Photo by Emily Long
Who knew that after 17 years in the school system, I would be set free into the “real world” and have to learn all over again how to make friends? Who knew it would actually take time and effort? Who knew it was going to be like dating?
It was when I first graduated from university and jumped on a plane to settle in Madrid for 10 months when I realized I didn’t actually know how to make friends. I had always been surrounded by people I liked enough to pass my time with on lunch breaks, or who I really enjoyed and hung out with after school and on the weekends. I had 17 straight years of constant attention from being at school, to playing sports in the afternoons, to hanging out with friends. It was always go-go-go. And then it was taken away.
I had moved away from my life in the United States. I moved away from my university bubble of friends in Canada. On top of it all, I was in a new country learning a new language. I struggled with typical, everyday life social situations. Then I realized that in order for my lonely afternoons to change, I had to make it happen.
I realized that I just had to step out of my comfort zone. I had to have those 20 seconds of confidence to go up and talk to someone – guy or girl; I had to go out and socialize even when I didn’t always feel like it.
There is an art to making friends. Most people want to talk, but many don’t have the confidence to find those 20 seconds for the ice-breaker, which then leads to the small chit-chat, the realization that you have some things in common and then the “let’s hang out, grab a coffee, do something sometime” and finally, the exchange of numbers.
It was exactly like dating, the only thing missing would be kiss at the end of the night.
But you learn to do it; you learn to push through little by little and you realize you will make new friends again. So just take a deep breath and move in for that 20 second icebreaker.