North Carolina became home to my family about a year and a half ago, right before Thanksgiving 2014. Moving south was a great decision for us: my husband fulfilled his dream of becoming a police officer, my in-laws bought their dream house and a pontoon boat, another dream of theirs, and my husband and I bought our first house, which wouldn’t have been a realistic goal for the near future if we had stayed in New Jersey (house prices, as well as property taxes, are exponentially more in NJ). All of these things are wonderful, and I know our kids will have a great future here, but there are a few things North Carolina is lacking. 1. Friends. We left a buttload of great friends in New Jersey. 2. Family. We moved here with my husband’s parents and his sister, Jen, but the rest of (most of – looking at you Tennessee Bononnos & AshZig!) our family is in New Jersey. 3. All the foods I love, mainly Italian food, especially pizza, and bagels and sandwiches and Chinese food and taylorhameggandcheeseonaneverthingbagelsaltpepperketchup. But this post isn’t about food.
Did you know it’s hard to make friends when you’re no longer in school and don’t have commonalities like your homeroom teacher or doom room assignment to tie you together? Pledging aside, I almost wish there was a grown-up sorority so I could gain 40+ friends all within the course of a few weeks. Because making friends as an adult in a new place is hard. When we moved here, the hubs was in BLET training (police academy) and that meant he was in school 12+ hours a day with study and sleep dominating his time off. We had a two month old daughter, which made getting out of the house a bit more of a challenge. And I was working at Starbucks, which while full of fellow co-workers, they were more of the single, college-age variety with different mindsets than me. I have a few good friends from Starbucks, but Ron and I are lacking a network of friends, people we can hang out with together, whether coupled up or not.
If you had asked me before we moved if I saw our friends often, I might have been on the fence. My husband worked with a bunch of our friends and saw them a lot more than I did so I might have leaned toward the negative there. Also, a couple of my good friends from college lived an hour or two away, and we didn’t see each other as frequently. Since moving, I realized how very much I saw our friends. I saw them when I went to visit my husband at work, I had friends in my office, we had our friends over for dinner every other week or so, and went out for birthdays or other special events. I can’t speak for the Hubs, but I know I feel a giant void where our friends used to be. And we still have our friends of course, it’s not like they aren’t our friends anymore, but we don’t have everyday friends, people to hang out with more than once every three months when our friends come to visit (they are truly amazing for visiting as much as they do, especially since our first reciprocal trip will be this month).
I recently read a book titled MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche about a woman who moves to Chicago from NYC to be with her boyfriend (and later becomes her husband), but after living in Chicago for two years finds herself lacking good friends. She describes her best friend as someone she can call spontaneously for a pedicure in the middle of the day. That sounds great, but I don’t get pedicures (mama on a budget here…I paint my own nails!). I actually just tried to type out a description of my type of best friend, but deleted each line I wrote. The truth is I no longer know what my best friend would be like. Maybe it’s because I had kids. Maybe it’s a combination of leaving our friends, who we could have organically grown with despite the addition of kids, along with my parent status. Either way, I can’t figure out what I’m even looking for in a friend, which is probably the biggest problem. Maybe “best” friend doesn’t really exist after middle school. Perhaps you should consider yourself lucky even to have a few good friends. I certainly do.
Earlier tonight I talked with my friend Melissa for an hour on the phone. She is probably the only one, besides family, that I spend any time talking to on the phone. When we hung up, she apologized for taking an hour of my time, but truthfully, I would have estimated it to be more like 30 minutes. Just talking to my friend about life made time fly, and it seriously improved my mood, especially since I was feeling a bit down after leaving a BBQ for my husband’s work without a new BFF. Melissa and I have these phone conversations maybe once a week or so and each time, I get off the phone with a big giddy smile on my face. Timing being the golden thing it is, I came across a post on a blog I read daily about staying in touch with long distance friends. Amanda from Advice from a Twenty Something had great tips for making it feel like you haven’t left your friends, and one of them was to talk on the phone versus text as it adds a more personal element to your conversation. I also really liked her idea of sending funny notes in the mail or even just using various forms of social media to feel involved in each other’s lives.
Being the wife to a new police officer, I’ve been excited to meet other officers and their significant others, and the officers my husband works with do not disappoint. They, and their wives/fiancés/girlfriends, are awesome. My problem is that I don’t know how to take it from a friendly conversation at a BBQ to establishing more of a friendship. I found myself urging Riley to play in the bounce house today just so I could talk to the two moms of similar-aged children standing outside. Unfortunately, she was more interested in playing Cornhole…I blame my father-in-law for that one! Either way, I hate being the creepy lady staring at fellow moms at events or accosting the nice looking mother and daughter on the sidewalk at the outdoor mall near our house. As I told my friend Melissa before, I’m sure things will turn around when Riley and Sawyer get a bit older or as Ron gets to know his co-workers a bit better, but this waiting game sucks. With my future consisting of more hours working at home, I know I need to take things into my own hands if I want to make some more friends.
I think top priority is to make sure to remain a good friend to my existing pals, both here in North Carolina and in NJ. I have a tendency to flake out on plans sometimes, especially now that I have kids, because life gets in the way or because it’s hard to picture getting off the couch, let alone out the door with these two. Secondly, I think being friendly is key. Striking up a conversation with the cool mom ahead of me at Starbucks will take me much farther than just creepily staring at her. Lastly, and possible most sketchily, there is a website called Meetup where people form groups with similar interests. I found a couple of mom’s groups as well as book clubs, which I’ve always wanted to get involved in. I think these two different kinds of groups will play to both my mom side and my non-mom side.
Have you ever felt like a creep trying to make friends? Have you been on the other side of a creepy friend gaze? Does anyone else have experience in this area? Don’t be nervous or feel weird if you do…one great thing I took from Rachel Bertsche’s book is that she found plenty (over 50!) other women who felt similar to how she was feeling and she made a bunch of new friends out of it. Trying on a friendlier version of myself and not being afraid to be uncomfortable might just pay off.