Midlife Adventures With Making New Friends
This is a 6-minute article previously published on a platform called Medium. It’s a compelling space for writers to write. The audience is comprised of said writers and also non-writers who simply love to read. Enjoy!
I found myself feeling rather friendless a few years ago. Here’s what happened.
In 2012, after enduring an 18-month regimen to banish the cancer that so rudely gatecrashed my life, I was restless. I felt different and so I yearned for something different.
When a work relocation offer was presented, I jumped. I said to my husband, “Honey, we’re moving!” and to his credit, he immediately said yes. Never mind that he had already relocated once to be with me (I had a young son when we started dating across state lines). I had promised the next move was his choice.
But maybe it was— because he chose me. Again.
Regardless, it was reinvigorating to start over: new job, new house, new state. Each day driving home from work, I felt vacation mode turn on. The geography and temps in Arizona are significantly different from my home state of Wisconsin. The ability to relax poolside, sans puffy coat and mittens? Glorious resort living—carry on!
And because my home is always my sanctuary, I persuaded my husband barely a year later to move once more— because a mere three miles away yielded a few surrounding acres with unobstructed mountain views. It involved a whole house renovation that took two years but oh, so worth it!
It was all coming together. Until it stopped.
A new team entered the C-suite 4 years later and a reorganization ensued. Many, many positions were eliminated and mine was one of them. I was gutted. I always imagined I would retire with this company when I was old. And at 54, I didn’t consider myself there yet. Also, I’m a determined Do-er and a Get-er Done-er.
I signed for my bronze parachute package (I hadn’t fully cracked the glass ceiling but I caught glimpses on the horizon). Then over the next few months, I anxiously pondered my possibilities. I ran ideas past my husband but he mostly just listened. He was amenable to whatever I landed on. I needed other opinions.
Then it hit me hard: I had no posse. No inner circle of local friends. It was just me.
I had bought into the common illusion that my work colleagues were my friends. And why not? We spent so, so much time together. We shared the intensity, the creative process, and the drama that pervades most work spaces. I didn’t have to explain to them the technical details and jargon that comprised my day, like I did for My Beloved.
Even though several of these connections were remote, the bantering DMs and periodic team gatherings felt satisfyingly legit. But when that common thread was broken, I realized I was on my own.
I had orchestrated a new life chapter. But I failed to include the in-person nearby connections that are essential.
Oh, not for lack of trying. My husband already had a few good friends living here before we moved. We made the rounds when we arrived. But as any woman will attest, there is no guarantee those wives will become your good friends, too. For me, they did not.
And with two energetic chihuahuas in need of a daily morning walk, I had assumed I’d meet and bond with my neighbors. Sadly, the predominant triple digits keep most of them in the house or in the car. I relish my private communion with each day’s sunrise. But the lack of humans out and about on foot was in stark contrast to my former Midwest neighborhood.
Clearly, I needed to get out of my self-imposed cocoon. No small feat for someone like me who can happily and readily spend days home alone.
And so my first foray was to join a local women’s meetup. This one felt fairly innocuous, just a coffee meet and greet. But I fretted about what to wear and who these women would be. What if I didn’t like them? What if they didn’t like me? After inhabiting the corporate arena for 30+ years, what if they were (gasp) housewives?
It started out a tad awkward. A couple of the women, LV totes casually resting by their pedicured feet, opened with details about their second homes or the high-end gated communities they inhabited here. Gentle jousting ensued to establish who was more fabulous. Others, makeup-free and clad in sensible arch support shifted uneasily in their seats. Clearly, we were a disparate gathering.
All we had in common was that we were middle-aged women ISO new friends. That was not sufficient to make us so.
The organizer of the meetup turned out to be a neighbor two doors down from me! I felt this was promising. Until she stopped sending future meetup invites just a couple months later. Word had it that she divorced her husband and moved away.
So that was that.
. . .
The other logical avenue to pursue was finding friends who enjoy the same activities. I joined a nearby gym with my husband. I steadily built up my muscles and even shed a few pounds that midlife annoyingly likes to wrap around my torso.
But unless I was willing to venture into rooms filled with spandexed women, clutching colorful water bottles or rolled mats as they headed to yoga or spin class, my social search there was unfulfilled. Free weights, machines and the stairmaster are my jam. And that of mostly men.
There are always some at the gym that spend twice as much time there as me. Not because they’re working out the whole time. Half of that is socializing with someone next to them. Perfect if you (and the person next to you) have the time to hang. Not so perfect if you’re a Get It Done-er. Or an introvert. Check and check.
. . .
Other detours and dead-ends were encountered while searching for new friends. Midlife stories for another day.
What I learned
When I reflect on my last five decades, I know I’m not really a hermit. I’ve had a lot of female acquaintances but usually just one Bestie to do things with when I actually leave the home.
Now I know this is not unusual. But when social media shows women constantly hanging in squads, doing things with girlfriends they’ve known for years? Or easily bonding with women they meet in everyday situations? I sometimes feel like quite the outlier.
Yet ultimately, I’ve made peace with where I’m at. A quick check confirms seven (count ’em!) women that are new friends within the last couple of years.
- Two are Besties: we are connected at the soul level. We exchange very personal details without filters. They make my heart swell.
- Two more are Pretty Good: we easily pick up wherever we left off, the last time we chatted. They are invite-to-the-house worthy.
- The last three are Solid Situationals: we don’t often talk, but when we do, it’s genuine.
And true to form, my current Besties live nowhere nearby: other countries or states. One I have yet to meet in real life. But soon, when travel restrictions are lifted.
Yes—seven is an odd number. Then again, I “may” be quirky.
I’m working on an eighth. A new neighbor moved in. We met walking our dogs and then Esther came over for coffee. So exciting to find common ground.
But then she agreed it’s been hard to find kindred souls in our neighborhood. And her house is noisy, being on the corner of a busy road. As renters, they’re looking to buy soon. Maybe somewhere else.
And so it goes.
What’s your female friendship situation at the midlife marker?
- Have you also relocated and needed to start over like me?
- Have your strongest friendships remained intact?
- Have you stayed in the same location but also had a shift with who you hang with? What caused that?
Drop a comment below. I’d love to hear!
And thanks for stopping by!
Other Resources To Explore
- The Science Behind Why Making New Friends In Midlife Is Hard
- 50 Ways to Make New Friends
- 5 Ways to Harness Your Midlife Transition and Avert a Midlife Crisis!
- Motivation to Declutter: 5 Free Tools to Get Going & Keep Going (Even When You’re Not Always Feeling It!)
- Swedish Death Cleaning Is A Celebration—Really!
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