet ups for something you’re interested in or passionate about is a great way to meet people. Not only are you mingling with other living, breathing hominids, but you’re also meeting people with similar interests to you, and because you have an inbuilt convo starter, you don’t need to make small talk about the local sports team or the unseasonable weather we’ve been having lately.
Book or Movie Review Clubs
Similar to meet ups, a book club or movie review club is a great way to meet people because you’re forced to not be a wallflower and to participate in the conversation. Maybe you’ll find your next bestie after you both give 50 Shades of Grey withering reviews, and bond over your shared highlighting of all the naughty parts in the book- (the only parts worth reading). The other benefit to making friends at things like this is that you’re still keeping up with your passions and hobbies. You get to keep your interests and make friends.
Take a look around you, is someone struggling with a map or a Metrocard? Give them a hand. It won’t take much time and maybe you’re catching the same train, so you’ll have some time to chat.
This is exactly how I made a friend from Boston, after witnessing him struggle with the ticketing machine and offering my assistance.
Even if you don’t make a lifelong friend, you’ll feel good for helping someone and you’ll become well-practiced at approaching people, and with this comes confidence- good practice for more new friends!
I use a co-working space and I witnessed the blossoming of a new friendship right before my eyes recently.
Dan was casually working away at a desk in an open spaced area shared with others when Al, the eagle eye, spots some kind of gaming-card deck, the name of which is unknown to me, and asks Dan if he can “check out his deck”. Dan responds in the positive and the next twenty minutes they were dedicated to talking about the game, the styles they played and where. At the end of this brief encounter, the pair were Facebook friends and making plans to hook up to play said game in the future. While I wouldn’t advocate laying out a token of all the things you’re interested in like a weird, religious shrine for others to see and remark upon, open planned spaces encourage and foster these kinds of interactions and I have found them to be a good way to meet people.
I once met a group of guys out one night on the roller derby scene and as the night progressed, my best friend and I hung out with them more and more and we bonded quite quickly. Drunkenly insisting one of our new found pals couldn’t possibly make the late night commute to his home- in another town an hour away, we forced the poor guy to spend the night on our too-small couch. Waking in the morning to see he’d since left but had neatly folded his sheets and blankets, placing them on said couch, and hadn’t made off with our TV, made us think he was an ok guy. Later on in the day, I’m flicking through potential suitors online and see someone who looks awfully familiar to our new found friend- we were a match! We thought this pretty funny and laughed ourselves silly and then we forced him to move in with us and we’ve been great friends ever since. While we were never romantic, as the site had intended in pairing us up, that person is now one of my best friends, and I’ve met other friends through him. So while internet dating can be , it’s not entirely unreasonable to use it to make friends.
A tip - while you may be tempted to invent romantic scenarios with this new person, or people, in your head- don’t. It isn’t that actively dating someone is a bad way of meeting friends, but you want your own friends and not temporary friends you’ll have to give up if the relationship doesn’t last. So you may have to sacrifice one hottie, and the relationship potential they have, in order to make, and remain, friends. .
So while it may seem daunting and an impossible task, it isn’t always doom and gloom when it comes to making friends as an adult. I hope this list has inspired you to look outside the box when it comes to making new friends. What did you think of this list? Have you tried any of these things?
About Jamie-lee Owen
Jamie-lee Owen is a writer and raccoon lover. More of her work can be found at jleeowen.com
I stopped hanging out with my main group of friends because the guitarist of the rock band I carried equipment for was extremely condescending towards me and always wanted me to contribute money towards him buying drugs. These were toxic friends, and they saw nothing wrong with putting me down either. They also drank and smoked cigarettes and used drugs, when I was trying to quit all of these things. So I stopped hanging out with them. But almost all my friends were in this rock band and the people who worked for it.
Suddenly I had nobody to hang out with. But it got worse.
After leaving this group, I got drunk at another friend’s house, and by the end of the night my insatiable thirst for beer resulted in me grabbing the last beer his grandfather ever brewed, while he wasn’t looking, and drinking it. My friend found out and punched me in the face and I was banned from his house. It was at this point I realized that I needed to go to AA. I needed to become a better person and surround myself with people who could bring out the best in me.
I had gone before when I was younger, but it was because I had to for probation, and I would just wait for the meetings to be over so that I could get my sheet signed. This time I wanted to do it right.
I was prejudiced against members of the military when I began AA, but the nicest person I met there was a Gulf War veteran with PTSD named Jeremy. He was very empathetic with everyone at the tables. I thought, “Wow, this guy actually cares when bad things happen to people he doesn’t know!” At AA I have started to care more about the joys and problems of both my new AA friends and even strangers, and to feel their emotions with them. I am also learning that a 22-year-old like myself can be friends with much older people. There are people of all ages at AA groups.
In one meeting, I was sitting with some guys my age and one older guy. I found myself opening up about how my dad had a seizure from getting a cerebral edema after hitting his head too many times when he was drunk. I told them, “It was not long after he got the surgery to drain it before he started drinking again and I never want to be that stupid.”
They agreed that it was pretty stupid and reassured me that I didn’t have to be like that. After the meeting a young man named Colin said, “We’re all about the same age. If you ever need anyone to hang out with, you can chill with us.” He gave me his number and the older guy told me about the three-quarters house they lived at (a place with strict rules where recovering drug addicts live) and said I should check it out. These people that I had just met suggested I come live with them! I am fortunate enough that I am sober to the point where I don’t need to live in a place like that, but it was touching to be invited.
The club where I go to most of my meetings is located in a strip mall; ironically it is right next to a liquor store. Inside there are tables topped with hard white plastic surrounded by folding chairs. In the back there is free coffee and tea set out along with tall stacks of Styrofoam cups. On the walls there are there picture frames on the wall with the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions in them and sayings such as, “Let Go and Let God”, “Willingness is the Key”, and “One Day at a Time”. There is also a print of the classic AA painting of two members of AA talking to an alcoholic on a wall. To me this highlights the key success behind the organization – understanding people helping each other to become better.
The atmosphere at the club was so friendly and supportive. The 12th step is to help other alcoholics achieve sobriety, so a major goal of members of AA is to help you. There is something called “The Fellowship” at AA, which means a friendly and supportive community of people with the common goal of staying sober. It is very easy to make new friends at AA because when you first get there a card is handed around and everyone puts their name and number on it so you can call people if you need help or even a friend. I realized that people often lose friends when they stop drinking and doing drugs, because they can’t afford to be around people doing things like that, or because their friends were shallow and won’t want to spend time with them unless they’re getting high or drunk. Members of AA are very willing to spend time with you outside of the club because they understand that newly sober people need sober friends.
Before and after meetings everyone hangs out in the court to talk or smoke cigarettes. I don’t smoke anymore but this is where I really got to know a lot of people. One of my best friends at AA is John, a tall skinny 27 -year-old with brown hair and ears that stick out really far.
I think one reason why it was easier to make friends in AA is that the 4th step in AA is taking moral inventory, assessing when you were good or evil. During meetings people often confess to doing bad things in the past, and judging others is called “taking someone else’s inventory” and is considered useless and self-defeating. Anyone can be themselves in AA and will be shown compassion, in fact honesty is strongly encouraged as opposed to hiding faults like one would need to elsewhere.
I don’t have a car because for several years I had terrible priorities. At AA people often have lost the privilege to drive because of DUIs, so people often give each other rides. I have made many friends by being driven home by people. One of them, Joe, became my sponsor. Joe drives John and me home after the 10:00 P.M. meetings sometimes, which are my favorite meetings because that’s the one most of my friends go to. Joe is really funny and cool and I count on him for advice on important issues.
I got a job because of AA and I also made two new friends, my bosses Bill and Charlie. I mentioned that I didn’t have a job at one point when we were standing around in the court where people smoke. A 50-year-old named Charlie told me that he was a roofer. He offered to train me to be a roofer and the first day he came and picked me up he talked for a while and I learned a lot about him. He used to be a millionaire because he ran a huge roofing company. Then he lost everything because of the 2008 Wall Street crash and the Great Recession. It turns out the road I live on is named after his family! While I was working with him I met one of his business partners who also goes to AA, a 69-year-old named Bill. Bill and I have become very good friends and he says that one of his favorite times of day is when he is driving around with me to go to various jobs and pick things up from Home Depot. We talk a lot and can relate to each other very well even though there is a 47-year age gap.
I am extremely glad that I started going to AA on regular basis. I have made about ten new friends in just four months and I am making more all the time. Every day I can go hang out with people, there are several meetings a day so that I never have to be alone. In these past four months I’ve gotten a job and a girlfriend, two things I haven’t had in a long time. Ditching my toxic friends and lifestyle and deciding to make new friends and a healthier lifestyle by going to Alcoholics Anonymous was one of the best choices I’ve ever made.*
-Submitted by Michael Ericson
*NB. All names have been changed in this story.