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When I moved out of New York City, leaving all of the friends and activities I’d been involved with for the past 15 or so years, to live “down the shore”, I realized pretty quickly that I was starving for friendships. Being the enterprising sort, I started looking for ways to meet “my tribe” – people who shared similar values. I came across almost immediately a pocket of holistic professionals and started to attend their events. I befriended three women who I felt I had known my whole life – they were the kind of people who I would have been roommates with had we gone to college together.
That was two years ago. We’ve seen each other three times since. We’re “friends,” butnot quite friends. We keep trying to get over the hump, but life gets in the way.
My story is not unusual. In our 30s and even in our 40s, new people enter our lives through work, children’s play dates and of course, Facebook. But actual close friends – like the ones you make in college or the kind you call in a crisis – those are in shorter supply.
As people approach midlife, the days of youthful exploration, of making friends wherever you go, fade as our work schedules compress our leisure time, priorities change and people often become pickier in what they want in their friends. After a certain age, people fall into a sense of fatalism, thinking that the opportunities for making BFFs the way we did in our teens or college years is pretty much over – that it’s time to resign yourself to situational friends or kind-of-friends.
People also often don’t realize how much they’ve neglected to replenish their stable of friends as the years progress –until they encounter a big life event, like a move, or a divorce. Then most wrestle with their sense of sheer loneliness and regret over not nurturing their friendships.
That thought struck me few months ago when I was contemplating organizing one of my (previously) renowned “Virgo-a-go-go’s” for my birthday. (Back in the day, I would often host some sort of blow-out birthday party at a favorite bar in New York, where my friends and I would gather and celebrate – often until dawn. And yes, you guessed it – I’m a Virgo.) But I realized that even though I have 926 Facebook friends, I still didn’t know if I could fill my party’s invitation list.
Many of my clients are also facing the same situation. In fact, after a divorce in his early 40s, one of my clients, Robert, a public relations executive, realized that his roster of friends had quietly atrophied for years as he focused on his career and family. “All of a sudden, as someone who became suddenly single, I realized I was lonely,” said Robert, now nearing 50. “I’d go to swing dance lessons. Instead of trying to pick up women, I’d introduce myself to the men and suggest ‘Hey, let’s go get a drink.’”
The benefits of having a strong support network is endless* yet these days, our lifestyle conditions have changed to such an extent that it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other.
With that in mind, I’m creating live-and-in-person opportunities for people to connect and form friendships while learning key life skills that will in the end help them create a life they love. I’m also offering a teleseminar on this subject that will give you the know-how to create a support community wherever you may live. Check out my Upcoming Events section to learn more. And over the course of the next few blog casts, I‘ll share with you some ideas on how to form new friendships and nurture them, no matter how busy you are or how introverted. Stay Tuned!
* Check out my teleseminar on this topic to learn more about the benefits of strong networks: http://aurorasana.wordpress.com/events/