Making friends is hard for anyone. Making new friends, for me, feels impossible sometimes. I know that lots of people feel the same. They get as nervous asking acquaintances out for coffee as they would if it was a date.

Being in a new state has heightened these feelings for me. I keep thinking that I’m screwing something up just because I haven’t made more than two new friends and a handful of acquaintances in the last few months. But I’m not messing up anything. These things take time. The few deep friendships I left behind in Virginia are with people I didn’t even find or reconnect with until adulthood and those took years to cultivate. They didn’t just form overnight.¬†The year and a half I spent in Oklahoma was mainly piggy backing on preexisting friendships and acquaintances that my husband had. It doesn’t make them less real, just abridged when it comes to the breadth of time it took. I didn’t have to find them or find things we had in common.

I think when it comes to making new friends Sarah Andersen hits the nail on the head with this simple cartoon:

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As silly as it may look laid out that way, I know that I am so guilty of that very thing!

A friend of mine and I have had loads of discussions about why it is so hard to make lasting relationships. We wonder why it seems so simple for us to be friends with one another, but not other people. Even when she is out of the country it is easy for us to stay connected. We often beat our heads against the wall trying to find out how we keep failing with other people.

I weigh my strong relationships against the ones that fizzle out and wonder what I did wrong. I have friends all over the country whom I love very much and despite time and distance it feels easy to stay close.

The simple fact is that friendship is hard.

You may be in a different place in your life as someone else. You may not have a lot of over lapping activities.

When we were in school it was easier to have a lot of friends. You went to class together, did after school clubs together, went to the same parties; there were lots of places where your lives intersected.

As you get older, you need to be more intentional. You need to persist in making time for friends. The busyness of life can get in the way of having the opportunity to forge new connections or bolster old ones. I have often met people that I really liked and they simply didn’t have time for me. I was grateful for a woman that I recently met. She told me, “I would love to hang out, but I’m just booked solid for the next few months”. She made it clear that although she wanted to see me and that she liked me, she simply didn’t have time. I breathed a sigh of relief. It gave me a time when it would be alright to try again. She isn’t avoiding me. But how often do we feel like someone is avoiding us? When we try over and over to get in touch with them and they don’t respond it is easy to feel brushed off. In the same way, we need to make certain we are communicating our own limitations. If we find ourselves not getting back to the same person for weeks at a time, we need to communicate that our schedules won’t allow us to see them and set a date to try again.

Life does get busy. I understand that. But we need to make time for each other. The same friend that I mentioned earlier has her children stagger time consuming activities throughout the year. If one is playing a sport the other isn’t. The next semester, they trade. It helps the whole family have time for each other and for friends. Some of my new friends make sure to schedule times to hang out and play games. Doug and I have a friend in grad school and we tell her she is always allowed to work on homework if we’re around. We try to pay attention to her schedule and work around it. Another of my friends works out of state during the week, so I am careful to remember that she can only spend time with me on the weekends and we schedule in advance to see one another.

A very special friend of mine takes care of her ailing husband. She lives across the country and our schedules often conflict. So, I write her letters. I know she may not be able to sit and talk on the phone for very long or Skype uninterrupted, but I do know that she can find time to read a letter from me. Unlike a blinking light on her machine begging her to call me back, a note simply fills her in and lets her know that I’m thinking of her. Even when I was at my busiest running the store I would stop and write her a note.

With more of my friends, I take a couple moments to text. We may only exchange a few messages every couple months, but it’s important to me that I take the time to reach out. It makes it easier to pick up where you left off.

Very few of my best and most lasting friendships have been kept up by quantity of time, but rather, through the steadfast practice of making small amounts of time for one another. However long between chats or notes the tenacity speaks for itself.

At this point in my life I probably have the least amount of friends I’ve ever had but I also have the best friends I’ve ever had.

These connections help keep me human and compassionate. They enrich my life in ways I cannot begin to express. There are times where I know that I could easily feel lonely and after taking a moment to make a point of touching someone else’s life, I simply have no reason to feel by myself.

Compassion and thinking of others has been my saving grace over the last few years. Being constantly reminded that there are people with immeasurable love for me has been a foothold for hope. But I’m not reminded of their love by grand gestures, although for the many I’ve received I am grateful, I’m reminded because there is something in me that longs to respond to their love with my own. Each time I think to take a moment for someone else I am doubly blessed.

A good friend of mine is recently divorced. I had been trying to figure out something hopeful and inspiring to say. Something that would be of lasting consequence. I read a whole devotional on the YouVersion Bible app about divorce, combing through scripture hoping to find something to pass on. I didn’t. But what I learned was that telling her that I tried was exactly what she needed. It wasn’t going to be found in the devotional, because the act of trying was the very thing that was encouraging to her. Knowing that she had a friend that wanted to try to give her comfort. Knowing that someone states away was thinking of her was enough, even if I didn’t have the lofty Biblical quote to back up my compassion, it was there. I’ll never forget what she wrote to me, she said, “You are literally the best friend anyone could ever have”.

I don’t write these things in praise of myself. I have burned my share of bridges; more than my share. Some days I feel as if I’ve burned so many they’ve stopped giving them to me because I’ve ruined all of my allotted bridges and at 25, I’m out. If you are looking for people to tell you how terrible I’ve been to them, I can give you an exhausting, but not exhaustive list.

Yet, amid all this failure, the beauty is this:

I have found people to surround myself with whom I love.

Anything worth having takes a long time to find. Anything worth keeping takes a lot of work.

Don’t beat yourself up for feeling as if you have no friends. Just take a moment and think about the people you want to make time for. There are people in your life worth making space for, I promise. It may not be who you expect. Trust me, I’ve felt the sting of getting brushed off by the “cool kids”. But I can tell you that once I landed among the other brush-offs I found people that I genuinely wanted to spend the rest of my life knowing.

People aren’t as scary as you’d think. Even the scary ones want to have friends. Trust me, I’m friends with some scary ones and they are just as insecure as the rest of us.

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