Herding cats

It wasn’t until after I finished my undergrad and started moving random places that I realized one of the harsh realities of adult life: it’s hard to make friends. I read articles about it and brushed them off thinking it wouldn’t be me. Then it was.

Once you leave the cushy world of school and then uni you are pretty much on your own floating in the world. Your coworkers are not really your friends. You make small talk and sometimes go for drinks but in a structured coworker sort of way. I haven’t kept in touch with any of my coworkers and I’ve never done much outside of work with them. There are a lot of walls in that environment. You are supposed to put out an idealized happy bubbly version of yourself that is good at gossiping and small talk but has no real problems and is always content. Being able to sit at a desk for eight hours and seem perfectly happy the entire time is a skill that they do not teach at uni. There should be a class on it.

That eliminates the traditional method of friend making most North Americans grow up with. The people you spend all of your time with are your friends and people you are happy to see outside of the normally defined hours in which you must be in proximity to one another. You have to put yourself out there and make a real effort to meet people. Joining Meetups and messaging old acquaintances who end up in the same city as you is work but it also pays off. I’ve learned that friends don’t appear out of thin air and you have to work at it.

They can also disappear from your life for one reason or another. You said something that offended them, they got a boyfriend and disappeared into the void, they move to another city, they get busy with a hobby or their job is demanding. Some of my friends from uni seem more interested in napping and Netflix than leaving the house. If you’re lucky they come back to you and reappear in your life in unexpected ways. Some of them are gone forever and you have to let them go.

I have gotten lucky with roommates in the past. They fulfill the proximity but actually wanting to hang out bit. In Copenhagen my social group emanated from my Australian roommate who was the first person I met. His program was much better at organizing welcome events for international students so he knew a bunch of people before I did. Since we got along he introduced me to them and our apartment became the base for cooking and parties. I didn’t really appreciate how lucky I was to have that happen at the time.

In D.C. I had a roommate I got along with but who ultimately ignored me. She would talk about doing things and then bail on them. The link just wasn’t there.

When I moved to Vancouver I was lucky to live in a couple of houses with people I got along with well who formed the base of my social life. I only had one friend in the city who I met at a random event. The rest were roommates or people from old activities or school.

Here I like my roommates so far. I have been fortunate to spend too many of my nights chatting and watching TV after going to make tea while doing readings. I know that this is the easiest way to make friends but I don’t want to just rely on my roommates. They’ll get busy and stressed once coursework piles up. They might find their own friends and not be willing to include me in their world.

I am trying to join societies and go to events. So far it’s been easy to go and chat with people. Everyone’s new and looking to meet people. The hard part is getting them to do stuff after that first meeting. You add them on Facebook and then never see them again. The challenge now is to turn those people I’m meeting at events and turn them into friends. I also know that I’m only here for a year. Making friends and building a social network takes time. Time I don’t have. I’d rather meet people and enjoy them for ten or eleven months instead of meeting them in June.


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