Making friends as a kid is easy. Ok, well maybe not always easy, but definitely simple. Straightforward. There’s no game to play or dance to master. The fear of vulnerability has yet to develop and so there is a freedom, a lightness, with which we interact with one another. It’s as simple as, “Do you wanna play?”
Then comes adolescence, where we start to build our walls and are stripped of our innocence and suddenly a simple “hey” isn’t so simple anymore. We handle the tumultuous time as best we can, making friends, losing friends, and trying to navigate the whirlwind of emotions that come with it all. Some friendships last, some don’t, and some undergo significant changes. Soon, college follows, and with it a fresh start. We meet new people and make new friends. When we disperse to enter the real world some of those friendships make it and other don’t. It’s a lot to handle, and often timing is everything.
All this to say, by the time we reach 30 many of us consider ourselves “finished” forming new friendships. Maybe we add some acquaintances to the list, or colleagues to our network, but generally speaking most people aren’t up for the whole “let’s become friends” song and dance. I think that’s because it’s harder as adults. We’re less inhibited as children, less fearful. As we age, we construct a certain set of parameters that allows us to keep new people at a certain distance. Meeting someone new feels vulnerable. Will she like me? Will he want to be my friend? What if we don’t hit it off? What if I say something stupid?
Maybe I’m the only one who has this complex and the rest of you aren’t caught up in over-analyzing it. But I have this suspicion that adults feel afraid to let down their walls a little bit when they meet someone new. In fact, the opposite is true. Our walls probably come up a little higher – we spring to a defensive stance.
In my experience, letting that wall down even just a little bit can be so, so magical. Take for example, this past weekend. We spent it at the lake house with our new friends, Kelly and Mitch, and their adorable baby Emma (no seriously, those cheeks, I die). Kelly is a successful lifestyle blogger and Mitch is a public school teacher in the city of Chicago. I met Kelly when I attended one of her events last year (she was pregnant with baby Emma!) and we became fast friends. Was it a little nerve-wracking when I first introduced myself? Of course! I was anxious she wouldn’t like me, and nervous I’d say something dumb. But I can’t tell you how glad I am that I took that risk, because we totally hit it off (as did our husbands) and now I have this new friend in my life!
I’m a big believer that the things that bring us the most joy, that create the greatest depth, are not, in fact, things at all. They are people, and the relationships we form with them. This weekend, we laughed so hard my cheeks hurt. We ate delicious, home-cooked food and went for walks on the beach. We shared stories and played games and giggled with Emma. The joy and pleasure I experienced over the weekend came from the people I was connecting to. All because I let down my walls, just a little bit.
Now isn’t that a risk worth taking? What about you, have you had a similar experience? Or do you still find it hard to make new friends as an adult?
Jacket (c/o Kelly!)
All photos by my new friend Kelly <3