One of the most challenging things about getting older, to me, is making new friends: people that you really connect with. Some people, like my husband, have large groups of friends that play a part in life’s transitions. When he went to Humboldt State, he had a group of friends already there; when he moved to this area, he had friends waiting. Then there are people like me: one with a select group of friends that I hung out with individually. When it came to college and after, we all went in our own directions that criss-crossed the state. At Humboldt, I didn’t know anyone, but dorm life and college classes made it easy to meet people. Attending a small college in a small, remote town (San Francisco was 5- 6 hours away to the south) meant that everyone was there all of the time.
Then I moved to Steve’s new town where I didn’t know anyone but him. I didn’t have the constant action from a gaggle of roommates, a job, or a place that provided easy access to people who shared my interests. Even though I had Steve and am one who loves to be alone, Steve had graduate school and other obligations and this time I felt alone and lonely. It’s one thing to be alone by choice and another to just be alone. Steve had his group of friends and they welcomed me into the fold. While I genuinely like all of them and have had many great times with them, I really wanted to cultivate my own group.
This past week provided a snapshot of how much life has changed since I moved here 14 years ago. It began last Saturday night when I had dinner with Ginger, and I think it’s fitting that my week of friends began with her. She was one of Steve’s friends (still is) who became one of mine and was literally my first friend here. She and I were united by our love of walking and we have literally walked all over town. Even though we have different jobs, different beliefs, and different lifestyles (she’s now a mother of two tweeners, I am not), we still have remained friends and did not succumb to the drift that occurs when people lead different lives. I am in awe of how she juggles a full time job that demands that she be away from home at times, her kids’ activities and schoolwork, being involved in her kids’ school, and still finds time for her friends.
It took a long time and some trial and error before I found those who I really connected with. Going to graduate school really helped, and some of my closest friends are a result from that time in my life. The rest of the week unfolded with dinners with a variety of friends, lunches spent with a work friend, and a book club with a group I’ve been gradually getting to know over a couple of years. Each of them has their own story of how we met and what makes them special. I think my experience has made me value my friendships more, because finding, making and maintaining friendships over years where people move away and have families and other interests is a challenge.