Because I am fascinated by people, and pay close attention to human interactions, I’m noticing a refrain with heartbreaking regularity: “I’ve lost touch with my friends. I don’t go out anymore. I’m so lonely.”
I can’t soften the blow. If you’re all by yourself, waiting for someone to reach out to you, you’ve got no one to blame but you.
Look at this way: When you were a single digit protoplasm, your folks probably coordinated play dates with other similarly sized blobs. You got a little older, and there was grade school, then high school, with a whole new cast of characters planted in your path. You became buddies with the guy whose locker was next to yours, you met a cool group of kids at the drama club, you hung with your fellow players after hockey practice.
If you went to college, suddenly, your schoolmates had similar majors, or at least interests. There were a plethora of clubs & activities & parties to hit, maybe fueled by the social lubricant of beer bongs & body shots. One group of friends led to the next, and you were overwhelmed with more people than you knew what to do with. Good on you!
But once school’s prepackaged camaraderie was over, you were out in the real world. The first few years of adulthood can a bitch – you’ve got student loans, maybe a young family, a shitty job that hopefully leads to a less shitty job, but it’s probably gonna be awhile before you’re self-sufficient. This means the focus is on the next buck, the next rung on the social hierarchy, and those advancements are often made at the expense of interpersonal relationships.
I think this happens because we are told that money & status are the only worthwhile goals. By the time we come up for air, twenty years have evaporated, and everyone has retreated into their own specialized compartments. Suddenly all your friends are gone because no one bothered to nurture those relationships, and you have no idea how to make new ones, because you never really had to learn.
Lasting friendships take WORK. They’re not about clicking a box on a website, or sending out a mass text on New Year’s Day, or hoping that at least one person can be conned with a six-pack and a pizza to move a sofa after seven months with no contact.
We must make time for the ones that matter. Pick up an actual phone and CALL someone. Schedule a shared cup of coffee on a Saturday morning. Have a potluck dinner party (it’s also a great excuse to clean the house). Reach out when you’re happy, not just when you’re depressed & need an ear. Relationships (not just the romantic kind) take effort. If you plant a garden, you wouldn’t just drop some seeds on the ground and expect to eat salad for the next 30 years, would you? Nurturing a beloved inner circle is exactly the same, right down to cutting back the wayward bits or dousing vinegar on the weeds.
Friends don’t only hafta be the ones dropped in your path, either. Questioning a friend’s toxic relationship, I was told, “we’ve known each other since kindergarten”, as if this were a good excuse to allow someone to continue making her miserable forever. If your “friend” drags you down, tries to make your life smaller so you’ll stay with them, belittles your triumphs, sabotages your happiness, it doesn’t matter how long they’ve been doing that – it only matters that you’ve allowed it for far too long. It’s time to cut them loose. Better to be lonely than brutalized.
And perhaps you don’t have anyone who DOES interest you. You can find them, but YOU need to make the effort. Figure out what you like to do, find a place where other people do it, and GO THERE. Join a group online, and if one doesn’t exist, start one. Make an effort to make it happen, cuz it won’t happen otherwise. Be the catalyst.
Reach out to those in your life who have brought you joy, clarity and support. Let them know how much they mean to you. Walk across that burning bridge. And the ones who are dead weight? Love yourself enough to let them go.
You deserve better.